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Long-Haul Flights Not Worth It for Short Trips Under Two Weeks

by Staff

Joey Hadden/Business Insider

  • I’m a travel reporter who has spent 150 hours on long-haul flights. 
  • I’ve taken far-away trips ranging from three days to three weeks long. 
  • I’ve found that trips under two weeks aren’t worth enduring the long-haul flights they require.

I’ve spent 150 hours on 22 long-haul flights, starting when I was a kid.

Since I was five, I’ve been flying to Guam to visit my family for two to three weeks at a time every few years.

It takes three long-haul flights and roughly 24 total hours of travel to get there from my home in NYC.

Then, three years ago, my international adventures expanded when I became a travel reporter at Business Insider.

In that time, I’ve taken multiple eight-hour flights to Europe to visit countries including Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland.

Only one of these trips was two weeks long. The others were much shorter — between just three and seven days long.

After taking so many international trips of varying lengths, I realized I don’t want to take one again if my trip will be less than two weeks. I just don’t think enduring so much time in the air for so little time on the ground is worth it.

Long-haul flights are difficult on my body. I need at least two weeks of recovery time to feel worth it

A hotel room in Paris where the author spent a full day in bed in 2023.
Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I’ve always found long-haul flights to be incredibly taxing.

As someone who is prone to motion sickness, I often feel queasy for one to three days after these journeys before I can enjoy myself, depending on how many hours were spent in-flight.

For me, recovering often means I’m bedridden and unable to keep food down. It’s incredibly unpleasant.

But when I’m in Guam for weeks at a time, a couple of days in bed is a small fraction of my stay, so I don’t feel like I’ve wasted too much time.

My most recent trip to Europe in November 2023 was another story.

After a seven-and-a-half-hour flight to Paris, I spent one of three total days on the continent cooped up in my hotel room feeling sick and needing rest. I was only in Paris for one night of the trip, and it felt like a missed opportunity to be unable to see more sights or explore the streets surrounding the hotel.

If I fly long distances, I want more time to explore far-away places

The author hikes with her family in Guam in 2019.
Joey Hadden/Insider

Factoring in recovery time also leaves more room in my itinerary to actually experience the destination I traveled so far to see.

Having three weeks in Guam, for example, gives me plenty of time to get well and enjoy time with family snorkeling, exploring the Pacific island’s tropical jungles, and eating all the local Guamanian food I can stomach.

However, when I took a seven-hour flight to Barcelona for a seven-day Mediterranean cruise in August 2023, I headed straight for the cruise terminal the morning after I arrived, and right back to the airport after the voyage.

I barely got to see Barcelona, a city I’d never been to previously, and it felt so disappointing to simply use it as a transfer point. I spent my long flight home wishing I had booked a few more days in Barcelona on either end, and stayed longer than the week just for the cruise.

Longer trips are more sustainable than shorter ones

The author’s flight home from Europe in November 2023.
Joey Hadden/Business Insider

As a traveler who is interested in sustainability, every time I take a long-haul flight, I consider the fact that air travel accounted for 8% of transportation carbon emissions in 2021, per the US Environmental Protection Agency.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why sustainable travel experts say shorter, more frequent trips are more harmful to the environment than fewer, longer trips, according to a previous BI article.

For example, when I think about my 2023 travels, I regret taking two, shorter trips to Europe of only TK days each instead of combining them into one longer visit. Doing so would have necessitated fewer flights — and therefore, fewer carbon emissions.

All that to say, in 2024, I’ll make sure my long-haul trips are at least two weeks long so I know they’re worth enduring before booking.

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