Americans and Asians (and maybe other nationals) seem to have a tendency to rush through Europe when traveling there.

They will do some epic "10 countries in 2 weeks" or such.

I understand pre arranged trips by agencies might be trying to impress their customers, hence propose some crazy schedule.

But even people arranging their own "Europe trip" seem to repeat that pattern.

I have been traveling in Europe and in other places in the world. And I still don't understand how one could enjoy such a rushed trip. Part of being of holiday is to actually not be stressed out by a tight timetable/deadline, and have time to enjoy what a city offers you.

I feel sad to see this pattern still happening considering the amount of resources one can find on and off-line. How can one enjoy such an absurdity? I don't know.

I hope this may be a "discover" trip before coming back to spend more time in one location or another. But I'm afraid I'm wrong.

I hope this thread will help people tempted by this plan to actually reconsider it. And cut down the number of countries/cities they plan to visit to a reasonable amount.

Europe is an amazing place, and rushing through it really misses the point. Each country/city comes with its own flavor, and I doubt anyone could appreciate that when running around places like the world is going to end tomorrow.

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    A colleague in France typically has 7 weeks of vacation. Many Americans have only a few weeks of vacation and plenty of money for those two weeks, so the choice is between a rushed trip to do as much as possible or not going at all. – Spehro Pefhany Jun 21 '15 at 4:41
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    @SpehroPefhany many people in Europe only have 4 weeks. Still 2 times more than in America you'd say. I thought the same at first, that it probably was because of short holidays. Until I realized I never did such thing, even when I only had 2 weeks in a whole year. I believe the reason for this is much deeper than that. Something in the culture, in the attitude. For instance, you say it's better to either come and rush rather than come and simply enjoy 2 weeks more laid back. I just can't process this thinking, it's just very irrational to me. Why not come for 2 weeks in Spain for instance? – Adrien Be Jun 21 '15 at 6:59
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    Many Europeans rush their North American travels, there are just more tourists (overall numbers) that the rushed ones do not stand out as much. – Willeke Jun 21 '15 at 8:56
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    I did 10 European countries in three weeks on a bicycle last year and didn't feel particularly stressed and tend to get bored if I spend more than a few days in a city. I am voting to close this question as primarily opinion based. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 21 '15 at 11:35
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    Some of it is just folks who don't really care about getting to know the places checking boxes- been to XXX place and can cross it off the list. For some they probably have no intention of returning. The US is huge and has many attractions as well. Many people don't like cities at all, let alone foreign ones. But there are also North Americans such as myself that would (say) rent a rustic villa in Tuscany for a couple of weeks and get to know the local villages on bicycle. You may not see them- like the parable of the blind men describing an elephant. An elephant is warm and squishy.. – Spehro Pefhany Jun 21 '15 at 12:56

I'd posit two reasons: limited time and not understanding the size of the continent.

In both the US and Japan, the standard vacation time allotment is ten (10) days per year, which translates to two weeks. (And in Japan, if you're a salaryman, using all your allowance is considered near-treasonous towards your company.) Substract a week of that for sick leave (often included in your total), weddings, funerals, random family get-togethers etc, and you'll likely only have a week left. Since flights, hotels etc are expensive, for many it's a "once in a lifetime" thing, so they feel they must cram Paris and London and Rome and Barcelona into that week.

Also, first-time travelers attempting an itinerary like this often don't understand how much time gets eaten up when traveling from point A to point B: check out from hotel, go to airport, check in to flight, wait around, fly, repeat in reverse and whoops, there's a day gone. (Even when available, high-speed trains aren't all that much better.) And even when they do account for this, they don't fully figure in the effect of jet-lag, how tired you get when walking around sightseeing all day, etc.

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    +1 for the lack of understanding the continent's size, didn't think of that. – Adrien Be Jun 21 '15 at 8:52
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    +1 for "once in a lifetime". Many people would like to have the luxury to spend lots of time in many different spots, and it's simply not a realistic option. So some of them choose to see a lot of different places, knowing that their chances of being able to get out again are limited. – Beska Jun 21 '15 at 14:39
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    What a terrible lifestyle they have! – Anixx Jun 21 '15 at 14:43
  • +1 for the mention of Japan's salaryman's travel style. totally true. i managed to do Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid from Tokyo in 12 days – computingfreak Nov 1 '18 at 3:17

First of all I have to say I totally agree with jpatokal answer. But on top of that I wanted to point out a flaw in the reasoning of your question; There are two possible reasons to go on a holiday:

  1. To relax, not being stressed
  2. To see stuff you never get the chance to see normally

Now, for some people it makes sense to combine those things - like it seems you have the luxury to do - , but for others during certain holidays it just makes sense to focus on one of the two. So during the types of holidays you so adamantly hate the focus is purely on the second thing. And given the things like time (10 days off per year) and financial (flying to the other side of the world is expensive, so you won't do it multiple times) constraints it makes perfect sense to focus purely on option 2. And yes, by the time you return you will be barely able to walk (I once slept 24 hours straight after such a trip), but by the end you will have seen and done everything you wanted to see and do.

Now, personally my interests have shifted from famous monuments (couldn't care less about those anymore) to actually experiencing and finding the differences between cultures and to do that I simply have to take a lot more time, but the point is mostly that that's a result of my priorities. With different priorities you (obviously) get a different schedule and that too makes sense. That's not 'lack of experience' or 'lack of understanding', but simply a different focus. A lot of Americans also decide to lock themselves up in a random Mediterranean resort, those are the types where the focus is on relaxing (though I never understood why they travel half the world to relax here, but I guess that's for bragging rights).

  • Nicely said. Although I never said people doing that were stupid. ;) – Adrien Be Jun 21 '15 at 13:25
  • @AdrienBe That was me paraphrasing the 'lack of understanding' argument, my bad, will fix it to be actually correct. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 13:35
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    @MichaelHampton But aren't all resorts mostly the same, whether they are in the US or around the Mediterranean? – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 13:39
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    For resorts in the US you mostly have Florida or Hawaii as destinations. Florida tends to be full of rude, obnoxious Americans, and Hawaii, being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is nearly as expensive to get to as Europe. There are many Caribbean resorts as well, which isn't quite as expensive and doesn't have so much jet lag, so ... no, I have no idea why Americans go to Europe and hide in a resort hotel. – Michael Hampton Jun 21 '15 at 13:46
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    @MichaelHampton Personally I have never gone to resorts, but from colleagues that do I have heard that in some of them you find even more Americans than Europeans. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 14:12

I wanted to add an answer that does not contradict the others, but instead includes some personal reflections.

When the younger crowd sets out to "DO" Europe, their 'peer status' rises in proportion to the number of places visited. It means, for example, that 4 or 5 hours in France counts as "DOING" France just as much as 4 or 5 days does. It gives the person the right to say, "Yeah, France is cool" with the authority of one who has been there. If the same person can also say "Yeah, Italy totally rocks", they accrue more 'street cred' and peer status.

Personal note: When I was a younger traveller, this sort of thing was measured by the number of entry and exit stamps in one's passport. A person who had to visit the embassy in order to get more pages in their passport was perceived as a seasoned veteran, and nobody cared whether or not the person could actually give an informative narrative about where they had been. Keeping with the example of France, whether or not the person took the funicular to Sacre Coeur or whether or not the person visited Saint-Quentin, Aisne or even if they know whether or not Cannes has a tube system is a secondary level of experience which is less important for many people in the younger crowd.

The arrival of Schengen dampened the sport of collecting passport stamps because now you get a single stamp for the entire zone, so you have to visit Schengen a lot in order to fill up a passport. Today, you have to use mapping applications like the one on my profile page. Facebook offers a utility to put stickers on a world map. Others like to list out the countries. So the notion of peer status is still there, and it's especially valuable in the US and Canada.

Finally, once my MIL had a flight which was diverted to Zurich for an unscheduled landing. The plane sat on the runway for about 90 minutes, passengers could not even depart to airside. But she was thrilled. She called her friends from the plane and announced she was in Switzerland! She took photos from the window of the plane and proudly displays them in her office. Lesson: adding a new place gives bragging rights.

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    I do not count a country if I have not at least spend a night in it. Changing planes does not count, in my view. – Willeke Jun 21 '15 at 13:57
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    @Willeke, I don't count places where I arrived and departed on the same day, even if I went landside and did something. But the younger crowd on wanderjahr often think differently. – Gayot Fow Jun 21 '15 at 14:03
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    Can you quantify what you mean by "Younger crowd"? Is that anyone under 50? – Calchas Jun 21 '15 at 14:07
  • Isn't the core of the issue whether you can count a place based on how well you got to know the place? There have been cities that I spend enough time in to know them quite well, despite never having slept in them. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 14:15
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    @Willeke I dunno, I think we agree on the core of the issue, but all I was trying to say was that the link between 'knowing' and 'sleeping' is kinda arbitrary. I have spend 3 nights in certain cities attending conferences and the like, yet I do not know those cities at all (in some I haven't even been in the city center). On the other hand I have for example spend multiple days and afternoons in Prague and despite only spending the night there once I feel like I really do know the city and would feel fully confident giving a tour to a friend. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 14:51

I'm going to have to disagree with Calchas. I know a lot of people who engage in this mode of traveling, but I can't think of a single person whom I would say enjoys it.

Others have given reasonably good explanations of the phenomena, but I'd like to point out an error the question-asker has made -- it's not just Americans and Asians visiting Europe that do this. Europeans traveling to the states frequently commit the same error (yes, in my opinion it is an error to live this way).

I live in Switzerland, and I recently chatted with a colleague who: is a naturalized Swiss resident like myself and grew up in Canada and India. He recently took a trip to the U.S. with his wife and two kids, and did the same "checking off the list" type of travel. 6 hours at the Grand Canyon, 1 day in Vegas, 2 days in Canada, I forget the rest. When he told me in advance of his plans, I gently indicated skepticism that this would be much of a vacation.

When he came back he confirmed my suspicions.

Anyway, others have discussed the motivational causes... I just wanted to point out this is pretty universal phenomena, at least among cultures wealthy enough to travel this way.

  • He actively disliked his holiday? Or did you ask him whether he felt relaxed and when he answered 'no' did you conclude that he disliked it? Cause I do know people who have gone on multiple of those rush holidays and consider them worth it, even though they do not have even a single drop of energy left by the time they return. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 17:16
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    He actively regretted trying to pack too many different things into the trip. – Spacemoose Jun 21 '15 at 17:49
  • Ah, fair enough :) Yeah, it's definitely not something that is enjoyed by everyone. Sorry if my comment might have been slightly more assumptive than it should have been. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 17:55
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    +1 for generalising the question away from specific nationalities or national origins. – Gayot Fow Jun 21 '15 at 17:57
  • @Spacemoose nicely said, and quite good example. – Adrien Be Jun 22 '15 at 1:01

Some people just appreciate that type of travel, myself included, while I am not an American nor Asian and I have more than 30 days vacation annually.

I would love to spend a 10 days vacation in visiting more cities, try a bit of that city and a bit of the other one. This gives me joy and happiness. Although I do not have tight schedules, I just do that as I go, so if I like a place, I spend an extra day or two there, then move on. One of the reasons, partially, is adding a new place to the list of places I visited. Also, this leaves a lot more in that city for the next visit, which might be in a different season which has different weather and different activities, so this is a plus for me.

Anyway, some other people love to live as locals when they travel, eat every local dish, try the whole package in a specific place and see everything to be seen and not to be seen (like you I guess).

Regarding experience, I do not really think this is a main reason. Some people when travelling for the first time they tend to spend a whole month in one place, while others who travel a lot they tend spend a week in 3 cities. Some people they just like the first type of travel, while others like the second type. I think it simply is a personal preference.

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    Would you then plan a 2 weeks holiday in Europe with 9 capital cities? – Adrien Be Jun 21 '15 at 10:56
  • @AdrienBe never done 9 capitals in two weeks, but considering the good transportation methods in Europe, I would do that for sure but not in two weeks, maybe in 20 days so I can have at least one full day in each city ;) Also, I always leave a few days as a buffer after a vacation, so I can play with the schedule a little in case I decided to spend a day or two more in a city.. – Nean Der Thal Jun 21 '15 at 11:02
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    Interesting! Pretty crazy, but hey, I got a friend who would probably do that kind of hectic plan. He's American... lol – Adrien Be Jun 21 '15 at 13:08
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    @hownowbrowncow I am not from Europe, and when I reach a certain level in my company I will entitled for 45 days a year. This is a nation wide rule in my company for people who are working in government offices or in companies owned partially by government. That's in addition to around another month a year for official holidays.. many other countries in the area have the same.. – Nean Der Thal Jun 21 '15 at 13:38
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    Americans might not believe it, but Europeans have, on average, a higher hourly output, making the fewer hours more productive. The yearly output is often the same as the American crazy hours/week and fewer holidays. – Willeke Jun 21 '15 at 19:31

You seem to be ignoring price, and refuting evidence of the price in your comments throughout here.

While there may be $500 one-way tickets from NYC, NYC is on the tip of the US closest to Europe. There's no way you can reasonably assume all Americans would use NYC as their gateway to Europe, or could do so in a timely and cheap manner. Going from DFW -> Frankfurt in July is showing $1,700 round trip per-person. If my SO and I are going to spend $3,400 getting to Europe, then I would want to see as much as I possibly could - which means a packed itinerary that's prepared well in advance.

And even $1,700 in the US is being pretty generous. For people who don't live near international airports, the flights to those airports can cost hundreds more. A puddle jumper from my hometown in Wyoming to Denver International costs $500 each way per person(The alternative is a day of driving each way, so that's your vacation time - 2 days right there). So for 2 people you're losing 4 vacation days driving or $2,000 flying. This is not something you ignore when planning a vacation!

Friendly Ghost mentioned in the comments that round-trip tickets from Indonesia cost $2,000 and you retorted with the cost of a one-way trip being $800 to Singapore and $100 from Singapore to Indonesia. So, round-trip, based on your numbers, is $1,800(I'm not sure your retort proved what you thought it proved). Given that the cost of flights can change wildly throughout the year, a difference of $200 isn't surprising. Also, someone in Indonesia who wants to go to Europe isn't going to think "Ok, the tickets are going to cost $2,000....that's just too rich for my blood. BUT...if they only costs $1,800...that's perfect!" These are just the tickets to get there, if $200 is really cramping your budget that much, it's probably best to continue saving and go later.

I see the above as an addendum to David Mulder's answer. You just seem to be ignoring the price like it's nothing, when the real price for a lot of Americans is going to be in the thousands just for getting there.

There's also likely a selection bias, and it's two-fold.

The Americans you're more likely to see in Europe going from one place to the next are going to hit the huge tourist attractions. So, if you mostly notice Americans in these areas - they're necessarily more likely to be the type on a tight schedule. They're not the kind of tourist to go off the beaten path and explore. Some of them will, but not all of them. Then, the ones who do explore are going to be spread across all of Europe. What are the chances you bump into one of them randomly?

The additional selection bias is that people who want to do rest and relaxation are less likely to go to Europe to do it. There are plenty of places in Florida, Texas, Southern California, Mexico, and the Caribbean that allow for R&R. I could do two weeks of cruises in the Caribbean for less than the flights to Europe.

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    The point is that rushing the sight seeing does not let you see more. Yes, you will visit more places but you will see much less in each place. Specially when your travels are done by motorways or high speed trains, or flights, you will spend more time looking walls than at cities. When you stay in each city for two nights, you have about 4 times as much time for sight seeing than when you only stay for one night. – Willeke Jun 21 '15 at 19:35
  • @Willeke And my point is that the cost is extremely prohibitive. It would surely be nice to be able to spend $4,000+ annually on a getaway trip to Europe with my SO, but most Americans(and I'm sure most Asians, per OP's question) simply can't afford that kind of luxurious lifestyle. $2,000 itself is ~6.6% of the median individual income in the US, and you'd probably be much better served saving that away for retirement than spending it annually. – Shaz Jun 21 '15 at 23:20
  • So ultimately these trips are rare, which means you can either focus intently in a small area, or spread out to a larger area. Obviously more people are choosing to spread out. There's no way I can absorb an entire culture in a short trip, so there's no point fooling myself into thinking spending a day or two in each place is worth-while. – Shaz Jun 21 '15 at 23:22
  • @Ryan I did not say ONE way, but a RETURN ticket. I quote what I wrote: "@FriendlyGhost a return ticket from Germany (i.e. Frankfurt) to Singapore starts from $800. Return ticket from Indonesia to Singapore costs maybe 100 USD. So a total of 900 USD. You probably got a very bad deal I'm afraid". To prove I'm not making this up, I did a quick search on momondo.com for flying in 1 month (not booking so much earlier), price is around $170 return Jakarta-Singapore, and $840 return Singapore-Frankfurt. Total return: $1010 – Adrien Be Jun 22 '15 at 0:45
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    @Ryan "return ticket" means "go & back" in British English, no need to get so annoyed. thefreedictionary.com/return+ticket I suppose you and I learnt something today :) – Adrien Be Jun 22 '15 at 1:52

But even people arranging their own "Europe trip" seem to repeat that pattern.

Perhaps the answer to your question then, is that many people enjoy this mode of travelling.

I have to say, there is almost a hint of snobbery in both the question and the answers. As though the only proper way "to experience" a place is to spend six months in it fully integrated with the locals; and anyone who is content merely to look at the tourist attractions in a city, soak in the atmosphere over a couple of days, and then move on to the next city is at best deluded or forgivably time-pressured, and at worse an unsophisticate.

Many folks do not find frequent travel remotely stressful, but actually do find being stuck in one place rather stressful. I would include myself in that respect.

I think it is fair to say that this energy typically dulls as one grows a bit older but I would never suggest that the experiences I or others had in their younger years are now invalid by the new, and more aged metric.

When I was less busy with my job and not travelling anyway, I would leave early on the Friday, catch a flight to a new city and spend the weekend there before returning early Monday morning and going straight back to work. In my view this gave me plenty of time to relax and enjoy the place without spending my money needlessly on getting bored. I am under no illusions that my visits are at best cursory but I've never pretended otherwise.

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    The snobbery is rightfully felt, as I understand some people might get offended by my question. It is however a question that many people are asking themselves when seeing tourists visiting their own country in this manner. They may never fully understand why, and my only hope is that the answers provided here help everyone understand this phenomenon a bit better. – Adrien Be Jun 21 '15 at 14:26
  • Note that I do NOT suggest to travel for 6 months. Hyperboles will not help to understand this topic. – Adrien Be Jun 21 '15 at 14:28
  • @AdrienBe Fair enough, you didn't say "six months". What is the minimum time you would allow a traveller to stay in your country? – Calchas Jun 21 '15 at 14:54
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    I think that minimum 2 or 3 days when visiting a major city (London, Paris, Roma...) is reasonable. Minimum 2 days for cities of more reasonable sizes I suppose (Barcelona, Amsterdam, Dublin...). And as someone said in a comment before, leave a few extra buffer days to allow you to stay a little longer somewhere if you feel like it. Typically, this means "only" doing 3 countries in 14 days, not sure if people are ready to do that as they might feel it's too little (for whatever reason). – Adrien Be Jun 22 '15 at 1:12
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    @AdrienBe Sorry, I am being quite unfair really in that example. I actually agree completely that you cannot really "do" much in a city in less than two days, and I would have constructed the itinerary with more time if I could have done it. However I do like to squeeze in a new place whenever I can! – Calchas Jun 22 '15 at 1:20

I have seen the same happening with Europeans in Australia and New Zealand, with young Europeans on their first InterRail pass or long road trip.

There is so much to discover and so little time to do it in.

It takes time to learn to slow down and do only a few locations in a trekking holiday. Many people do one location holidays, which is all right for them. Quite a few people do an one resort holiday, all right if it makes them happy.

But finding the inner quiet to combine traveling around and slowing down enough to enjoy where you are takes experience and many people never have/had the time to learn that.

After 30 odd years of traveling around for holidays, most of that alone, I still have to sit down in the planning stage not to make the same mistake again. So much to see, so little time this trip.

  • -1 because I don't think the goal is to find that inner quiet for those travelers. As you grow older you will start appreciating those kind of holidays more, but you should not hold that against younger people with a different set of priorities. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 14:53
  • @DavidMulder can you please explain why you give me a downvote, I do not promote any kind of travel, I just tried to explain why some/many people travel the way they do. – Willeke Jun 21 '15 at 14:56
  • @Willeke Well, you call it a 'mistake' and describe 'finding the inner quiet' as something that comes with experience and how it is something 'that takes time to be learned'. Same reason I downvoted the question itself as well btw, I think the original assumption that it's bad or a 'mistake' quite aggressive. Just because most of us on travel.SE don't like those kind of holidays in no way means we should project our tastes upon others. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 15:01
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    I called it a mistake as I have learned that taking a little more time makes travel so much better. Spending two nights in each city gives you 4 times as much as doing one night in each city. And yes, it is personal experience talking here. – Willeke Jun 21 '15 at 15:05
  • @Willeke And I personally agree, because my set of priorities seem to be quite similar to yours. However those priorities are totally different from the priorities of the travelers this question was asking about. This question is about travelers that decide to visit half of Europe in a single week and why they do what they do. – David Mulder Jun 21 '15 at 15:06

In most cities, you want to either spend a few hours or a week or two, and there's not much point doing anything in between. You can pick off the highlights in a few hours (except maybe in London and Paris), and it will take a week or two to get to know the place and properly relax into it. So if you want to visit more than one city on your holiday, you might as well just take a few hours per city and do lots of them.

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    If you spend a few hours in each city, all cities blur together. For many people at least. Two days and switching between smaller and bigger towns/cities makes it easier to remember. Europe is not just cities. – Willeke Jun 21 '15 at 19:42
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    Alternative suggestion: In my experience, it usually rather takes 1 or 2 days to get to know the city (where are the main hubs? how to find food? how to use transportation? ...) in a way that is sufficient to fill the other 2 to 4 days with sightseeing, museum visits, etc. – O. R. Mapper Jun 21 '15 at 22:02
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    Hahaha. "A few hours in each city" !! I love it! This is ridiculous... – Adrien Be Jun 22 '15 at 1:25
  • You can see a town in a few hours, you can even get a taste of a city in a few hours, but when you have done two of those, your mind needs time to process what you have seen and if you keep adding more information/more sights, you mix all up. – Willeke Jun 23 '15 at 18:44

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