This fall, I’ve got a lot of regional travel planned. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that it’s busy season at work until mid-November and hard to get any time off.
I’m not one to sit at home, so in the meantime, I’ll be chipping away at my “east coast bucket list” (see related posts The Primland Challenge and Add the Williamsburg Grand Illumination to Your Bucket List). If you’re also stuck with traveling on weekends, here are my tips on making your time really feel like a getaway.
10 Tips to Make the Most of a Weekend Getaway:
1. Don’t Go Too Far: It should go without saying that the more time you spend in transit, the less time you have at your destination. Everyone will have a different opinion on what’s reasonable, but I like to make sure I’ve got 36 hours where I want to be. Less than that, and it’s better saved for a visit when I have more time available.
2. Know Your Limits: Even if the flight schedules allow you to pop over to Dublin for the weekend and still have 36 hours on the ground, you’ll want to keep in mind other factors like jet lag, a new time zone, and learning how to navigate in a strange place. Some people are exhilarated by this; others end up groggy and cranky. Factor in travel hassles and decide how it will impact you.
3. Prioritize: It’s close to impossible to see everything in a weekend, so don’t even try. Build yourself a priority list of one thing you really want to accomplish on each day (and don’t forget to share days with any travel companions). Make sure you’ve got time to see those few things and work around them if you want to fit more in.
4. Map it Out: You wouldn’t believe how much time you can save by simply seeing all the attractions that are near one another instead of criss-crossing town a half dozen times. Once you know what you want to see, circle them on a map and schedule them accordingly. As a bonus, carrying that map around with you will keep you from wasting time getting lost!
5. Dream Big: Staying close to home and prioritizing may feel like limitations. Pick one experience for your getaway that will make it truly feel like a vacation. Maybe that’s a night out at the theatre, a lavish suite upgrade (ideally that you got for free from your hotel loyalty program), or taking a dinner cruise to see the skyline lit up at night.
6. Pay Up: I’m not rich, but I know when to spend money. If you’ve only got a day or two to see a destination, I’d recommend staying in the heart of things instead of staying off the beach and wasting your time on a commute. Get a ride to the airport instead of shuttling in from the economy lot and take a taxi to your hotel when you arrive instead of learning a new bus route if you want to save more time.
7. Book in Advance: Don’t waste your time standing in line! Most popular museums and sights these days let you buy tickets in advance online and if you save 15 minutes per attraction, that can add up to significant time savings. Watch out for tickets that require you to be there at a specific time for entry and require organization and scheduling. They’re fine for your priority sightseeing, but can be annoying otherwise. If you want more flexibility, try things like CityPASS to skip the line without locking in a time or simply try buying online on your smartphone a few minutes before arrival.
8. Stop Lingering at Lunch: I love dining out on vacation and trying local specialties, so giving up my time-sucking restaurant meals isn’t a good option for me. However, if you have limited time, forget the leisurely lunch and try the local deli instead. You’ll probably find a more authentic experience by dining at places where busy locals are eating, anyway. Still want that drawn out meal? Try having it at dinner time when sightseeing attractions are closed anyway.
9. Don’t Push too Hard: There’s a fine balance between packing it all in and don’t going home looking like a train wreck. Ending up stressed or exhausted can take all the fun out of your trip, so leave a little wiggle room in your schedule for traffic, delayed flights, or some simple R&R. Whether you relax best with a book by the pool, a cocktail at the jazz club, or checking your email at the local coffeeshop, don’t forget to factor that in.
10. Treat it Like a Full-Blown Vacation: Just because it’s a weekend getaway and might not be far from home doesn’t mean that it’s not a real vacation. I can still enjoy the planning ahead of time and sharing stories and photos once I return home, which can make that 3-day trip turn into weeks of enjoyment. While it might not be exotic, it’s still a new or different experience – and that’s worth a lot!