Social media is rife with extravagant vacations. Month-long stints in Italy, two weeks in Greece, etc., etc.. I even follow a couple who decided to live in South America for a year just for the double-taps on IG.
But for most of us, trips like this aren’t feasible. Not only because, umm … money, but because of our 9-5 jobs and other obligations. And while I used to feel kind of bad for myself for not being able to jaunt off to Turks & Caicos on a whim, I’ve actually come to terms with the idea of taking regular, consistent getaways when I can get them — sandwiched right between Friday night and Monday morning — the glorious weekend!
I haven’t always been good at getting away on the weekend. I lived in Arizona for three years before I visited Grand Canyon National Park. During that three years, I visited nearly 10 foreign countries. While on a trip to Peru, a fellow traveler asked how The Grand Canyon was. “I want to visit soon,” he said. “Any tips?”
Sheepishly I confessed that I had never been there.
I think about that a lot, actually, when it comes to travel. It seems so exotic to get on a plane and visit a faraway locale, when people around the world come in droves to visit a place right by you. Since then, I’ve committed myself to the regular weekend getaway — whenever I can get one.
I’m not the only one ditching town on the weekend. 43% of adults from ages 18-29 take a weekend vacation multiple times a year, and 19% take one once a month. Around 64% of Americans plan to take a summer weekend getaway annually. Escaping, even for a couple of nights can feel like a true vacation — if done correctly.
The perfect weekend getaway is really an art. And after living in pretty low-key places in the last six years (Glendale, Arizona, and Gainesville, Florida), I’ve tried to get away at least one week a month. But there are a few caveats I try to follow after being burned too many times on a weekend vacation that went awry.
Here is my perfect regular weekend getaway formula:
Your location needs to be a close enough drive (or flight) to make your time there worthwhile
Only you know what this number is, but for me, it’s about 3.5 hours. If the drive is longer than that, I feel like I spent most of my getaway driving (especially since if you leave after work, you arrive quite late). As for flying, I typically only fly somewhere if I have a full three days off, and reserve it for holiday weekends. It’s the best when you can fly out Friday night and return Monday afternoon, giving you a solid two days to explore your destination. We once flew from Gainesville, FL, to St. Kitts because we had a holiday weekend. The total flight time was about 3.5 hours, and we had Saturday, Sunday, and most of Monday to relax.
The location needs to be far enough from home to offer a unique experience
Some people like staycations. But I hate to pay for a hotel if my bed is down the road. It doesn’t feel like a real getaway unless I actually get away and eat at new restaurants and see new things. That being said, I’ve had some great weekend getaways that are an hour or so away from home. We used to love visiting Sedona, which was a little over an hour away. It had such a different vibe than Phoenix Valley that it truly felt like a break.
It helps to prepare a loose itinerary before you leave
With a quick trip, you don’t have time to waste. I like to map out what we will do and see beforehand, including some restaurant research. Sometimes I do this on the drive or the flight. When I have an idea of what I want to do or see or eat, I actually fit a lot more in. We recently drove from Gainesville to Savannah, Georgia, for the weekend and our Saturday schedule looked a little like this:
- Saturday morning: Breakfast, drive to Tybee Island
- Saturday afternoon: Naps at the hotel and shopping
- Saturday evening: Trolley tour of the city, dinner at Cafe M
And what happens if you feel like getting away — even for the weekend — but have budget constraints? There are ways you can save and still make it happen. Here are a few ideas from fellow budget travelers:
“I let cheap flights guide my three-day weekend travel plans,” says Becky Mendes, a 28-year-old accountant. “I use an app that alerts me when cheap flights become available and buy those. I’ve visited Seattle, Austin, Cocoa Beach, and South Bend that way.”
39 year-old dad Drew Williams takes a different approach. “With three kids, our weekend travel is all about convenience and saving money when we can. We bought a popup trailer last year and try to camp with our kids at least once a month. The experience is so streamlined now that we have a checklist of what to bring, what to buy, and a list of places to go. Slowly, we’re exploring the world around us.”
“There’s something to be said for traveling during the off-season,” says avid weekender Carly Albrecht, 45. “Living in Florida, people love to visit during their summer vacation, which is when us locals try to get away! But once school starts in the fall, everything around us is cheaper. We take advantage of that on weekends and visit resorts, amusement parks, and other locations that we wouldn’t dream of going to in the summer. It’s less crowded and we save a lot of money.”
So get away for the weekend. Make it a habit. You may not see the whole world in the 3-hour radius around you, but you’ll see a lot more than you may realize.
Got any other tips on how to plan a great weekend getaway? Share them with us in the comments.