Is It Possible to Fly Too Much?

Reader BOShappyflyer wants to know if I get sick of traveling?

You travel a lot. Do you ever get tired of traveling? 😉 What do you learn more from your travels?

I ask because I recently did a 3 country trip in under 3 weeks on a total of 8 segments. I really love flying, but I think I’m done flying for a little while. I want to enjoy my adventures (on land) and then I’ll start thinking about my next trip for next year …a little later in the year when I get a break from work.

I certainly don’t travel as much as many people do. All-in I fly about 200,000 miles a year and spend a little over a third of the year in hotel rooms. That’s a lot by the standards of most people but it’s not even close to the upper bound of what some other folks do. (See also: Tom Stuker)

I think the real questions embedded here are,

  1. Can there be too much travel, such that you miss home?
  2. When you travel can you move around too much, so that you don’t spend enough time in a given location?

And of course the answer to both questions can be yes although it depends on what you have to go home to, or the purpose of any given trip.

I can work pretty effectively on the road, but when days are too packed I find myself just playing triage and treading water rather than making progress on projects. By the end of the day I may be too tired to do more than answer emails.

Plenty of things make me more productive on the road — inflight internet, club lounges, good coffee — but there’s no substitute for a steady routine and having the time to really focus on my big projects in the morning.

Plus it’s easier to get dry cleaning done at home, or at least when I’m staying in one spot for awhile. But the more you travel the more you develop routines that make the road like home.

When you’re vacationing you might want to see a lot of things, and stay in one place to really understand that place. Personally I prefer to visit a place briefly, and then return for a longer period of time, doing rapid travel and slow travel rather than becoming a partisan for one or the other. But when it’s time for slow travel, then you can definitely fly too much.

Here’s how to enjoy your vacations more.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Trust me you can do too much but it becomes a part of your life. 170+ segments domestic and a few international for 15+ years can be a drag. On the other hand I know where I want to visit on vaction (points & miles). Now that I am remarried it would be nice to be home for more than 80 full days/year but she loves to travel. You will know your burnout rate.

  2. For leisure travel, too many locations that you have never been to before, is as bad as jet lag. Learning the language, currency, and customs of a new culture is very fatiguing. But after you have a little experience with a country or culture, you can move around from new city or place, to another new city or place, with little disorientation.

    In my experience it takes at least a week to become comfortable with a new culture. After that, a 3 day visit to a new city within that culture is a fine option, it that’s all the time you have available.

  3. There are at least 2 main types of “travel fatigue” in play, and the degree to which each is important would be a very personal consideration.

    1) The degree to which traveling means sacrificing, delaying, or missing out on other priorities, responsibilities, etc. Miss family that can’t travel with? Miss the chance to pursue hobbies that require a lot of time in one place? Stressed out over difficulties getting various errands or household chores done? Basically a mismatch here between amount of travel and what else you want or need from life.

    1A) Lack of sense of place – some people need more “roots” than others. There are long-term travelers out there who have little or no home base, and people who have never left a 50 mile radius their whole life. Almost a subset of 1, but also a bit of its own too.

    1B) Maybe like Robert Hanson you want/need more time to acclimate to new situations. This caps the amount as well.

    2) Exhaustion/Jet Lag/etc. – different paces for different people. Some are energized by waking up a bit woozy in a strange land, others are knocked out for days by jetlag. Some people enjoy the *process* of travel, others the destination only. Anyone would “tolerate” a lot more of something fundamentally enjoyable to them, than something that is overall unpleasant.

    Basically travel becomes “too much” if you’re sacrificing too much that you value more than the incremental travel.

    This can be due to missing out on more and more OTHER STUFF that you value highly, it can be due to physical/mental fatigue of just getting worn out, or it can be due to the value of what you get from the travel dropping off. In reality it’s a combination of all of these, and the individual balance is different for everyone.

  4. My question made it on the blog post. How awesome is that? 🙂

    I guess Matt’s comment regarding Exhaustion/Jet Lag/etc was the perspective that I was writing from at the time that I commented. And in my less than coherent state, I should have phrased my question better as to whether Gary gets tired of “flying” given how frequently he flies (Because IMHO, it’s seriously hard to ever get tired of traveling/vacationing!) 😀

    I had indeed experienced severe jetlag and did not get as much “rest” on the plane as I’d like, in spite of wonderful and pampered service and an overall great mini-trips. Spending so much time on the plane in such a short period of time made me acutely aware of something I had not before: I don’t think I actually love “flying” as much as I love “traveling” (as the first commenter astutely puts it).

    I guess flying too frequently takes away some of the joy of flying for me, so it got me wondering if frequent travelers ever gets tired of being on the plane so much. No matter how anyone puts it, 200,000 miles in a year still translates into a LOT of hours on the plane. But yes, I very much agree with Matt that the individual balance is in fact very different for everyone.

    As an aside, I actually know someone at my last workplace who has no interest in traveling anywhere outside of our state! Not the United States, he has absolutely no interest in visiting other states at all! To each his own, I guess.

  5. I haven’t yet reached the point where I think I’m flying too much, even with my busiest travel year with over 400 flights are about 500,000 miles flown.

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