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Breakneck Breaks: Where Do You Stand?

There was a time when “Want to go away this weekend?” meant one duffel bag, two nights, and a half-tank of gas to get you across the state line.

These days, it seems, agreeing to the same question could land you in Bangkok for 24 thrilling hours sandwiched between two long-haul flights.

The long-haul mini-break isn’t a new concept—it’s been popular with affluent, time-strapped travelers for years—but according to one recent study in the UK, the phenomenon is predicted to grow by over 33% in 2008. And the 4.9 million British tourists expected to land in (and, in short order, take off from) places like Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro represent just a fraction of the baggy-eyed weekenders skimming the world’s greatest destinations to rack up bragging rights—and material for their carbon footprints.

In that vein, Guardian writer Simon Mills lumps these travelers together as a band of “childless, hedonistic, carbon foot-stomping, no-sleep-’til-Monday-morning City boys.” But can you really blame a traveler willing to suffer to make the most of what little vacation time he is given? A traveler collecting tips from Mills’ own publication, known to publish a series called “Long-haul short breaks” that outlines what to do if you find yourself with 4 days in Oman, Cape Town, or Kenya?

I understand the environmental implications of these trips, and I must admit that I absolutely cringed when a friend told me she jetted to Tokyo for a few days of (shoe-) shopping. But I also understand what it’s like to stare at a great, big, beautiful globe with a lifetime’s worth of wanderlust and only months’ worth of vacation days. Where do you fall on the subject; would you see the world one three-day weekend at a time, or is the long-haul mini-break simply endangering the world for all of us?


My name: Michelle Doucette

How I earn my keep: I'm an editor at

Favorite way to get around: Some of my favorite trips involved renting cars in foreign countries and driving through the countryside, stopping on whims. You get a feel for the culture away from the big cities and meet interesting people on the road, including, I must admit, an embarrassingly high number of local policemen. I suppose it would be prudent to learn all of the traffic laws ahead of time.

Best meal I've had while traveling: Since a succession of gelato cones probably doesn't count as a meal, my favorite must have been a fresh crabmeat lunch prepared by a St. John sailboat captain while we took a break from snorkeling in the Caribbean. Sharing baklava as the sun came up over Paros, Greece, (while, once again, not technically a meal) was also memorable.

Travel ambitions: Since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I've figured out that I'd like to keep trekking while traveling. I've got my eyes on epic hikes in Nepal, Bhutan, and Peru.



That’s a tough one; I’m not sure I’d do a weekend trip that required a flight longer than 6 or 7 hours. I did go to Prague for 3 days a few years ago, and it was great–a quick vacation in a short-timeframe-friendly city that didn’t deplete my vacation days. But in general, I tend to think mini-breaks are best for exploring close to home. I often am amazed at what I’ve been missing just a short distance away.

Nothing But Bonfires

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’ve been weighing up a trip to India this year, but my boyfriend can’t take more than a week off work, and I just can’t justify going to such an enormous country (with such an enormous price tag, at least flight-wise!) for less than ten days. In the end, I think we decided we’d wait until next year until he could take more time off and we could do the country justice with a full two weeks.

I know what you mean, though — there are SO MANY places that I want to go, and part of me thinks “well, two days there is better than NO days there.” But Cam has an excellent point, too: that these short trips should really be spent closer to home, in order to enjoy what’s right under your nose!

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