Jolly European blog masthead

Slow travel vs. fast travel – Which is right for your next vacation?

What are the differences between slow travel and fast travel. We compare the benefits and merits of contrasting approaches to seeing the world.

5 minutes
Monty visiting Murano, Italy.

Much as we love slow travel, we’re not immune to the lure of fast travel. After all, there’ll never be enough time to see the world. And if your travels result in good times and happy memories, does it matter?  

If you’re weighing up the merits of going slow vs. fast travel, read this quick comparison before hitting that “book now” button.

Defining slow travel vs. fast travel

If fast travel is about seeing all the sights and getting the t-shirt to prove it, slow travel is about ditching whirlwind schedules to gently immerse yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. You could add a few thousand words to add context (in fact, we have, in our guide to slow travel.) 

Is one travel mode better than the other? Of course not. The phrase “to each their own” fits. But as committed slow travelers who once tore around the globe checking off must-see sights, we’ve noticed some key differences.

Fast travel attributes

Fast travel is a pragmatic choice when time is limited. Like hastily scoffing a drive-thru burger: less fulfilling than a long, lingering dinner with family and friends, but still pretty satisfying. 

Here are a few other reasons why we think fast travel is the right choice for many:

See it all on one action-packed vacation

The sheer volume of cities you’ll want to visit when traveling in Europe is overwhelming. The solution: pack them all into one epic odyssey, and relax when you get home. 

Bagging all the “must-see” sights on your one and only visit

It’s difficult to abandon tightly-packed itineraries, even if you settle in one city like Rome or Paris. Sight after sight begs to be seen in a breakneck tour.

No time to get bored

While slow travelers welcome quiet moments, you might just be counting the precious minutes wasted. Dashing between sights can leave no time for boredom. When boredom does arrive, it’s time to move on to the next awe-inspiring landmark.

Slow travelers laud the merits of staying in inexpensive neighborhoods and not shelling out for numerous tickets. 

Making the most of limited vacation time is allied with getting the most bang for your buck. We can’t all drop everything and head out on a Jack Kerouac-style adventure. Most of us must return to our families or work. Otherwise, we won’t be paying for another vacation. 

For many, Phileas Fogg might be a better inspiration, even if 80 days of vacation is unheard of. More than any other reason, limited vacation time is why fast travel will never go out of fashion.   

The essence of slow travel

If fast travel is about seizing the moment, slow travel is about savoring the moment. Here are a few attributes of slow travel:  

Heading off the tourist trail

One way to negate the fear of missing out is by visiting somewhere with fewer must-see sights. The reward is a more vivid experience connecting with people and places, with time to absorb the finer details.  ( Check Monty’s recommendations for slow travel regions in Europe)

Return home refreshed and renewed

Vacation burnout is the price of cramming too much into one trip. Wind the pace down, and you might return home less tired than when you left.

Why not do like the locals when you can? Join the local flow to save money and make unexpected connections by enjoying community highlights away from the tourist hotspots. 

Establish camp in one location

Slow travelers stick with one or two locales and submerge themselves in the neighborhood. The aim is to get to know somewhere through the activities the locals enjoy rather than through its tourist attractions.

Money Matters

Do you really want to see everything in one trip? Your bank balance will thank you for slowing down. Even more so if you avoid moving from city to city. 

Travel out of season

If you can, time your visit to popular destinations for the shoulder of off-seasons. Works for slow travel or fast travel. But fewer crowds equals more chances to appreciate your surroundings, which suits the slow travel ethos. And hopefully, save a few dollars too.  

A more sustainable approach

Mass tourism leaves its mark, even on the most resilient destinations. Live a little more like locals, reduce your impact, and give something back to the communities you spend time in.  

Slow travel vs. fast travel – the different approaches

Slow TravelFast Travel
Where to stayChoose one locale – a neighborhood base to unhurriedly explore nearby attractionsMultiple destinations that ensure all the headline attractions are seen, and then some
What to doA cultural immersion prioritizing immersive experiences over sightseeingReturning home with a broader but less in-depth feel for the places you visited
Money mattersReduce travel costs by seeing fewer attractions and cutting transport costs dashing from city to cityMake the most of the big vacation splurge by feasting on as many unmissable attractions as possible
Health and wellbeingGo at your own pace and eliminate travel burnoutA high chance of travel fatigue, offset by the satisfaction of returning home without missing anything
SustainabilityArguably a more sustainable form of travel, reducing environmental footprints and putting cash into local communitiesLess sustainable, although possibly boosting economies that thrive on tourism
Comparison of slow travel vs. fast travel

Why we can’t get enough of slow travel

We might be advocates for slow travel. But it’s not for everybody. And sometimes, we board the fast travel train too, because it better fits the situation. 

Why do we prize slow travel above all?

  • We want to feel refreshed and renewed. Avoiding travel burnout is always a win.   
  • Unforgettable and unexpected experiences are found when you stop checking your watch and lose yourself in offbeat locales. 
  • Fast or slow, you’re going to enjoy some memorable escapades. But you’ll often miss the finer details that add color and nuance to a vacation.  
  • You might leave a positive impression on local communities and reduce the problems created by mass tourism.

Wrapping up our comparison of slow travel and fast travel

Our passion for slow travel grew the more we explored the world. We once pressed pedal to metal in a fast and furious bid to see it all. Over time, we realized that something was missing. 

It was not exactly a eureka moment, but we found it rewarding to move down a few gears, head off well-trodden paths, and curtail our expectations. And hopefully, Goodtime Monty can help to encourage a few more globetrotters to embrace the joy of slow travel.