For only the second time in my adult life, I just completed a vacation of more than seven days—10, to be exact. Corroborating my first experience, I am now convinced that there is a certain magic to the 10-day vacation and have resolved to make them an annual habit. Here’s why:
1. Most importantly, a 10-day vacation gives you the time necessary to surrender, to capitulate, to truly vacate. It wasn’t until fully four days into our Grizwoldian adventure that my wife was able to observe a genuine change in my demeanor. “You just seemed to visibly loosen up in that moment,” she told me. The moment she was referring to was when she, our two boys and I got caught in a torrential downpour in the middle of a bike ride. I wasn’t an overbearing ogre early in the week, but I was still in work mode; a tad too productive, efficient and compliant for vacation. It took me the first four days of vacation to transition from being a hesitant bystander to a willing participant.
2. Travel consumes a lesser percentage of your total vacation time. If you’re going someplace worth going, you’re likely sacrificing a day getting there and another getting back. Whether by plane, train or automobile—and even if the actual travel time is only half-a-day—the stress and logistical maneuvering consume a full two days. That’s almost 30% of the seven-day vacation, but only 20% of a 10-day break.
3. Because travel consumes proportionately less of the 10-day vaca, it also opens the door to a traveling vacation with multiple stops. With the family truckster fully loaded, we drove to Charleston, South Carolina from our home in Baltimore for three days prior to heading northward to Williamsburg, Virginia for another week—a highly improbable feat if you only have seven days to spare. This change in geographic context gave our single vacation the feel of two separate trips, each with their own set of lasting memories.
4. You’re gone long enough that you’re forced to off-load your duties at work. If I take a three or four-day weekend, I rarely even set my email out-of-office notification or update my voicemail message. I’m effectively taking a vacation while still on the clock in my mind. When I take a seven-day vacation, I’m hesitant to completely check-out of my work responsibilities and even feel guilty asking for help. But if I’m going to be missing days in more than two different work weeks, I really have no choice but to arrange for enough back-up help at the office to truly separate myself from the duties I’m hesitant to relinquish.
5. You’re gone long enough that you’re forced to budget financially for the vacation. Heeding Carl Richards’ advice, I don’t take a trip of any length without having budgeted for it. It takes away from the refreshment I seek when I have to wonder how I’m going to pay for the vacation when I get home. The additional time and cost of a 10-day vacation really demand budgeting in advance of your departure. Additionally, I recommend seeing where you stand financially five days in so you can recalibrate if necessary for the second half of your trip.
6. A 10-day vacation leaves sufficient time for the creation of memories through experience and the catharsis of do-nothing relaxation. One of the books I enjoyed over vacation was Laura Vanderkam’s, What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend. I found much of the wisdom therein applied just as well to vacations as to weekends. Vanderkam suggests that we “set anchors”—activities to which we apply some forethought, with the aim of memory creation—and allow relaxation to fill the gaps in between. None of us wants vacation to feel like work, filled with have-to-dos, but these anchors are, in contrast, want-do-dos. For us, a couple anchors were to take a horse-drawn carriage tour of downtown Charleston and to ride our bikes as a family into historic Williamsburg for Colonial-era root beer and ginger cakes.
7. You have the time to actually develop rhythms of life unique to that particular vacation. One of my favorite things to do on vacations is to find new rituals that seem to apply to that particular area and our family’s phase of life. Personally, I try to maintain some semblance of a workout regimen so I don’t feel quite so guilty about over-exposing myself to the local cuisine, so I found a fitness center I could ride my bike to most mornings. Our boys, Kieran and Connor, are at those ages (nine and seven) when they could swim all day if you’d let them, so most nights we went for a night swim to cap off the day. But it takes a few days to explore and find the rhythms that will work in a particular place and time.
8. You get the joy of seeing the week and weekend vacationers leave—while you’re kicked back “working” on reading your second novel by the pool. There is nothing fun about leaving an enjoyable vacation, but when your vacation begins or spills over into the middle of a week, you get to watch other people yell at their kids for slow-playing the departure process while you order a fruity umbrella drink. Those days on which everyone else is travelling and checking in or out are also great days for planning an anchor event (see #6) when you’ll likely have less competition.
9. You can avoid the dreaded vacation hangover. Long weekends can feel torturously short and seven-day vacations often leave you wishing you could go back in time, but by the time a 10-day vacation is over, you’re starting to warm to the idea of getting life and work back to normal. The idea of sleeping in your own bed has increasing appeal, eating out has started to weigh you down, spending money like the Greek parliament has begun to feel self-indulgent and you’re almost anxious to get back to the daily rhythms of work and rest.
10. You come home a better spouse, parent, employee—a better person. A 10-day vacation has the highest probability of providing the rest, relaxation and lifelong memories that we all hope to get, but rarely do, from the highlight of our summers. Conversely, taking fewer days often leaves a residue of dissatisfaction that leaves us perpetually wanting more. So go ahead, tack a few extra days onto your next vacation. We’ll all be better for it.