I’ve always been a big fan of spontaneous day trips. When I lived in Portland, I loved driving up to Seattle or escaping to the Oregon coast for the day, and now that I live in Nashville, I can hop in the car and explore Chattanooga or Atlanta or just drive until I hit a little town with a diner that serves pie (this doesn’t take long).
I think people often get caught up in the idea that they can’t travel based on limitations on time or money, but a day trip is a great way to explore a new place without breaking the bank or taking time off, and you even get to sleep in your own bed at the end of the day. Need a little more encouragement to hit the road this weekend? Read on…
1. Day trips are affordable. If you’re not a barter-for-a-room-in-a-hostel type, the most expensive part of traveling is always lodging. Take the hotel room out of the equation and suddenly you’re just paying for gas, food, and attractions. Keeping a day trip under $100 is totally doable. Keeping it under $50 is not impossible.
2. You can plan as much or as little as you want. Day trips allow you to be completely, totally spontaneous (“Let’s just drive for a few hours and see where we end up!”) or indulge your inner control freak (“We need to hit these 6 attractions before lunch time, no bathroom breaks allowed!”). Since you won’t need to set up a place to sleep or deal with check-in/check-out times, you are free to spend your time exactly as you please. Whether you choose a meandering or militant pace, you’ll be back in your own bed that night.
3. Two words: No. Packing. I love traveling, but I haaaaate packing. Unless you’re like my aunt, who insists on packing a suitcase of extra clothes and a huge cooler of turkey sandwiches anytime she drives more than 5 miles, day trips do not require a suitcase. Score!
4. A day away gives you a break from routine. I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m feeling burned out, bored, overwhelmed, or generally dissatisfied with my life, I get an intense urge to get away (should I deal with this in therapy? Probably, but for now I’ll just take day trips). In general, running away from your problems isn’t a super successful strategy, but man, it can do wonders to put a little distance between you and your daily routine. After a day out exploring, I always return home rejuvenated and re-inspired.
5. There’s no pressure. Big, capital “V” Vacations are awesome, but they come with a lot of built-in stress and pressure: you’ve gotta make sure you see all the major sights, take National Geographic-worthy photos, and have The Most Fun Ever to make all that time, money, and planning worth it. Day trips are different. You’re not making a huge time and money investment, so who cares if it’s perfect? Just go with the flow and see what happens.
6. You’ll see your surroundings with new eyes. It’s tempting to file everywhere within a 200-mile radius of your home under the “not that exciting” category, just because it’s not exotic. The truth is there are so many things to see and do no matter where you live, and we often overlook randomly awesome destinations that don’t require a plane ticket to get to. Do you live within an hour of the world’s largest ball of yarn? What about that amazing farm-to-table restaurant just across the state line? Have you been putting off a visit to the historic hat museum a few cities over? Lose your “local” paradigm and try to view your area as a tourist. You might develop a new appreciation for the unique charms of your part of the country.
7. Traveling, even just for the day, makes great memories. When I look back on the moments that stand out in my life, the vast majority of them took place outside the constraints of my daily routine. I’ve found that I have just as many great memories from the random beach trips I took with my brothers as I do from exploring Europe. Whether we’re 50 or 5,000 miles from home, traveling puts us in new situations and exposes us to new people and experiences that become etched in our mental scrapbook forever. So go see what there is to see.