By Emma Weissmann
From world cruises to multi-country land tours, travel experts are touting the benefits of long-haul trips – here’s how to tap into this niche.
Former U.S. President William Howard Taft identified the ideal amount of time off to be between two and three months per year. That length of time, he noted in a 1910 article for The New York Times, is “necessary to continue work the next year with that energy and effectiveness which it ought to have.”
Meanwhile, a 2013 study from The Journal of Happiness Studies, a peer-reviewed scientific forum covering the state of happiness and well-being, reported that long-term vacationers (those who spend an average of 23 days away) experience optimal levels of health and wellness on the eighth day of their time off.
Presidential opinion and empirical evidence aside, however, there’s no question that longer breaks do wonders for weary bodies and stressed-out minds. But, despite this, Americans are opting for shorter jaunts. Trips lasting 14 days or more comprise fewer than 20% of all trips taken, and three-night getaways have remained the most popular trip length since 2010, according to travel research firm Phocuswright. (Note: Phocuswright is owned by Northstar Travel Group, the parent company of TravelAge West).
Yet plenty of travel advisors and suppliers are touting the benefits of long-term, extended-stay travel — from world cruises to multicountry land tours — and they have the client testimonials (and commission checks) to back up their claims.
Perhaps corporate America is to blame for our vacation-starved landscape.
Last year, a record 768 million vacation days went unused. And, compared to about four weeks of paid time off (PTO) per year given to working Australians, full-time U.S. employees who work in private industry receive an average annual PTO of 10 days after one year of employment.
“In Australia, having several weeks off allows us to travel long-haul more often,” said Tamara McDonald, an Aussie expat living in the U.S. and a travel advisor for Kunkletown, Penn.-based VacationKids. “We are positioned so far from everything that when we do travel, we tend to have a ‘go big or go home’ mentality. If you are going to fly eight hours to get to Asia, another long-haul destination beyond that isn’t such a big deal.”
Now, McDonald says she’s encouraging her U.S. clients (especially families, her agency’s specialization) to bypass short getaways and standard beach vacations in favor of extended time away in exotic locales. Currently, she’s working on a four-month, around-the-world trip for a family taking a sabbatical in 2020.
“Here in the U.S., the access to extended leave or paid vacation is a huge hindrance to traveling families, and I recognize that pulling kids out of schools can be difficult,” she said. “In this case, the youngest child is homeschooled, and the family has had to cobble together a bunch of annual leave in order to be able to do it.”
But there’s definite interest in these types of trips, and it’s up to an advisor to work with each family’s unique situation. McDonald estimates that 15-20% of her business comes from long-term travel (two weeks or longer); families often schedule travel for two weeks in the summer, bookended by weekends.
Sometimes, families are more likely to increase their time away when they realize that the world is essentially one big classroom, says Samantha McClure, owner of Small World Travel in Austin, Texas.
“It’s a great opportunity for families to bond and to get them out of their comfort zone and protective bubbles they live in at home, and for their kids to meet other children around the world,” she said.
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