Skip to main content
By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Listen to your dad: Get up early on vacation

It’s the key to making the most of a trip

(Min Heo/Illustration for The Washington Post)

Welcome to The Upgrade, By The Way’s new series on travel hacks and hot takes. See how to submit here.

Somewhere into adulthood, I started traveling like a dad. Or more specifically, I started traveling like my dad.

As a New Jersey native, I spent most vacations at the Jersey Shore. (Fight me on a better place.) Most mornings when we woke up, my dad had already been up for hours — walking or biking to get fresh rolls from Colonial Bakery for lunch, photographing the sunrise over the ocean or bringing beach gear up to stake out our spot.

By 10 a.m., he might be on his first nap. As a teenager, I was just rolling out of bed.

Dad life gets a bad rep (see those Progressive insurance commercials or any meme on the popular Middle Class Fancy Instagram). But let me tell you, dads are on to something: Getting up early is the key to vacation.

The completely correct guide to traveling like a dad

Wherever I am, I like to enjoy the peaceful morning hours while everyone else is in bed. I probably started this in my early 20s at the start of my career, when my vacation hours were precious. Plus, I’ve never been a great sleeper — especially when I’m not at home — so waking up early comes easily to me. It allows me to reflect and take in my surroundings without the noise of everyone else.

Most mornings when we woke up, my dad had already been up for hours. By 10 a.m., he might be on his first nap.

To be clear, I don’t really want to travel with anyone else who likes to get up early. This is my “me” time.

If there are beach or pool chairs to be saved, I’m saving them. If there’s a coffee shop to walk to, I’m checking it out — and bringing back coffee for everyone. (See, they benefit, too.) If there are people to watch, I’m watching them.

I’ve wandered the streets of Florence and taken in the early-morning sun on the Greek island of Santorini. I’ve enjoyed empty beaches on the Cayman Islands and had practically whole days to myself while friends slept off hangovers in Las Vegas. For me, it’s a way to see a city as it wakes while locals head to work and shop owners prepare for tourists.

When I’m the first person to get up on vacation, I’ve already come up with a plan by the time someone gets up and asks, “So, what are we doing today?” Control freaks — this tip is for you.

So on your next trip, maybe you’ll get up at the crack of dawn, too. As any dad would say: We didn’t come here to sleep.