Sometimes you just need to get away. Like most people, I love a good, long vacation. Airplanes, luggage, a whole week unplugged from email. But, also like most people, I don’t have the time or resources to take these kinds of vacations frequently.
Given Dan’s job as a real estate agent (which makes it tricky for him to travel for extended periods of time) and my limited vacation time, we’ve had to get creative about travel.
For those times when we’re feeling the itch to find some new scenery, shake up our routine, and let loose a little, we like to find budget-friendly adventures that we can do in just one Saturday or with one overnight stay.
Here are some fun ways you can find travel adventures without taking time off work or leaving your state (maybe even your town!):
1. Go try that new restaurant, and make a day out of it. Explore the surrounding town, window-shop the boutiques, or walk along a trail or riverfront path before dinner. Or, make it a lunch date (win = cheaper lunch menus) and then stop for dessert and lattes at a local coffee shop.
2. Explore a forest preserve or large park near your house. Pack a blanket, a picnic lunch, and some games (nerd alert: I love my magnetic travel backgammon set). Be sure to bring your dog, your bike, some water, and your sunglasses.
3. Have a progressive date. Have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert at all different restaurants—they could be in the same town or not. This option is more expensive, but could be done on a budget by selecting only restaurants you can find on Groupon. You could make it more adventurous by not having a plan, but just driving around random towns until you find places where you want to stop. Another fun theme could be sticking to one type of food for the whole day by sampling various pizza joints or taco stands. Or if you are lucky enough to live in a LA, make it a food-trucks-only day (just make sure you cap it off with Coolhaus for dessert). The possibilities are endless.
4. Go geocaching. Never heard of geocaching? It’s basically a real-life, outdoor treasure hunt. People who play the game have registered and hidden little containers (geocaches), which you can see and navigate to by plugging your location in to a GPS-enabled device. It’s a great (free!) way to explore new places or new parts of your own town. Sometimes there are fun little trinkets in the geocaches and sometimes not, but it’s always fun. All you need is a GPS-enabled device (like a smartphone) and a free membership at Geocaching.com.
5. Take a brewery (or winery or distillery) tour. These tours are often free and offer free samples of their products. You can also find these kinds of events on Groupon. (I just realized I’ve mentioned Groupon multiple times. I promise this is not a sponsored post. I just really, really love Groupons.)
6. Wander around a local museum. Don’t live in a major city? I would consider this to be a bonus, because the museums are likely much less expensive. Find a local art gallery, children’s museum (if you have kids), or a historical mansion and enjoy the beauty.
7. Change up the season inside your house. So this one doesn’t involve any kind of travel, but it also costs exactly zero dollars. I’ve found that by changing up the season inside our house, it makes for a fun change of pace when we can’t get away. For example, if it’s summertime, have a cozy winter night by cranking up the AC, bundling up with hoodies and blankets, sipping hot chocolate, and watching movies. If it’s winter, turn up your heat, grill some chicken-and-pineapple kebabs, make margaritas, and Google some tropical destinations.
8. Browse the travel section of your local bookstore. I could (I do) spend hours doing this. Sure, you could do the same thing using Pinterest, but there’s something about a bookstore that makes the dreaming so much more magical.
9. Stay at a bed and breakfast a few hours away. Sometimes just the act of driving several hours or staying in a place that isn’t your own home provides the change of scenery you need to feel like you’re on vacation, even if just for a day. Bed and breakfasts are typically a bit more expensive than chain hotels, but you get a home-cooked breakfast and a one-of-a-kind experience.
The header photo for this post was taken on a recent one-night trip combining a couple of the ideas above. Would you believe that I took that photo in the Midwest? It was a perfect fall Saturday at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin—just a three-hour drive from our apartment. I’ll share more about this trip in an upcoming post.
I’d love to do a series on quick, budget-friendly trips you can do based on where you live. I have some ideas for the places where I’ve lived (Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Florida), but I’d love to hear from you. Where do you lovely readers call home? Comment below and a mini-getaway guide could be coming your way soon!
PS—You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @NestedNomad.