Now that summer is in full swing, I wanted to talk about how I’m trying to make the most out of this nice weather by traveling! I’m taking a few trips this summer – to go home, to visit friends, and to volunteer. It can be really hard to navigate work and play, especially when it comes to going out of town and especially when you’ve just started a job and are new to the working world. As a newly employed post-grad, I’m trying to find the best ways to satisfy my wanderlust without taking off too much time from my job.
Do Your Research and Plan Wisely
Know your office’s polices on vacation days and working remotely. This will help so much with planning out trips for the future. I am not someone who gets sick often, so I’ll be using two of my “sick” days for vacation because thankfully my office allows that. I’ll keep three sick days available just in case I do get seriously ill, but if I don’t end up using them by December I can just add them on to my Christmas holiday! In my opinion it’s a win-win situation.
Always try to make the most of three day weekends. For upcoming holidays like the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Columbus Day you can tack on vacation days at the beginning or end of a long weekend to extend your stay without using up all of your time off. This also allows you to relax even more because no one else will be in the office on those holidays either!
Do research about places you want to visit. Check travel times and price options online and through apps such as Hopper that let you know when flight prices are down. Look into local transportation such as buses and trains that can get you to major cities cheaply. Start bargain hunting and reading up on the cheapest places to stay and book your airbnbs/bed and breakfasts/hotels far in advance. Check into off-season places – prices go down when it’s not peak tourist season, and I always prefer places that are less crowded anyway. Fewer tourists typically means lower prices! Also, don’t forget to map out where your friends and family live (even extended family) for a free place to stay. Treating your friend out to dinner is way less expensive than buying a hotel room, and it’s so much more fun to explore a new place with a local you already trust and love.
Once you’ve established the best mode of transportation and secured housing, start taking inventory of the top 10 restaurants you want to eat at, top 10 landmarks and museums you want to visit, and top 5-10 iconic places in the area that are considered “must-sees.” Even if you’re only visiting for a few days, you now have your top options laid out for you to decide based on weather, timing, and location for fitting in as much as possible. Now you can map out seeing a famous statue right before going to dinner because it’s just a few blocks away. Two birds with one stone! Planning ahead lets you feel as though you really got the most out of your trip, even if you don’t get to do everything on your list.
An app that I’ve heard great things about is Mapstr. It allows you to plot points of interest on a Google-style map so you can see what locations are close to each other. I just started using it to plan out my future summer trips and keep track of everything I’m interested in. (District of Chic used it for a Paris trip and I am sold – if that app works in a huge city, it can work anywhere!)
Here are some articles featuring other great apps you can use to plan the best and most efficient trips:
- Travel & Leisure on Apps
- The Guardian’s First and Second edition of travel apps
- Tech Radar’s Road Trip apps list
- Condé Nast Traveler’s Group Travel app guide
Don’t Be Afraid to Work from “Home.”
If your office allows you to work from home occasionally in a way that doesn’t count towards your vacation days, you can use that to your advantage. Working on a research project or completing tasks remotely is so easy on a plane, train, or bus ride. All you need is your laptop, a charger, and any necessary notes. Thanks to the internet, you can end up not wasting a vacation day (or even half day) traveling and instead get ahead on work while traveling to where you’re going!
Since moving midway to the “South” (because as a North-easterner basically anything below Jersey is considered the South to me), I’ve decided to try and take advantage of my new close proximity to different states. I’ve already gone to some towns along the northern tip of Virginia (Old Town, Alexandria, Tysons/Falls Church, Arlington), so now I want to make time to check out Williamsburg, Richmond, Roanoke, and Charlottesville, as well as places such as the Greenbrier. I’m constantly adding to this list of semi-local getaways that are perfect for a weekend trip! Just a quick Google search gave me so many ideas, and I came across a ton of cute blogs recommending small towns just like this one. It isn’t hard to find hidden gems nearby that you never realized were so close! And if you work at an office that lets you get off early on Friday’s in the summer, what’s stopping you from hopping in your car to go on a three hour ride somewhere with a bunch of your besties??
There’s absolutely no excuse for not having a mini vacation in your own town/city a few weekends this summer! Block off time to check out a rooftop pool, treat yourself to a massage at a local spa, explore a section of your city that you never go to, and check out two restaurants you just haven’t gotten around to trying yet. Do your chores and clean during the week beforehand so you can fully relax and not worry about upkeep. It can be surprisingly rejuvenating to relax even if you don’t go anywhere. And the low cost of treating yourself while staying at home can allow for even more relaxation.
Look for “Extended” Local Trips
These locations are not places you can drive to for the weekend, but are merely a short flight away. Pick locations in your region you haven’t explored yet and plan a weekend trip or long weekend around it! For example, I spent the first weekend of June in Atlanta visiting one of my college roommates. I was there for 48 hours and had a blast! It was just the right amount of time to get a feel for the city, indulge in great restaurants, and check out a handful of the top museums without feeling overwhelmed or succumbing to heatstroke.
Although Atlanta isn’t a typical weekend trip spot, it fits my criteria of being a short 1 1/2 hour flight away. It’s on the eastern edge of the South, which is way easier for me to access from DC than when I lived in New York or Connecticut. For these “extended local” trips I’m looking at states such as Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. If the plane ride is under two hours long, you can definitely make a weekend out of it!
My list of Extended Local Cities to visit:
- Savannah, GA
- Nashville, TN
- Memphis, TN
- Charleston, SC
- Hilton Head Island, SC
- Myrtle Beach, SC
- Charlotte, NC
- Raleigh, NC
I know I won’t get to most of these cities this year, but I’ve made it my goal to try to get to all of them for short weekends while I’m in DC and have easy access to them. As of right now, the only Southern states I’ve been to are Virginia, Georgia, and Florida, so I’d like to use my wanderlust as an excuse to explore more of our beautiful country!
Now that I’ve shared my tips and tricks for trip planning this year, let me know your thoughts! Did you find my suggestions helpful in thinking up ways to travel on budget and with limited time off? Do you have any hacks for taking vacations that you’d like to share? What are some places on your bucket list to go to this year? Let me know!
Happy summer everyone!