Slow Travel Series
The slow travel series is a critque of modern travel trends and the constant need for our travel itinteraries to include viral destinations. It encourages travelers to put social pressure aside and enjoy the world around them.
Embrace slow travel to rest, relax and make the most of your vacations.
7 Reasons You’ll Stress Less with Slow Travel
For most of us, a real vacation only comes along once a year. Most of our precious PTO is spent on caring for sick children, attending other people’s weddings, or occasional long weekends. When we finally take that full week off to a long-awaited destination, it’s easy to get caught in a fervor to see everything a destination has to offer.
If you’re not routinely traveling, it’s hard to believe you’ll ever return to a place so the pressure is on! Pack it in and have the ultimate experience to share with all your Instagram followers. But what if it was different? What if a beach vacation wasn’t the only time we enjoyed the sweetness of doing nothing? What if we changed speed and embraced slow travel?
What is slow travel?
Slow travel is the idea that traveling should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, putting the quality of activities above the quantity of activities. By embracing slow travel, our vacations become more relaxing, more about renewal and pleasure than about checking the boxes. Today’s social media trends put pressure on our vacations to look and feel Insta-worthy. Slow travel sets that aside and encourages us to see less while enjoying more.
How can slow travel help you enjoy your vacation?
At its core, slow travel vs fast travel is the choice between doing more and doing less. Slow travel encourages you to have a smaller itinerary with more free time and less scheduling. It wants you to slow down enough to enjoy the world around you. It encourages you to find fun in the small stuff, strike up a conversation with a local and seek out everyday pleasures. Grab a cute little coffee, chat with the barista and enjoy their favorite bookstore just around the corner. Slow travel isn’t about the perfect Instagram trip, it’s about the perfect trip for your mental wellbeing.
Is slow travel right for your vacation?
Have you ever gone somewhere only to return in need of a vacation from your vacation?
Ya, me too.
The whirlwind pace of events wasn’t restful, restorative or relaxing. You barely processed the sites and now you’re home again in need of 48 hours to put everything away, catch up on sleep and run all the errands needed for the upcoming week. It’s exhausting.
It defeats the point of vacation.
While embracing a slow vacation can’t help with the necessity of post-trip errands, there certainly has to be a better way to travel.
A way to enjoy every moment AND return relaxed and refreshed.
7 reasons you’ll stress less with slow travel
1. Slow travel means seeing less and stressing less.
It’s a hard pill to swallow but many destinations are offering you a limited amount of things. To embrace slow travel you’ll need to pick quality over quantity.
For example – if you’re going to the mountains you want to see cool mountain lakes, sprawling epic views, dramatic waterfalls and adorable mountain towns. Assuming your time is limited, you don’t need 4 lakes, 12 waterfalls, 9 views and 6 mountain towns. You really need ONE great example of each thing.
That’s right. ONE.
One and you’ve got it covered. You’ve captured the essence of a place. Pack a lunch and drink in that mountain view. Stuff a towel in your backpack so you actually go swimming in that gorgeous mountain lake! Plan a day that truly enjoys one thing and gives you time to relax.
With your top priorities in order, quality research and good recommendations you’ll have a better time with a limited itinerary than pages and pages of must-sees.
Another positive is you’ll be way less stressed about logistics and timing! There’s no need to anxiously keep to a schedule when you’ve kept your plans to a minimum.
2. Slow travel prioritizes your interests.
We’re all going to post our vacation on social media and that’s fine! We’re going to get our trip recs from TikTok and that’s fine too! But be sure to think critically about how you’re being influenced.
Why are you actually taking this trip? What about this destination is fun, interesting or educational?
If a destination is only as good as it’s social media clout than it’s no good to your slow travel itinerary! Throw out influence and experience only what really speaks to you.
Do more of what you want to do and less of everything else.
3. You can hire a travel agent that specializes in slow travel.
Part of the appeal pace of slow travel is relieving some trip planning burden! It may seem antiquated, but just like booking an airplane ticket, travel agents have come a long way. They’re not obscure downtown offices anymore, they’re millennials with great organizational skills who specialize in different destinations. Search engines and social media can help you design a great trip but the experience of someone who understands the landscape AND your interests will design the perfect trip for you.
For the budget-conscious, there are digital-only travel agents that will jump at the chance to plan your slow vacation.
4. Slow travel will force you to be decisive.
If you’re committed to planning a trip yourself, bust out that spreadsheet and collect all your data. Then, narrow it down to the things you most want to see. These four mountain lakes might make the Google Sheet but which one is at the top of the list? Make those decisions before you go and stick to them! Divide your trip into ‘must-sees’ and then start planning logistics. If you’re not finding the best recommendations for slow itineraries, consult Reddit threads for your local area. Pro Tip: Pose as someone who just moved there and ask locals for fun recommendations.
5. Slow travel will bring relaxation back to vacation.
The first time you plan a slow trip, it’ll be hard. But, by the time you’ve landed back at home, you’ll see the benefit of taking your time.
You’ll feel better. Lighter. Relaxed.
You’ll see that this trip felt like a real vacation. You’ll be home with fond memories and no regrets. You might even be well rested.
6. Slow travel will improve your mental health.
Everyone needs a vacation from time to time. By embracing slow travel you’ll relax and rest more on vacation. It seems simple, but so often taking us out of our routines can be another source of unwanted stress. You’ll find yourself looking forward to vacation more. The planning will be less stressful, travel component will be less stressful, even the return should feel less stressful because you’re naturally more at ease.
If you can succeed at slowing down, your brain will thank you for the time off.
7. Slow travel can change your life.
With the right outlook and plenty of practice, you could have a new relationship with vacations after embracing slow travel. You could even have a whole new relationship with travel. After a few trips, you’ll start to see that you could enjoy more new locations. You might be drawn to extended trips and working from different places. It won’t seem so wild and crazy to set up a temporary shop in a new spot because life can be easy a lot of places. The world gets more interesting when you enjoy more of it.
Is this just another travel trend?
While “slow travel” may be a new phrase, the idea of slowing down to appreciate more of life is nothing new. Humans are so naturally curious that we try to consume everything, we want to see everything. But that’s no better for us than endless scrolling through social media. An idea that encourages a break from constant consumption is likely not going anywhere.
Slowing down can mean experiencing more of the world.
Not all vacations are slippery slopes to nomadic lifestyles and global excursions. Some people do have to return to routine and responsibility. But, with technology connecting us more than ever before, it’s not so far-fetched to imagine breaking from the norm more regularly. Even if you’re not going to a tropical destination, you can appreciate a slow, long weekend by embracing everything a neighboring small town has to offer. You can take the time to make adorable observations anywhere. Maybe when you do, you’ll see that the world’s sweetest pleasures are found in more places than you think.
6 Tips for Embracing Slow Travel
Most of us only travel a couple of times a year.
It’s expensive, it’s hard to plan and it’s real hard to get that precious PTO approved.
Our constant social media consumption makes every decision feel like a huge decision. It opens us up to a world of FOMO and the seemingly massive mistake that is consuming mediocrity. These decision dilemmas are anxiety-inducing, frustrating and certainly not relaxing.
That is why challenging ourselves to embrace a slow travel vacation style should be the new norm.
Use your hard-earned free time to actually turn your brain off. Stop critically thinking and pause in awe of your surroundings. Put your phone away and live in the moment.
It’s time to travel slow.
What is slow travel?
Slow travel is the principle that travel should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, giving the traveler plenty of time to relax and recharge from their regular life. It’s the idea that fewer, higher-quality activities are better than lengthy itineraries.
Why should you consider slow travel?
Consider a slow travel style of vacation because you’ll return from your trip feeling renewed. When we pack as much as possible into a trip we rush around, taking every possible photo and stress about the photos we didn’t get to take. Slow travel encourages you to change your approach. Make vacation easy and enjoy it.
6 Tips for Embracing Slow Travel
1. Embrace your inner nature lover for a slow vacation
I love cities. I love cities for their amazing food scenes, terrific museums and unique cultural experiences. But, the quintessential slow travel vacation is going to take place in close proximity to nature.For nature lovers, unplugging in a natural setting is their first choice. But, you don’t have to go full granola to enjoy god’s green Earth.
You don’t have to be in a National Park with no cell service or amenities to find nature. You can rent a cabin at the edge of the woods. You can stay in a seaside bungalow with amazing sunsets. You could even find yourself in a luxury spa with a perfectly manicured garden. If you’re already a nature lover, you’ll gravitate to a peaceful setting anyway! But slow travel isn’t about hiking every day, it doesn’t have the stamina for that.
Regardless of how you explore it, we, as humans, are drawn to the green, serene appeal of nature. It’s where we find peace. It’s where we breathe deep. It’s in wonder and awe of expansive quiet that we rest our minds.
If you’re looking for restoration, try a natural setting to embrace slow travel.
2. Plan only one activity per day
Over-committing is a big problem, even if the commitment is just in your head. Cap your big activities, especially if they require tickets and time slots, at one per day. Your group might be tired after the event or you might need an unexpected refuel.
If it’s impossible for you to manage this, delegate your planning responsibilities. If you’re traveling with a picky eater, they can research the food. If you’re with an adrenaline junky, the day’s main activity should be their responsibility. Free up space in your brain for relaxing by delegating these plans to someone else. Of course, this requires trusting your traveling companions. May I also recommend only traveling with people you trust to be helpful.
The One-Activity-Per-Day rule also gives you time to be spontaneous. Stop into a fun-looking boutique, take an unexpected detour, go down that winding road! The best moments of travel are often unplanned so leave room for serendipitous fun.
3. Research the best time to visit
If you’re headed to a location governed by seasonal travel, be sure to research the best time to go. Your efforts to avoid the busiest time might also mean attractions are closed (or have yet to open). Mountain towns are still clearing snow in June. Tropical destinations have yearly concerns like hurricanes. It’s much harder to be spontaneous if attractions aren’t open. Be sure your plans align with the most possibilities.
4. Get in the water
Yes, water goes hand-in-hand with nature but it’s important enough to mention specifically. Whether it’s ocean waves, lakeside sand, flowing rivers or an Airbnb hot tub – GET IN THE WATER.
Proudly put on that swimsuit and just get in. Swimming is the absolute best slow vacation activity. You can’t do anything else, just lay back and enjoy an effortless float. There’s something about the healing power of water that lulls us into relaxation with minimal effort.
5. Travel alone
Solo trips are the absolute best way to truly slow down. Take a book, take a journal, take nothing at all and have plenty of time to sit with your own thoughts. Use travel to discover something about yourself in the new experience. Get away from your routine without the pressure of thinking about someone else or factoring in anyone else’s preferences. Do exactly what you want when you want to do it. Enjoy the freedom of independence.
For some, this might be wildly unrealistic but it’s always nice to have some alone time on vacation. Maybe that means quiet mornings in different rooms or an afternoon walk to different destinations. Slowing down is easiest when you’re solo. Take a break from your companion and discover something alone. Then you have something to share with them when you’re together again. Think of it as a solo side quest to make the time together that much more enjoyable.
6. Change your mindset
To enjoy a slow vacation, you have to want a slow vacation. Make the shift from “seeing everything” to seeing the right things. Enjoy the long drives, take a seat to watch the wildlife, and savor the best flavors. Accept that whatever you do, that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’ve planned, you’ve budgeted, you’ve done the work now enjoy the break. Realize the real benefit of travel is the people you’re with and the memories you make.
Slow travel can help you make the most of your vacation.
Pleasure. Leisure. Serenity.
These words are so decadent that we barely use them. But, if you embrace a slow travel style you’ll start to understand them. You’ll pick pleasure over planning, leisure over lists and serenity over stress.
After all, it is vacation.
Plan your next trip with slow travel principles.
Trips don’t have to be tiring. They don’t have to be hard. They can be restful, they can be relaxing. You can make slow happen.
A Slow Travel Day on Going-to-the-Sun Road
When you’re visiting a popular tourist destination, you always want the best of both worlds. You want to see everything it has to offer and have absolutely magical experiences. You also want no crowds, no complications and no stress.
Your expectations are wildly out of line. But, slow travel can help.
Why should we travel slow?
Slow travel or slow tourism is gaining some popularity among travelers. This guide embraces the principle that fewer activities of higher quality will help you make the most out of every destination. It’s not about seeing everything, it’s about seeing the right things.
How do you plan a slow vacation for Glacier National Park?
Glacier National Park is the 10th most visited national park in the United States (Thrillist). Those nearly 3 million visitors come with a series of planning challenges, but with enough foresight and a little bit of luck, GNP has all the ingredients for a perfect slow vacation. If you only have 1 day at GNP, you should spend it on Going-to-the-Sun Road. This guide is your 1-day itinerary to GNP.
Consider Me Your Concierge
After a summer spent at the Glacier Park Concierge Desk, I researched, experienced and recommended activities to thousands of Glacier Park guests. I may not have gained local status but I learned a thing or two about the must-dos in Glacier.
A Few Essential Truths:
- Go during peak season. July-Labor Day is the best time to visit Glacier. Before that, Going-to-the-Sun Road may not be open. After Labor Day things close quickly as the area rapidly descends into Fall.
- This is not a hiker’s guide. The itinerary below will cater to the average traveler with low-moderate physical activity.
- Bring food & snacks. Travelers should be very aware that there are not many food options in the park and they’re never convenient. While there are some serviceable options, this area of Montana is not pushing the culinary boundaries. Foodies should adjust their expectations accordingly and everyone spending the day in the park should bring snacks.
Stay in Proximity to the Park
There are limited accommodations available inside Glacier National Park but if you can manage to stay in one of the park’s lodges or motor inns, you’ll maximize your time and cut out significant logistical headaches.
Lake McDonald Lodge and Rising Sun Motor Inn are on Going-to-the-Sun Road and are your best options for one-day trips.
If you can’t manage that, check out St. Mary’s Lodge right outside the park as well as Airbnbs and campgrounds in West Glacier, Coram, Hungry Horse, Essex or St. Mary’s. These might not get you a vehicle reservation but you’ll be within a 15-minute drive of the park.
Avoid staying in Columbia Falls, Whitefish or Kalispell. While prices might be cheaper in these more populated areas, you’ll spend 45-90 minutes driving into the park every day. In Montana time, that’s practically next door but if you’re looking to maximize your time inside the park, proximity is key.
Get All Your Passes
As of 2023, you need BOTH a National Park Pass and a Vehicle Reservation for relative areas of the park to enter. The National Park Service is very serious about these passes. If you do not have them, you will be turned away. Check out their availability now and plan your activities around them. A vehicle reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road is not the same as a reservation for Many Glacier. To see the best of GNP, you’ll need both.
- Enter the park before 7:00am
- Hike Avalanche Lake
- Hike St. Mary’s and Virginia Falls
a. Swim at St. Mary’s falls or take a St. Mary Lake Boat Tour
- Eat dinner outside the park at Johnson’s of St. Mary’s
- Enjoy sunset on Going-to-the-Sun Road and head back to your accommodations.
A Slow Day on Going-to-the-Sun Road
Get an early start (before 8:00am) and enter the park’s West Gate. Head about 15 miles up and stop at Avalanche/Trail of the Cedars.
This hike is your first activity of the day. The hike to Avalanche Lake is moderately challenging (AllTrails) but one of the easiest hikes in Glacier. It begins with the half-mile boardwalk trail, Trail of the Cedars, and continues into a wide, well-kept, 2-mile trail to Avalanche Lake. This hike has no lengthy inclines and will only get your heart rate up for a minute or two at a time. Popularity has its perks as hikers should feel relatively safe from both bears and bystanders on this well-traveled path. If you’re really getting into the slow theme, take a book and a blanket to enjoy the great view at Avalanche Lake. Without much rest between stretches, this hike should take you about two hours.
The conclusion of this hike is a great time for a snack.
Then, continue on to Logan Pass. Remember to stop and enjoy the views on the way up. Logan Pass is the epicenter of Going-to-the-Sun Road and the Continental Divide. Spend some time here taking pictures, browsing the Visitor Center and enjoying the views. If you can’t find parking, don’t stress and move right along.
Next, venture East and take the road down to St. Mary Falls.
St. Mary Falls
Parking will always be a challenge on Going-to-the-Sun Road and this is the time to embrace the park’s free shuttle system. Assuming you can’t find parking at St. Mary Falls, drive to Sun Point Nature Trail and park. If parking is full here, you can park at the St. Mary Boat Dock. The shuttle will come every 15-30 minutes during peak season.
If you’re up for a longer hike begin your hike at Sun Point Nature Trail and make this .8-mile jaunt a 3-mile trail. If you’re hoping for a shorter stint, take the shuttle right to the St. Mary shuttle stop. In less than a mile you’ll be at one of the best-known waterfalls in the park, St. Mary Falls. This is a popular swimming destination for all ages as the water pools in calm waters making it relatively safe and a welcome relief in summer heat. After you’ve enjoyed the pools, continue .2 miles to the taller, grander Virginia Falls. This is one of the few large waterfalls that flow in Glacier without fail and the easiest to get to. These two crowd-pleasers won’t disappoint and check a few boxes including lake views, waterfalls and (if you’re lucky) wildlife sightings.
After you’ve enjoyed the falls, head back to the shuttle stop and utilize the shuttle system to return to your car.
Side Quest: St. Mary Lake Boat Tour
If you’re not interested in hiking AT ALL or got to the park extra early, take a St. Mary Lake boat tour. You can purchase tickets in advance, but it’s always worth asking day-of because all vendors have no-shows available for last-minute takers.
From there, continue East and exit the park.
Johnson’s for Dinner
Turn left on Hwy 89 and look for the hand-painted sign on the right side of the road advertising “Johnsons of St. Mary’s”. Take a right turn and immediately go up the ridge to Johnson’s. This family-owned establishment is everything you want in a Montana restaurant with homemade desserts, plenty of historical decor and a unique cast of characters. You might have to wait but the huckleberry cheesecake will make every minute worth it.
Enjoy the Sunset
Here you’ll have some cell service to check the time of the sunset. Linger around St. Mary’s or inside the park on the lakeshore until an hour before sunset. Then find a spot on Going-to-the-Sun Road between Logan Pass and the Loop for the most excellent sky views.
Head back down the mountain before it gets pitch black and get a good night’s rest. You’ve earned it!
This guide didn’t feel that slow.
This was just two activities! Many people would cram multiple areas of the park or another hike into this day. But two moderate hikes and a sunset viewing are leisure activities with plenty of downtime for dipping your toes in the water or enjoying a travel mug of wine.
There wasn’t much to eat.
This guide doesn’t mention much food because there aren’t many food options in the park. For the best day possible, bring a cooler or snacks to eat during the day because any food options inside the park will be incredibly crowded and are better left for dinner, rather than lunch.
Get the best of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
By limiting your activities and sticking to Going-to-the-Sun Road, you get the best of what the road has to offer. You’ll see the quintessential mountain lake and the rushing waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a moose sighting in the St. Mary’s Lake shallows. Keep in mind, Going-to-the-Sun Road IS the attraction here. This feat of modern engineering is why the park is so popular. Enjoy it! Get out of your car, take the pictures and marvel at the scenery. Sit back and remember that at one time, motorized travel was a novelty. In Glacier National Park, it can be again.
Taking it slow on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
GNP is a mix of modern and ancient wonders. The road gives you access to incredible views but it also makes it easy to cruise through the best parts of the park. The wonder of Glacier should be taken in slowly. Get out of the car, take your pictures and feel small in the shadow of the mountains. This park is about the scenery, so don’t drive by it too quickly!
Make memories with slow travel.
With all the correct passes, you could see about half of Glacier National Park in a long, exhausting day. It would be stressful, it would feel rushed and you would hate every other park visitor in your path. Instead of that approach, take the time to cruise through the park and enjoy each section. With one day GNP, prioritize Going-to-the-Sun Road and make the memories you’re supposed to make.