Books on Vacation: Why I don’t read (much) while traveling

This post was inspired by this week’s Let’s Talk Bookish prompt.

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly bookish meme that was created by Rukky @ Eternity Books and is now hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits.

This week’s prompts: What books do you like to bring on vacation? Do you bring any books at all? What kind of books do you think are good for a vacation? How much time do you usually have to read on vacation? What does an ideal vacation with a book look like?


Do I read on vacation?

Whether or not I bring a book sort of depends on what type of vacation I’m going on. There’s a big difference between traveling to visit friends/family, a trip to a new place with a lot of adventure/sightseeing, or taking a “staycation” in a cabin or hotel on one of the neighbor islands.

If I know I’ll have a lot of downtime, I will be sure to bring a few options of things to read, but lately I’ve been straying away from bringing physical books while traveling for a variety of reasons.


Why I don’t bring (many) books on vacation

There are too many other things to do and I want to be present in the moment.

  • Unless the vacation is purely for relaxation (which my vacations almost never are), there are always so many things to do! Whether I’m catching up with friends and family, exploring new places, or attending different events, I want to be fully present. My primary reasons for reading are escaping my daily life and learning new things, which I already get from real life experiences while traveling so I don’t feel the need to read as much as when I’m at home.

I like to write and journal

  • As a writer, I’m always inspired by new places and experiences so I often find myself naturally inspired to write when I’m exploring someplace new.
  • I also journal for memory keeping and tend to do a lot of this in my downtime while traveling so I can remember moments with friends and family. It’s always fun to look back on these written memories to give context to the dozens of photos.
  • Alternatively, if it’s more of a relaxed type of vacation, I often find it refreshing to do more introspective and intuitive journaling, which also takes away from time I might otherwise spend reading.

Books are heavy.

  • Since I live on a small island, “vacation” for me generally involves hopping on a plane at some point so I try to pack as light as possible (I try my best to fly carry-on only). I can’t be sure what I’ll be in the mood to read but bringing a wide enough variety of books is not a great option.
    • Yes, I realize that e-books and audiobooks exist (we’ll get to that in the next section), but I am the type of person who prefers the experience of physical books if I’m reading with my eyeballs.
  • Also, I read mostly library books so taking them on vacation isn’t the best idea.

I like to buy new books from the place I’m visiting

  • I rarely buy souvenirs in the traditional sense but I love visiting bookstores when I’m traveling (especially since the only bookstore in the island is a 40 minute drive away and super tiny 😢). Usually I’ll buy at least one book, preferably something by an author who is local to the place I’m visiting.
  • If there’s a really good used bookstore, I’ll sometimes buy a bunch of books and ship most of them home via flat rate shipping or media mail, which is cheaper than checking a bag and way easier than hauling them around (yay for USPS).

What Kind of Books do I read on Vacation?

Book Format:

  • If it’s a physical book, it must be a paperback (or a very slim hardcover that I’m not worried about damaging)
  • If I’m traveling in-state I might bring a library book that I have in-progress since I can return it to any location, even if it’s on a different island.
  • I like listening to audiobooks on the plane so I always make sure to have one downloaded from my library via the Libby app.

Type of reading (genre, mood, topic)

I’ve noticed that the type of books I tend read on vacation are quite different than my everyday reading, which makes sense since I’m in a different mindset while traveling.

Here are the kinds of things I usually find myself wanting to read on vacation:

Something related to the place I’m visiting

  • If I’m traveling to a new place, naturally I’ll be reading a lot of information about the sights, history, and culture of the place. Very little that of this type of reading is something I’d track on my reading log, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that this, too, is valuable reading.
  • If I’m traveling abroad, I’ll usually try to pick up a book that’s either set in the place I’m visiting, or by a local author. It can be fiction, or nonfiction, poetry or prose, so long as it gives me a sense of the place and people.

Something that’s not too dense with world-building.

  • When exploring a new place, my sense of discovery and wonder is much better directed toward my real life surroundings. If I’m traveling with other people, I’m likely to be distracted or have less time to read. Neither of these things lends itself well to immersing myself in a new fictional landscape but I can still enjoy reading something that doesn’t take too much brainpower.

Something with more light-hearted subject matter than my usual reads.

  • A lot of my favorite books recently have really heavy themes: war (fictional and real), depression, dark magical schools, etc. While I do genuinely enjoy those books and find a lot of value in them personally, that’s not the kind of mood I’m looking for when I’m on vacation.

Short pieces that don’t require a lot of time-investment are also good.

  • This includes short stories, poetry, and nonfiction articles. Sometimes I’ll read these as part of a collected work or magazine, but mostly I’ll check Notion or Pocket for things I’ve saved from around the web that I never got a chance to read.

Sometimes I’ll just read a lot of fanfiction because it’s quick, easy to read on my phone, and I already love the world and characters.


Let’s chat!

What do you like to read on vacation? Does your vacation reading differ from your reading in everyday life?


5 thoughts on “Books on Vacation: Why I don’t read (much) while traveling

  1. I enjoyed reading your post and found that I agree with a lot of you wrote, especially about the types of books. Something light-hearted and short pieces are especially good picks for going on vacation with. I really don’t want anything too dense affecting my mood if I’m supposed to be relaxing on vacation or visiting friends. I am going to steal your book souvenir idea and will start doing that when I go on vacation!

    Liked by 1 person

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