This article will be a little bit different and won’t focus as much on miles & points, but rather on the actual travel experience once you’ve arrived at the destination. I’m trying out something new and “expanding” my writing horizons, so be sure to let me know how you feel about the article.
Most of us only have limited holiday time – the average American only has 1-2 weeks of vacation each year, which is mind-blowing when comparing us to Europeans, for example, who on average have 4-5 weeks each year and their holidays carry over even if they switch jobs, in most cases. So while we don’t have as much free time, we still travel quite a bit. The uniqueness is that you theoretically can fly to most places just for a weekend if you’re within North America (the same applies if you are within Europe).
Short, weekend trips are a bit different than longer 1-2 week trips and you should prepare yourself accordingly to ensure you maximise your time on the ground (and not in the air… this time).
When you plan a 2-3 day trip, you probably want to fly the least amount of time possible. Almost in all cases, you’ll want to get on a nonstop flight to your destination with a flying time of ideally under 4 hours. If you must take a connection, ensure your total travel time isn’t more than 7-8 hours, otherwise it won’t be worth the journey to fly there just for 2-3 days.
If you live in a big, hub city… then you’re golden. Big and hub cities have tons of nonstop flights to most places you’ll want to visit for the weekend. Since I live in Seattle, I will use it as an example. Ideal weekend trips from Seattle are San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Denver, Palm Springs, Anchorage, Chicago, etc. This is because you can find many nonstop flights between these cities and the travel time will most likely be reasonable. If you live on the West or East Coast, you will find that your short trips will be best to explore your “coast” or travel a bit further into the country (or Canada/Mexico).
If you live in the middle of America, you can probably get to either coast easily and have no issue selecting a potential weekend destination. My favourite way to fly somewhere for a short trip is for the weekend – leave either Thursday or Friday after work (head directly to the airport). Coming back depends on if you can take a day off or be “sick” on Monday. I usually come back either Sunday or Monday night if I’ve left on Thursday/Friday afternoon.
Like I said, you want to maximise the time spent at the destination and not the flying. You also should make sure that the airport you are flying into is within a reasonable driving distance to your desired destination. For example, if I wanted to visit San Francisco for the weekend, I wouldn’t mind flying into SFO or OAK, but definitely wouldn’t fly into San Jose.
If you wanted to combine two cities in one short trip, flying into one and out of the other works great.
Hit the ground running at 8 or 9 AM – not later. You will want a full day to explore what the city has to offer – sights, views, culture, atmosphere, people, dining, etc. I love to walk around the city centre on the first day and see what it feels like to be right in the heart of the city and take in the local atmosphere. In the case of San Francisco, for example, I would walk around downtown – exploring various streets and neighbourhoods and eventually make my way over to the water.
You want to walk around with purpose – make sure to map out what you want to see along the way and what direction you’d take after that. You definitely do not want to waste any time by getting lost or not seeing what you desired. Walk around, stop by coffee shops, visit local stores, find a nice place for lunch, and be a tourist for the day.
Naturally you will want to plan out what the main attractions are before you get to a city, this is especially true if you’ve only got a few days somewhere. All in all, the first day should be spent walking around the heart of the city and seeing the main attractions and sights what brought you there in the first place.
Head further. Think bigger and leave the city. This is great if you have a rental car since it isn’t a problem, but public transportation such as trains can also take you places. In our example of San Francisco, I would want to explore the surrounding areas and cities – such as Half Moon Bay, for example. Leave the city on day 2 and travel to calmer environments where you can see something new and also escape the busy city life.
On day 2, you can have a mini road-trip… visit a few places along the way and stop for coffee or lunch in some of the smaller towns, it really is nice to slow down sometimes and take in more of what life has to offer. You would generally visit the same major attractions of that town (as you would in the city), but the atmosphere is entirely different if you end up in a smaller town vs. a big city.
You can end day 2 by returning to the big city for dinner and going out at night… or you can do that in a local town and simply return late to your original destination.
If you have a third day, you have a few options on the table. You could either explore your original city in more depth (such as visiting museums), you could head to the beach or water area and relax there (if your destination offers this), or you could head to your second “big” destination of the short trip.
Whatever option you select, make sure to slow things down and take life in slower that day… remembering that you probably will be back at the office the next day. I like to relax as much as possible on the third day – have the day to myself, not check my phone, and do something just for myself that will put me in a good state of mind for the following week (or set of days).
Those are my general guidelines and suggestions for short trips that last 2-3 days. The most important aspect of these short trips is that you have as much time as possible at your destination and your travel time is minimised – otherwise a short trip has absolutely no point.
During this trip, you will want to explore your destination, but also step back and enjoy time for yourself so you can be ready for what is coming next. If you have time, be sure to get out of the city and explore local areas and towns – they really do have a charm to them.
This is how I approach shorter trips and the strategy works out quite well for me. I hope that some of my suggestions and tips help you plan more weekend trips as it truly is fun to get out of your city for the weekend and experience something new.