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Sometimes you just don’t have time to load up the car and hit the road. No matter how very badly you just want to escape and get away from it all. It’s okay. It happens to everyone. So what do you do when you just don’t have the time or budget for a full, days-long roadtrip? That’s the perfect time to think about a day trip!
Day trips are like microvacations - they’re roadtrips compressed for time and distance into just one day. Sometimes when we can’t get away - be it for schedule or budget reasons - Scott and I will take a Saturday, get up early, and head to a nearby city for a day of adventure. We’ve developed a “favorites” list of cities within a few hours’ drive that have plenty to do and make for a great one-day getaway. Our trips usually start early in the morning, and we don’t get home until late at night, in order to maximize the day. That’s why these kinds of trips are perfect for weekend days. They also don’t require quite as much research and planning as a regular trip, and can be done on a much tighter budget.
A simple way to plan out a day trip is to first pick a destination. Our maximum distance for most day trips is anything within a four-hour drive, because any distance taken getting there must also be repeated coming home. We’ve found picking out cities as a destination within that four-hour distance is a good bet, because they offer so much to see and do. We’ve become fans of checking out science centers and museums, and every city has a least a few to choose from. Other great options are state parks, or other famous landmarks. Sometimes planning around a “key destination” - like a gallery exhibit you’re really interested in - can help dictate what else you do. We’ve had some especially great trips where we simply took an unscheduled walk through a city to see the sights. Make a list of a few things that interest you and weigh out your options. If you plan it right, you can fit in a few stops on your itinerary which will make the day feel even more full and vacation-y. Vacation-y is now a word. Because I said so.
Your next consideration is probably eating. When you’re out of the house for the full day, you’ll have to eat at some point, or it’s going to be a pretty miserable trip. One of our favorite road trip (and day trip!) traditions is stopping for early-morning breakfast somewhere along the way, because we don’t typically get to eat breakfast together most days, and both of us sleep in on weekends. We once had a favorite Denny’s along the route we took going almost anywhere out of New York, but it unfortunately closed down. Checking an app like Urbanspoon or Roadtrippers can show you plenty of local diners and other spots off the highway you might check out for breakfast or lunch along your route. Visiting parks is a great excuse to pack a picnic - which can also stretch your travel budget just a bit further. Throw everything on ice in a cooler, and you’re set for the day. Depending on how early you arrive, you may also be able to fit in a morning walk through a museum or gallery, and then visit a local park for your picnic, too. We usually reserve most of our food budget for dinner, and try to pick something fun or interesting to cap off the day before we head for home. Trying something new, or even stopping by an old favorite restaurant can make a short day trip even more memorable.
Day trips are a delightful way to pack all the fun of a roadtrip into just one day. Even when you can’t hit the road “for serious,” you can still get away from it all just for a moment. Falling into bed late at night after spending the day on the road, seeing sights and exploring new places, feels just as satisfying and refreshing as it does after a week of traveling.
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