Four Reasons to Set Your Vacation Alarm Early

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Sleeping in is what vacations are all about.

No work, no obligations, no stress. Just rest and relaxation followed by more rest.

I get that. Vacations are an escape from the norm, and if your weekday mornings are dominated by 6 AM alarms and bad instant coffee in the office break room, I can certainly understand the temptation to kick back, catch a few extras hours of sleep and keep that clock on permanent snooze mode.

Except, I don’t agree with that, and not in a holier-than-thou morning person type of way. The truth is that some of the most incredible vacation experiences happen while most of a city – tourists and locals alike – are still asleep, and I don’t want you to miss them.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. But let me give you four reasons why morning tourism is the best kind of tourism. Who knows, you might even find yourself keeping that alarm set the next time you’re on vacation.

High Line

It’s less crowded

Crowds make everything during travel harder. They delay you at the airport. They get in the way of photos. They force you to peek over shoulders and underarms. They smell.

Crowds are the worst.

They’re also mostly unavoidable at popular tourist attractions, especially during the summer, and I am amazed at how much they can suck the life out of something beautiful. Take The High Line, for example, one of New York City’s newest and hottest tourist attractions. A mile-and-a-half stretch of elevated railroad track converted into a public garden and outdoor art exhibit, The High Line features some of the most beautiful scenery in all of New York. And in the middle of the day, it is so choked with people that even walking from one end to the other can be a struggle.

But you arrive at 7 AM when The High Line first opens? Totally empty, leaving you free to wander and explore unmolested by the sea of humanity that usually walks its path.

Even a place like Times Square, which is bright and flashy no matter the time of day, has a different feel in the morning. With no crowds, the giant animated signs seem like they’re putting on a private show for you, which is an incredible feeling.

The lighting is better

Most vacationers take photos in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead. Not only is that sun harsh, but it also casts brutal shadows on whatever you’re shooting and can lead to some overblown, ugly pictures.

The pros know that soft lighting at an angle creates the perfect shooting environment, and the only times to get that environment are dawn and dusk. And since evenings are typically more crowded, morning is your photography saving grace.

On vacation with a special someone? Find a romantic place to watch the sunrise over the unfamiliar landscape. I promise it will be one thing that both of you remember for the rest of your lives.

BB - Sunrise

Your vacation time is maximized

My mother is a power vacationer. She researches for months before she goes on a trip, builds a list of dozens of things she wants to see, and then puts her head down like a bull and charges ahead until she’s seen them all.

Me, I prefer to take a more leisurely approach to my travel. I rarely keep an itinerary outside of restaurants I want to try, and I like to use my time to wander around a city and meet its locals. But while I don’t have a set direction, I like to spend as little time in my hotel room as possible, and getting up early helps me achieve that.

The way I see it, I’ve spent money to come to this location. If I get up at 7 AM instead of 9 AM (not unreasonable), that’s two extra hours I get to spend exploring and experiencing instead of snoring in bed. Over a week’s vacation, that’s 14 extra hours.

What do I do with those 14 extra hours? I spend a little longer at breakfast, read the local paper, and feel a little less rushed through the rest of my day.

4 Reasons to Set Your Vacation Alarm EarlyThe people are friendlier

We’ve been conditioned to think that all morning people are cranks, begrudgingly shuffling through the early hours with a cup of coffee clutched in one hand.

Don’t believe the propaganda.

The beautiful thing about mornings, especially in outdoor markets where vendors set up early, is that the people genuinely love their routines. Sure, you might run into the occasional grouch, but that can happen at any time of the day. And morning is the best opportunity to talk to local restaurant owners and market vendors since there are fewer customers around to cater to.

Make it a point to go out of your way to chat people up. Have a conversation with the desk attendant at the hotel, ask your server to recommend their favorite spot in the city, or even see if the restaurant owner is in and compliment them on your meal. You’ll be amazed at how friendly these people are when their attention isn’t divided.

They might seem like little things on their own, but these reasons combine to create the best vacation experience possible. Your photos will look better, your interactions with locals will be deeper, and the memories you take away will be fonder.

It might seem strange, blasphemous even, but make it a point to wake up early one morning the next time you’re on vacation. You’ll be amazed at the treasures you find.


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Cameron Gidari

by Cameron Gidari

Cameron Gidari is the author of Manhattan Before8 and Seattle Before8 , travel guides dedicated to uncovering the hidden morning cultures in Manhattan and Seattle. Read about Cameron’s early-morning adventures on .

One Response to “Four Reasons to Set Your Vacation Alarm Early”

a gidari


so true, so true

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