Photo Credit: Princess "Franny" Francois
Microcation Queen Franny Wants To School You On How To Maximize Your PTO Days
Brooklyn’s own Princess Francois AKA Franny is the queen of the microcation. A first generation American with Haitian and Indian roots, Franny works as the Assistant Principal of Instruction of a charter school. She began microcationing due to a lack of flexibility in time off.
“As an assistant principal,” she told Travel Noire. “My days off were dependent upon the school calendar. I would either get a long weekend or a week off for break, both being high peak season.”
Over time, Franny has come to enjoy the challenge of planning a trip in a way that allows her to get a good overview of a city in a short period of time. To date, she has traveled to 35 states and 29 countries, mostly on microcations.
“For me, a microcation is a vacation that is fewer than five nights, either domestically or internationally. It is a swift, quick-paced, bite-sized trip where you maximize the minimal amount of time you have. While most people assume that microcations have to be local or at least driving distance, you can certainly take a long distance international microcation if you are strategic!”
Franny says a microcation could consist of a long weekend road trip to a neighboring city or state, or even a five-day, four-night getaway to Europe. However, there are several components that make it easier to pull off a successful microcation.
For one, you should ideally choose a location that is no more than eight hours away by any mode of transportation. Otherwise, you would be spending more of your trip traveling to the location than enjoying it. The location should also be centrally located to the things you want to do on your vacation.
“For example, if you want to visit a bunch of museums, you will probably want to stay in the city or downtown area. The goal is to be efficient with time and money. Being centrally located saves you time traveling from place to place and saves you money you would either be spending on Uber rides, renting a car, or buying gas.”
Other time-saving factors to consider may include choosing a location that does not require a long visa process. Also, if you are planning to fly or take a train, it is easier to choose a location where there are constant arrivals and departures. Things can get complicated when a destination only has flights arriving and departing one day a week.
When it comes to choosing an ideal microvacay destination, Franny says it depends heavily on where you will be traveling from. Aim for locations closer to you by plane, train, or car. For domestic locations, the Midwest offers many great options.
“Even the big cities are usually small enough to allow you to explore the main sites within a few days. Also, since it is in the middle of the country, no matter if you are coming from the East or West Coast, you will not have to fly super far.”
One of Franny’s favorite spots for a domestic microcation is St. Louis, MO with its rich Black history, nightly live music options featuring talented musicians, and amazing food (BBQ). Twin Cities, MN was an unexpected hit; a diverse city with friendly locals where Franny felt she had easy access to both the urban and natural landscapes just a short Uber ride away. Detroit was another winner.
“Detroit is super underrated! The talent of their musicians is on another level. There is also so much rich history, and it is a Blackity, Black city— the second-Blackest city in the US, in fact. It is undergoing a major revitalization, so this is a great time to visit. Windsor, Canada is 15 minutes away if you want to do a day trip, or you can drive four hours to Toronto.”
For international locations, Franny says the Caribbean and Europe offer many great destinations. Their tourism infrastructures and numerous incoming and outgoing flights make them easy areas to travel to. Franny has enjoyed microcations in several atypical destinations in these regions, including Oslo, Norway.
An English-speaking location just an eight-hour direct flight from NYC, the city is more diverse than one might expect. And because Norway runs on efficiency, public transportation is fast and reliable. Iceland is another ideal international microcation destination. It is a five-hour direct flight from NYC and has many day tours that allow you to do and see a lot in a short period of time.
Franny’s absolute favorite country for an international microcation, however, is Haiti. Just two hours from Fort Lauderdale, she’s visited on three separate occasions, enjoying the beaches, history, art, culture, and nature.
“Haiti has some of the clearest water I have ever seen. As the site of the only successful slave revolt, it is a location of global historical significance. I was able to visit the very site where the enslaved gathered for their first meeting to initiate the Haitian Revolution. I was also able to go on an intense hike to a fort with jaw-dropping views.”
“The food is also unique and the art is top-notch! During my most recent trip there, I had one of the best massages ever on the beach under a palm tree followed by fresh Haitian food, from lobster to lambi and griot served with fresh coconut water.”
There are several benefits to taking microcations as opposed to regular vacays. In addition to being less stressful due to having to plan for less days, microcations allow for more spontaneity and can allow you to take more trips per year, more affordably. They also allow you to travel efficiently and maximize your time spent in a destination.
“If you have a very limited amount of PTO or you want to travel more than what your PTO allows, microcations are perfect. Rather than having to use half of your PTO days on one vacation, you can spread them out across multiple trips. This also increases your chances of your PTO requests being approved. Every employer is different, but it is harder for an employer to reject a request for a couple of days as opposed to five straight PTO days.”
Ready to start planning your next microcation right now? Franny says now is a good time. As airlines try to attract customers, many are offering deals for three or four-night getaways with flight and hotel. Subscribe to their emails to be alerted. You may also consider using Skyscanner and Google Flights to decide your next location. Although this requires you to be flexible with either your dates or location, it will save you the most money.
“If you are like me and limited on the dates you can travel, search ‘everywhere’ on Skyscanner to find which locations have the cheapest flights. If you really want to go to a specific destination, check the price calendar so that you can then decide which dates to take your microcation. Make sure to plan your days around the days you already have off to use less PTO.”
Franny also suggests driving or taking Amtrak instead of flying. This makes it easier to travel during the current pandemic era in which it’s more difficult to just get up and go. For most international trips, you’ll need to make plans for when and where to get a COVID test to go and to return. Opting for a location within the country that you can drive to or take Amtrak to eliminates these concerns.
Finally, be sure to request PTO around federal holidays sooner rather than later. Federal holidays are essentially free days off. Since many federal holidays fall on a Monday, that creates an extended weekend that you can tack onto a day or two.
“For example, I went to Haiti around Memorial Day weekend one year. I took off Thursday and Friday. I flew out Thursday morning, which left me with most of Thursday, all of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as well as part of Monday to enjoy my trip. Instead of using up five personal days, I only used two! These are probably the most requested days off, so you should request them like yesterday!”
Be sure to download Franny’s microcation checklist to help you plan your next microvacay. She will soon begin offering microcation itineraries to destinations she has personally visited.
Currently, Franny is planning a microcation to Jamaica for her bachelorette celebration in July, and is looking forward to her upcoming wedding, set for Labor Day weekend.
In October, she and her husband will take a mini-moon (location TBD) before their extended honeymoon in 2022. Franny is also hoping to visit Tulsa, OK before 2021 is over for the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.