Why the micro-cation travel trend is here to stay

Micro-cations allow anyone, even the most time-strapped, to get out and see the world.

Taking more frequent short vacations is fast becoming a trend for Millennials. Image credit: Orbon Alija/iStock
Taking more frequent short vacations is fast becoming a trend for Millennials. Image credit: Orbon Alija/iStock

Building on the joy of the coveted long weekend, “micro-cations” are a form of travel, often roughly four nights in total, that are becoming more and more mainstream. This shorter holiday format is a smart way to use paid vacation time, allowing for more regular breaks and addressing many of the stressors that come with longer vacations. In a climate where 52 percent of Americans didn’t use all their vacation days last year for fear of being seen as replaceable, bite-size micro-cations are proving to be the answer. 

There’s a host of reasons why micro-cations are gaining momentum around the world. It’s a type of travel accessible to all kinds of people and all kinds of budgets, regardless of where in the world you live, or the amount of paid leave you have. Taking shorter trips also more often than not allows people to travel without concerns around neglecting responsibilities at work or home and addressing the financial demands that can come with longer vacations.

The dreaded end-of-holiday-blues of a longer vacation, with the looming reality of returning to the office to a mountain of work and an inbox full of emails, is also not the case with a shorter trip. These shorter vacations can easily slot into the most complex and jam-packed of family schedules and can often be a better fit for our modern fast-paced lifestyles. 

Getting away for a long weekend with the family can make all the difference. Image credit: Imgorthand/iStock
Getting away for a long weekend with the family can make all the difference. Image credit: Imgorthand/iStock

Making the most of paid leave

Micro-cations are a great way to get creative with paid time off and increase the number of times you can travel per year, especially if trips are planned to wrap around weekends.  In fact, the joy of planning a holiday and holiday anticipation can often times be greater than the joy experienced on the holiday itself. 

Tour operators are capitalizing on this rising trend. Intrepid Travel offers a range of four-day holidays including a Zanzibar beach break off the coast of Tanzania, a trek through the Kathmandu valley in Nepal, or a hike to see mountain gorillas and volcanoes in Rwanda. Exodus Travel offers micro-cations described as short-break holidays with their most popular destinations including Finland, Iceland, and Morocco. Irish tour operator Sunway offers flexible build-your-own-trips with packages available from three nights onwards in locations including Malta, Sitges, and Lisbon.

Wellbeing and the illusive true escape

The positive impacts of travel on wellbeing are well documented, especially with regards to stress reduction. However, when we return from vacation, these positive effects can reduce over time and with longer timeframes between trips, this effect can be magnified. Micro-cations can help mitigate this by offering multiple opportunities for vacation bliss, with cumulative long-term boosts in wellbeing. 

Shorter, more regular trips allow for a potential escape, a temporary disconnect from checking emails, scrolling social media feeds and hooking into the 24/7 news cycle. The value of disconnecting in the leisure and travel context is a burgeoning area of research. Disconnecting for three or four days during a micro-cation is a more attainable goal than trying to remain offline for a full 10-day trip. A short digital detox can help mitigate many of the harms associated with our reliance on devices and social media. 

Shorter trips mean less baggage. Image credit: martin-dm/iStock
Shorter trips mean less baggage. Image credit: martin-dm/iStock

Less stress

In terms of planning, it is much more simple to organize a shorter trip. According to a U.S. Travel Association survey from 2018, the logistics of traveling can be so overwhelming it can often deter people from taking vacations. A trip of three or four days is much less imposing, allows for spontaneity, and takes considerably less time to organize. Micro-cations also potentially mean more domestic travel, offering shorter journey times, less long-haul flights, no jet lag, and a lower carbon footprint.

Micro-cation tips

Select an easy destination

Pick a destination that’s easy to get to. This could include vacationing in a hub city, with many available transport routes and direct flights, or it could involve keeping the travel time to a minimum, and exploring a destination closer to home. To make the most of your time away, consider traveling directly after work, so you can wake up the following morning already at your destination. 

Have a simple plan

Plan a few things you’d like to do each day, but don’t overload your itinerary. After all, this vacation should be relaxing and enjoyable. Book activities in advance and have tickets downloaded ahead of time to make the micro-cation stress free and seamless. 

Pack light

Even the most enthusiastic over-packer would be hard-pressed to need more than carry-on luggage for a micro-cation. If you’re flying, carry-on luggage saves the added hassle of checked baggage and the delays that always seem to come with picking it up again. Dragging heavy luggage around can also get in the way of you making the most of your micro-cation. 

Stay central

Make the most of your time by picking accommodation that is central. Even if it is more expensive to stay in the more touristy part of town, the benefit of easily being able to get around and see the sights outweighs the added cost. You’ll have no shortage of restaurants, bars, entertainment options and points of interest at your doorstep to make the most of your time away.


Rebecca Slip

Rebecca is a freelance writer with a background in political economy and sustainability. Always dreaming about the next travel destination, she is forever on the search for extraordinary street food, rugged landscapes and the best snorkeling spots.