Where travel is concerned, there are all kinds of people. Some like to plan their itineraries down to the minute. Others prefer to just get wherever and do whatever seems like a great idea at the moment. I feel like most people fall somewhere in between: definitely hit those things that made you want to visit in the first place, but leave a little wiggle room for relaxing, reading time, or new discoveries.
As readers, there’s an added level of planning when it comes to visiting new places, and for many, it comes down to “to read, or not to read?” If your response to that question is “Why do you even ask? Of course I take a separate piece of luggage just for books,” (or, alternatively, “My e-reader is always in my handbag and of course I carry two charging cords just in case”) then I hope this little guide helps.
This might seem like an odd or obvious first suggestion, but I’m including it because sometimes I read guides like this and am struck by something just as obvious. If you’re going to schedule time for food, for leisurely walking through beautiful gardens, for browsing galleries or visiting historic buildings, then why not schedule little 20-minute breaks for reading, too?
It isn’t a waste of your precious travel time to take some time to do something for yourself, whether that’s a spa appointment at your far-flung destination or some peace and quiet with the latest celebrity memoir/romance/cozy mystery/whatever-you-like.
Choose public transportation
It can be overwhelming for some to use the public transport system at a new place, but with a bit of foresight, getting around town can earn you some reading time. Trains and buses are a great place for reading, as are on-foot traverses if you’re an audiobook listener. If you’re on an excursion that involves an hour or more of driving, there’ll be some down time, which is perfect for reading. The reason I say trains and buses is because it often takes longer than, say, using a rented car. You can’t exactly read a paperback while driving, so this is where city travel pays off with regards to freeing you of the need to focus on the road.
Of course, if you’re enjoying the views, that’s a different story. But this goes back to my point from earlier: you’re not obligated to force yourself to look out the window the entire time, pressing your nose to the glass, drinking in this place you’re visiting every second of the day. It’s okay to retreat or withdraw for a short time.
Stop for tea (or coffee)
Sidewalk cafes are great for people-watching, and they’re also a great place for you to look all bookish and blissful as you sip your beverage of choice while reading. Those little breaks in the mid-afternoon are a great time to block out the noise and just get a couple of chapters in. Go ahead and grab that croissant while you’re there, and let it melt in your mouth as you read on.
The early (book) bird gets the (book) worm
We’ve mentioned reading in the morning before as a tip for getting more reading time here, and this applies while traveling as well. Personally, I find that waking up a full half hour before I need to get up or do anything does wonders for my morning routine. If you haven’t before, it’s worth a go. This is especially helpful for folks who are more intense with their travel and don’t like to take too many breaks during the day or who, like me, fall asleep easily on buses and trains.
Stay at a hostel
I promise you that most hostels aren’t anything out of a horror movie.
Most hostels I’ve stayed at offer dormitory accommodations as well as private rooms, and have common areas, including a book swap or small library. These places are great for a few reasons. First, they’re usually way cheaper than staying at a hotel, especially for a solo traveler, and often for two as well. Second, the library is going to have books that resonate with the owners and the locale, and probably books that travelers from around the world have left behind – this means loads of super interesting reading material you’ll be eager to make time for. Third, staying somewhere with common rooms, a kitchen, and a generally social atmosphere lends itself very well to the flexible mode of travel where you can leave room to ask fellow travelers what they’ve been up to in case you missed some great experience on trip advisor (or if you booked something, only to find out it’s a total scam).
Start reading a book before your trip
If you start a book before you set off to travel, it’ll be easier to come back to when you have downtime. Rather than staring at the corner of your e-reader or paperback poking out of your bag and weighing whether you want to start a book with the 10 minutes you’re about to wait in line for a local delicacy, you’ll already be familiar with the story and more inclined to slide right back into it.
Choose books/genres that you normally eat right up
Travel time isn’t usually the best time to take a challenging book. Unless part of your plan is to finally get to that book you’ve been avoiding, and gosh darn it, you will get through that thing on a beach while sipping a fruity drink out of a coconut, might I suggest picking up another book in that [favorite genre] series you love, a re-read, or some YA? You know the stuff. The type of book that engages you consistently? That’s the one.
Take some alone time
Let me just emphasize this one more time: you are not obligated to be “having fun” and “catching the views” and “drinking in the culture” 100% of your time at someplace new. You’re (probably) also not obligated to spend 100% of your time with your group. There are exceptions, but in many cases, there’ll be a window for you to just step away and take 10 (or 30). Don’t feel guilty! Enjoy your trip the way you want to. If your group enjoys a trip by scheduling 16 out of 18 waking hours in the day, and yours looks more like 10 out of 18, that’s super okay. Find a spot in the itinerary where you can break away for a while, or bow out from an evening activity in favor of a peaceful winding-down of your evening.
Then maybe you won’t get home feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation.
What are your tips for reading more while traveling?
And check out these articles for more on reading while traveling: