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Travel Take that extra day: the case for making the most of long weekends

Maryam Siddiqi and her nephew recently took a weekend trip to Halifax.

Maryam Siddiqi/The Globe and Mail

In mid-May, I took my eight-year-old nephew on a quick getaway, a long weekend in Halifax. To say he was happy about it would be putting it mildly, but what he was most excited about was not the destination. Rather, well, I’ll quote him: “I get to miss a day of school!”

His enthusiasm for taking a day off is something most adults could use a dose of. According to a 2018 survey conducted by ADP, the payroll-processing firm, only one-third of Canadians use all of the vacation time allotted to them, and 28 per cent of respondents said they took just half of their allotted time off.

That’s a lot of paid time away from the office being squandered, something that affects work-life balance, which Health Canada has declared essential for a healthy work force and economy.

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Of course, vacations spanning a week or more can be costly, and if you have children, you’re limited to the school schedule, with March break and summer being some of the most expensive times of the year to travel. So, why not consider the long weekend, or even better, several of them?

Car-rental companies such as Budget have long offered deals on three-day rates, encouraging long weekends, and now hotels are joining them. Marriott has launched a program of its own: savings of up to 20 per cent if a booking is made for a weekend stay – including statutory holiday weekends.

Does one extra day away from work really make a difference? Surprisingly, it can make more of an impact than an extended period away, mostly because people put in extra time at work before taking a week off. ADP’s survey found 71 per cent of working Canadians put in “a substantial amount of extra work (11.4 hours on average) before and/or after a one-week vacation.”

A day off here or there means no planning for your absence and no significant e-mail accumulation – avoiding the stress that comes with that. It also means saving yourself from the logistical hassles of a longer holiday, which Project: Time Off, an initiative from the U.S. Travel Association, found in a survey it conducted last year to be a deterrent for booking a vacation.

The Halifax weekend was light on planned activities and free from expectation.

Maryam Siddiqi/The Globe and Mail

My weekend in Halifax was light on planned activities. We had tickets to a Memorial Cup hockey game. I wanted to tour the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. My nephew’s top choice was the neighbouring Discovery Centre, an interactive science museum – which he chose to go to twice in a span of three days. Aside from that, we let the weather dictate if we were outside wandering the waterfront or inside, hanging at the hotel pool. (We stayed at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront, ideally located beside a Cows Ice Cream, which was visited on our first day there, obviously.)

There were no expectations; we were simply happy to be away for the weekend, to miss a day of school and work.

And this is the true benefit of a long weekend. With longer trips, and the cost and planning associated with them, come expectations, of things seen or happiness achieved. With a long weekend, it’s only a day, on top of the two you already have off. But it’s an extra day of exploration, connection, relaxation.

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The writer’s travels were supported by Marriott International and Visit Halifax.

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