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How to Plan a Weekend Getaway

How to Plan a Weekend Getaway Header

By Shirley Perez West on May 26, 2021 in Travel

Ready to hit the road for a weekend? Pressing the pause button on everyday life can be refreshing, especially if it involves a change of scenery. Plus, you don’t need to take an epic vacation to get the benefits. A weekend getaway can boost your mood and expand your world with a minimum of fuss and funds. Home base may be a comfortable place, but it’s hard to take time for yourself or loved ones with routine chores calling. Keep reading to learn how to plan a two- or three-day mini vacation to relax, experience new things, and recharge.

Small Investment, Big Return

Vacations can help reduce stress, increase productivity once you return to work, and generally make you happier. Evidence suggests short vacations may offer the same benefits as longer excursions, and you can take them more often. Even just planning a trip and having something on the calendar to look forward to can lift your spirits. Need more reasons to get packing?

Weekend escapes are great for visiting nearby places. It’s fun to explore new places that spark your interest, as well as to return to special places. Short jaunts make it easy to do both.

Taking to the road for a weekend means you won’t cut into work or vacation time. Imagine exploring, recreating, or relaxing away from home four or five times a year without chipping away at your vacation days or work time.

The best part? A weekend’s worth of travel won’t bust the budget. With a little planning, you can find deals on lodging, meals, and sites to explore. Even the occasional splurge won’t break the bank if it’s only for a night or two.

Start Planning Your Getaway

Whether you prefer arranging every detail or lean more toward seat-of-the-pants adventures, a little planning will help get you started out the door.

First off, get your calendar and choose some possible dates. Find a handful of weekends that work for you and your travel companion(s). You’ll be glad to have multiple dates when you look at weather forecasts, lodging, and events. Having several potential dates makes it easier to be flexible when it comes to special events or pricing. Experienced “small-cation” travelers pick potential weekends throughout the year. Look as far out as possible, and you’ll have time to reserve accommodations at popular spots such as national or state parks or in cities where major events are happening.

Now that you have some dates in mind, look at a map to see just how far you want to go. Driving time is a big consideration if you want to spend maximum time exploring or relaxing. If you’re able to leave right after work on Friday, you could manage a five-hour drive, but a two- or three-hour drive would leave more time to enjoy your destination. Once you know how far you want to drive, draw a circle on the map showing your travel territory and consider your options. Or do an internet search for weekend trip ideas in the closest city near you.

You may already have a destination wish list. If not, brainstorm a list based on your interests. Is there a city within driving distance with sites to explore? A charming small town you want to get to know? Are there seasonal events or tours you’ve always wanted to attend? Outdoor recreation spots within your destination circle? Stay flexible and open in your choice of destination, and you may find some unexpected places. The New York Times “36 Hours” column features U.S. cities and offers ideas for what to do on a short vacation.

Springing for a couple of nights' lodging and a few restaurant meals is less of a strain on your finances than a full-on vacation. Still, draft a rough budget to help guide your choices. If you plan to do several mini-vacations a year, you may want to do some special occasion outings and no-fuss getaways. A few quick internet searches can give you a ballpark for lodging costs for the dates you’re looking at. You may even opt for camping under the stars. Not only could it save you on lodging fees, but you can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the modern world to enjoy the great outdoors. You will also want to factor in gas, tolls, accommodations, meals, and entry fees. You may need to include childcare (if you’re planning an adult getaway) or pet sitting. If budget is a big concern, weekend availability may be slim.

Once you know when and where you can go and what’s in store once you’re there, it’s time to get ready for your getaway.

  • Book your dates

Now that you know where you want to go, look for accommodations central to the activities and sights you’re interested in. Online sites such as, Airbnb, and Kayak make it easy. Be sure to check cancellation and refund policies in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.

  • Plan an itinerary to get the most out of your time away

Download an itinerary app such as Atlas Obscura or Triphobo to explore ideas for things to do and places to stay, shop, or eat. Check the hours of tours, museums, and historical sites, and plan those visits first. Then fill in the rest of your time with other activities, or leave time to relax or wander. The TripAdvisor app allows you to save your list and map out an efficient itinerary.

  • Take your car for maintenance

Make sure your car is up for a longer-than-usual drive. Also, check to make sure you have your registration, insurance card, and driver’s license to help avoid unpleasant surprises. You could also consider renting a car for the weekend to ensure you don’t run into car problems.

  • Make a packing list

Include things you can’t easily find on the road such as medications, phone chargers, and your favorite novel. If you plan on recreating outdoors, bring equipment or check to see if rentals are available at your destination.

Relax and Unplug

You’ve picked a place to go, made a plan, and booked your accommodations. Now you’re ready to hit the road. Even with a well-planned itinerary, stay open to discovering new delights. Take recommendations from locals and follow your instincts. Most of all, leave behind the distractions and challenges of everyday life and unplug and recharge.

Shirley Perez West is a consultant for Say Insurance. She has been a reporter for the Associated Press, as well as daily and weekly publications. She's currently a freelance writer living on the north Oregon Coast.