Having two or three weeks off for your next vacation is undoubtedly a luxury, but, depending on how you plan, the trip could be time well spent or wasted, says Ms Sam McClure, owner of Small World Travel in Austin, Texas, who specialises in creating customised extended itineraries.
"A couple of weeks away may sound like a long time, but it's not as long as you think and there are several factors travellers need to consider to get the most out of their trip," she says.
Here, she shares tips on planning a successful multi-week vacation:
1) AVOID OVERSCHEDULING
With a few weeks off, it is tempting to hit several destinations, but Ms McClure advises against too many stops. "You'll end up spending all your time on planes and trains, everything you see will be a blur and you'll burn out," she says. Instead, keep travel to a minimum by sticking to one country or focusing on an area of the world where there are interconnected flights, so travelling is less of a hassle. Examples include Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia in southern Africa and Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in South-east Asia.
2) BUILD IN DOWNTIME
Sightseeing is fun, but overdoing tours and visits to historical sites on a longer-than-usual trip can lead to information overload. Balance your itinerary with unstructured time - ideally, the equivalent of two days for every week you are away - so you can relax on a beach, wander through local markets or peoplewatch in cafes.
3 CHOOSE A HOME OVER A HOTEL
If you are sticking to one destination, Ms McClure recommends renting a home. "You will get a rhythm of local life that a hotel won't give you," she says. She recently helped clients rent a house for two weeks in the Dordogne region of France, for example, and although the family had been to France on multiple occasions, they told her that living in a home gave them a far more fulfilling perspective of the country.
4) DO NOT OVERPACK
If you are visiting multiple destinations, limit your luggage to a bag with wheels, ideally a carry-on, and a backpack. Navigating airports and train stations, packing and unpacking and keeping track of your belongings, especially on a longer trip, are much more manageable with less luggage.
5) CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING
Engaging in community service is an opportunity to connect with a destination in a unique way, but your entire getaway does not have to be devoted to volunteering.
Ms McClure, for example, recently planned a three-week vacation in Ecuador for a family that included volunteering at a children's home near Quito, followed by a visit to the Galapagos.
"They taught English to the kids in the home, soaked up the wildlife in the Galapagos and saw the country through two different lenses," she says.
Companies such as Wilderness Safaris, Abercrombie & Kent and &Beyond offer volunteering opportunities to their clients. And in many developing countries, hotels support charities and can arrange volunteer opportunities for guests.