When to daytrip: a Slow Travel Perspective

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The ideas of slow travel and quality travel are coming up more and more. The core idea being to stay in a place longer and sink deeper into it as opposed to go skipping by so fast as to only see the major sights before being whisked away on a bus to the next sight. This isn’t to say that just because you are in a city for a while that you can’t explore out around it. I like daytrips as a way of stretching the travel muscles a bit to see a place and its surroundings.

Why Daytrip?

If you base yourself in one major city (usually with good transportation links) you can still see a lot of stuff nearby as day trips. This can reduce the time you lose by having to pack and unpack, check out of a hotel and check into the next one.

If you are in a major city for a while, it is worth seeing what is nearby. Following the ideal of looking deeper and beyond the major sites and applying it to the city as well. See what is out of the main city and still with easy reach.

For me, if the train/bus is about 2 hours or less it is well worth doing a daytrip. Especially if the last train back is late, you can still see the daytrip destination at night.

When not to?

Maybe it is just my contrary nature, but if I see a site that is well-known as a daytrip destination I usually react by wanting to spend a day or two there.

  • If you go to a tourist office and see 80 different brochures offering daytrips to places think about the parking lots and crowds those buses will create. Red flag.
  • If the one way travel time on the bus is 4 hours and you get to spend only a few hours there. Red flag.
  • If the trip starts before you normally wake up? Yellow flag (sometimes there are reasons).
  • If the itinerary mentions “local pottery shop” or something of that ilk. Red flag.
  • If you can get there are public transport yourself and there are hotels in the area where you are headed. Red flag.

Too many red flags like that and I just cringe at the idea of spending my day on a bus and still maybe missing out on what I wanted to see.

  • Meteora is a great place, but ends up being a daytrip destination from Athens. That is a LONG way and Kalampaka was such a cool place to hang out for the night.
  • Ephesus was great, but the town of Selcuk was just as cool. Apparently there are daytrips including a Flight from Istanbul to the site, but it was common enough for buses up from the cruise port as well as backpackers just spending the day before heading on.
  • Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s biggest attractions and for good reason. The standard daytrip runs out of Queenstown and is a long day. Definitely still worth it, but the overnight trip Ali and I took was fantastic. To have the sound to yourself in the evening.
  • Santorini was my first stop in Greece. The center of the lagoon is a still active volcano. There was no way I was going to see that other than on a day tour around the lagoon.

Does this run contrary to my slow travel ideals? This moving for a short time in a place.

No, I don’t think so.

Slow travel is about doing things in depth and seeing below the surface. So if a daytrip would gloss over things and an overnight stay lets you get deeper, then so be it. And anyway spending a few days at a place IS slower than a few hours on a bus.

– – –
Slow Travel means moving slower, not stopping completely and definitely NOT missing out on cool stuff. I definitely get the urge to see everything and get wrapped up in “two days here and another day there”. I have to consciously slow myself down. It is easy to get overwhelmed and try to go too fast, especially if time is limited. This is where daytrips can help. A day of action and touristy style movement can help break up the slowness if you need the rush.

Still, look at the daytrips more closely, are they perhaps better done even as a few days. It has to be a balance between moving too fast, seeing things in enough depth and not getting bored stuck in a small town for 6 days.

13 thoughts on “When to daytrip: a Slow Travel Perspective

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      • We’re still in Stavanger…but without a car, a day trip here is either a hike or a boat cruise. I don’t find many of the nearby towns to be either close enough with public transport or much of an attraction…

  5. You and I are the same when it comes to slow travel. I don’t want to spend time dealing with the crowds on a day trip. They come for the day and I will explore. However, if it’s too crowded and touristy with people and tours everywhere may be a place I avoid – until the offseason.

    • The “nice” thing about the tours that come to a place on a daytrip is that they often are all synced up. For those on the tours, it seems that every place is packed full. But if you visit things just out of sync, they are normal. The offseason can be the work of a few minutes sometimes.

  6. Thanks for mentioning my recent push for quality travel. I love day trips and do them often when I am working and cannot travel far. When I am staying in a destination, I enjoy day trips as a way of seeing “normal” local life. For example, when I was in Amsterdam, I went to Haarlem for a day and loved it. We saw almost no other tourists but got a feeling for what life is really like in this beautiful town. In the Czech Republic, there are tons of day trip possibilities, but people rarely leave Prague, and when they do, they almost all go to see the bone church in Kutna Hora.

    • You are welcome. I believe in the ideas of slow travel and am happy that they are coming up more often.

      Haarlem sounds neat. We will be in the area this summer, though not sure if we will have the time to go see it. That tradeoff of slow and seeing things in depth versus the urge to speedup and attempt to see everything is everpresent.

      I remember the daytrips to Kutna Hora in Prague. I didn’t do it and chose to go to PLzen on the train myself. It was not so exciting, but still worth my day. Anyway, I’m squeamish enough to not enjoy so many bones.

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