Yes, it is probably too late for most of you, but if you are wondering why your holiday travel felt like a waste of time (by whatever means of transportation), here’s a way to find out.
Calculate the total amount of time it took to get somewhere once you left home. For example, I drove from the SF Bay Area to northern Sonoma county, about 75 miles. Drive time took around 80 minutes. With the round trip, that equals 160 minutes. That means to make the trip worthwhile, I must spend at least 2 hours and 40 minutes at the Christmas gathering. Not a problem when three extended families are gathering together for dinner. By train or bus? Same, take the total time away from home and double it.
The simple rule is this: spend at least as much time at your destination as it takes to make the round trip. If flying, quadruple the one-way travel time.
What if I flew somewhere? Count it all after you leave home (don’t count luggage packing time): travel to the airport, parking, checking in 2+ hours early, flight time, delays, getting luggage, and finally to the house/hotel. Quadruple it and you have your minimum “time spent” number. If I had travelled to see my sister in Pennsylvania, let’s say 90 minutes to get to the San Francisco Airport at least 2 hours early, with a direct flight of 4 hours, then another 90 minutes getting luggage and to the hotel. That’s 9 hours, quadrupled to 36 hours. For a trip like that, a day and a half sounds like a reasonable MINIMUM time to stay in Pennsylvania. Many people travel cross-country for just a day or two of holiday gatherings, so my calculation equation stands up to a reasonable trip.
But what about travel time from the hotel to my sister’s house? Use the road trip equation in the second paragraph, since leaving from the hotel is like leaving home for a road trip, like a “soft reset” for the calculation. If it takes 45 minutes from the hotel to her house, I should spend at least 90 minutes at her house (using up some of the 36 hours). That sounds pretty easy. Of course, if I wanted to do some sightseeing in Pennsylvania, that would occupy some of that 36 hours, so it’s even easier to feel like the travel time was justified.
The day after Christmas last year, I flew to Panama to see my mom’s family. That’s 90 minutes to the airport, 2 hours waiting, 5 hours to Miami, 5 hours waiting for the connecting flight, 3 hours to Panama City, and 30 minutes to the hotel. 17 hours quadrupled is 68 hours, or almost 3 days. We spent less than 5 days total, so it was just enough time for my mom, but I would have liked to stay longer to make the trip feel more worthwhile.
Or you may think this equation is stupid, but then you probably suck at math.