The Benefits of Unstructured Travel Time

Lindsay Knake

| 3 min read

The next time you’re planning for a vacation, consider planning less.
With the busyness of our daily lives and careers, we need downtime to let our minds and our bodies rest.
Here are benefits of unstructured travel time:

Less stress

Overscheduling and the mental gymnastics of logistics can cause stress. Instead of being present in a city or at the beach, you may be thinking about how you’re getting to the next activity or place.
On a trip, plan fewer excursions than you normally do or spend more time in fewer places.


Allow yourself the childlike joy and curiosity of exploring. Curiosity, according to the Harvard Business Review, boosts energy and creativity. The flow state, or losing track of time because we are immersed in a task or activity, increases our happiness and fulfillment.
Vacation without a detailed itinerary and leave space in your trip for spontaneity. If you find an interesting garden, restaurant, or beach, you have time to check it out. For those who prefer structure, planning a few things you’d like to do and creating space for spontaneity can bridge the gap.


Moving at a slower pace and remaining focused on the present allows you to savor your experience. Taking in the sights, scents, and sounds of a place allows us to remember the experience more deeply and can increase our gratitude.
Savoring includes taking time to enjoy your trip without your phone. Photos are wonderful souvenirs, but spending too much time looking at the location through your lens decreases your memory of it.
Practicing mindfulness has several health benefits, from improving blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and higher emotional regulation, according to the National Institutes of Health.


Your brain uses a lot of energy when you are focused on an activity. The brain requires rest and restoration, however. Having too much information is tough on our brains and can shorten our attention spans and ability to concentrate.
Ditching all the planning and your phone can alleviate stress and restore creativity. This is why you get good ideas while on a walk or in the shower. Giving yourself time on your vacation to restore your whole body will help you when you’re back home.

Tips to practice savoring your travel:

Mindful eating: instead of pulling out your phone to take photos of your food, be mindful of the presentation, the scents, and flavor of each bite.
Take a walk: go for a walk to take in the sights on your trip. Pay attention to small details and the people around you.
Mindful breathing: spend a few minutes each morning and evening taking several slow, deep breaths to give your mind and body a small rest.

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.