Planning a trip can be overwhelming. There are so many things to think about that it sometimes can even make someone want to give up and just stay home. But we’re here to tell you not to worry!
We’ve compiled 38 tips on how to plan the best weekend trip ever, all from the point of view of someone who has never been there before.
So take a deep breath and read on; we promise it’ll be worth your while!
We packed a lot of information into one article, so feel free to scan the table of contents for the tips you need!
Weigh the pros and cons: road trip or air travel?
For a weekend getaway in the USA, you pretty much have two options:
- Road trip
- Air travel
The most economical option is to go on a road trip. It also takes a little less planning and you’re less likely to encounter delays.
Road trips are great if you want to go on a weekend trip at the last minute and you don’t have a lot of time to plan. It’s easier to get a place to stay than it is to get airplane tickets quickly.
But if you have the funds, you could shorten a four or five-hour drive drastically with a flight. It does take more work, though.
But does it take more time? Well, that’s debatable.
Think about all the different things you need to do to get ready for a flight.
- Clean your luggage
- Pack a carry-on
- Pack your checked baggage
- Get plane tickets
- Get a ride to the airport or pay to park your car there for the weekend
- Arrive at least two hours early at the airport
You can skip all these responsibilities by going on a road trip. Also, even though the travel time will be faster by plane, it may take you more time to prepare for a flight. Not only that, but if you’re only going away for a weekend, that might not justify spending the extra money for plane tickets.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you. If you have the funds and you’re organized, air travel may be the way to go. But to save some money and possibly stress, a road trip is just as fun!
There’s something authentic and adventurous about road trips with the family! Not to mention it’s great to get out in nature!
Think about what type of vacation fits your personality the best.
- Friend or family’s place
How do you like to enjoy your vacation time? Do you prefer pulling a trailer? Or maybe you like to be a little more old-fashioned and pull out the tents. Are you looking to explore some city life and stay at a hotel for a few days?
You have so many different options. Whatever you choose will really set the tone for your weekend getaway.
RVing would likely be the most work, but if you have been preparing for a few weeks, it’s totally possible. My family and I have been going on RV trips for years, and it usually takes us about a week to get everything ready. I wouldn’t recommend RVing for a weekend trip, but if you have a small trailer it can be a nice time.
If you love nature, you might really enjoy camping. It can be a nice change of pace from work life.
If you’re staying at a hotel, most of the work will be looking for one that is not too crowded and has good reviews. Research a few different ones in the area and compare their rates before you make a commitment.
Your last option is to join a friend at their cabin, beach house, or home. If you’re staying at a friend’s, just make sure you bring what you need. If they don’t have a guest room or extra couch, remember to grab your sleeping bag or air mattress!
Pick a close destination.
If you’re going on a weekend trip, it’s best to cut down on the travel time. Limit it to about four hours each way so you don’t take up a whole day.
If you’re looking for advice on how to find the perfect travel destination, check out this article. It’s packed with quick and easy ways you can do research at home, on your computer.
Seek out a long weekend.
To get the most out of your weekend getaway, plan it around a couple of holidays. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish with just one or two extra days!
Check with your employer to see when you have days off and plan around those. Common holidays off include Memorial Day, MLK Day, the 4th of July, Christmas, and New Years’. Easter weekend is also a great time to arrange a quick trip!
When you’re just going away for a few days, you don’t want too much stuff. Packing light will make your life easier and the weekend trip more enjoyable.
Try to pack only the essentials. On a weekend trip, you’ll be out and about most of the time. So most of your belongings will stay at home anyway.
Decide if you want to go solo or with friends.
This may not seem too important, but vacationing with the right people is key! Before you decide to go with a group, consider a few things:
Do your schedules align?
Depending on who you want to vacation with, this can be difficult to arrange. Make sure you both have the weekend free in advance, so you don’t run into any issues scheduling the trip. No one likes to cancel plans!
Do your personalities align?
This is perhaps the most important question to answer. Let’s say you’re an extrovert and you love to get out in the city, go shopping, and meet new people. If you bring someone on the trip who doesn’t like a fast pace or doesn’t enjoy meeting people, you won’t have an enjoyable trip.
That’s not to say that introverts can’t vacation with extroverts and vice versa. But you’ll want to try and please everyone, which leads me to my next point.
What kind of trip does everyone want to go on?
Are you and your friends avid campers who love to go out in nature? Or perhaps you love to venture to a new city and check out all the fun attractions. No matter your preferences, make sure you all agree on what type of trip you’ll enjoy.
Maybe someone had a bad experience camping and they don’t find it very fun. Maybe one of your friends is on a tight budget and can’t afford plane tickets.
Try to accommodate everyone before you venture out on the weekend getaway. A trip should be fun for everyone, a nice break from daily life!
What would everyone like to do?
Beyond the type of trip (road trip, camping, air travel, etc.) everyone should get a chance to do what they’re excited about. Get all your friends together and go over an itinerary. We’ll talk a little more about that later.
How are you budgeting the trip?
When you’re on a trip with friends, you want to split the costs evenly. This mainly includes gas money and food, but pretty much everything else that you share.
If you’re sharing a hotel room, split the cost.
Have each friend buy their own airplane tickets.
Anything personal they want, they should buy with their own money.
Do you want to bring the kids?
If you have kids, this question will certainly cross your mind. Yes, it can be a lot of work to bring kids. But also they make trips enjoyable and worth it!
Whether it’s a weekend trip down to Disneyland or a couple of days at a waterpark, your kids may love tagging along!
Bring as few electronics as you can.
I’ll keep bringing this up, but remember: this is a weekend trip. You’re away for two to four days and then it’s back to work. So why not take this opportunity to do a digital detox? Take some time off from social media, YouTube, and other apps and enjoy exploring a new place.
I realize that at a minimum, you’ll need a phone. And probably a digital camera if you’d like to document your trip with some beautiful photos.
But leave the rest at home if possible. A weekend vacation should be exactly that: a vacation!
I’m guilty of working while on vacation, so I know it can be hard to embrace taking an actual break. But you won’t regret it!
Make an itinerary before you go.
Before you leave for your trip, do some research and make a schedule. This reduces downtime when you get to your destination. You want to save as much time as possible and pack the day with nonstop fun!
If you’re bringing friends, meet with them to discuss an itinerary. Ask them about their interests and incorporate them into your schedule.
Keep in mind that this is just a weekend trip, so you won’t have time to do everything!
But whether you’re solo or going with friends, accept that you don’t have to get to everything on your itinerary. The great thing about weekend trips is they’re relatively easy to plan, and you can take a lot of them! So anything you missed you might be able to incorporate into your next trip.
If making an itinerary just bores you to death, don’t worry about it. Your “plan” could be as simple as:
Day 1 – hit the beach
Day 2 – explore the city
And that’s it! But it can be nice to know about some of the fun things to do around your vacation spot.
For more tips on how to get the most out of your weekend trip, check out the video below.
Don’t forget to account for travel time.
On a weeklong or two-week+ vacation, travel time isn’t too much of a concern. But on a weekend, it can ruin your whole trip. Remember that you have to drive to and from your destination. So, five hours one way and five hours back is one full day of fun, sitting in your car! That’s not ideal. It might be if you love road trips. But just be cognizant of how much time spent traveling before you pull the trigger on your destination.
If you’re going on a trip with friends, take one car if possible. Once you reach your destination, you’ll want to do stuff together. Also, you can save a lot of money on gas by not taking so many vehicles.
Always plan to do more; then you’ll never get bored!
Pack your day with as much fun as possible. Then when you get to your destination you have so many options to choose from. On a weekend getaway, you want to do everything to reduce downtime: time sitting at home, playing electronics, or even doing things that you could do at home.
For example, a movie can be fun, but couldn’t you watch a movie at the theater near your house? Stuff your schedule with unique activities that you may have never done before, places you’ve never visited, restaurants you’ve never been to…you get the idea!
If you can’t do everything that you want, don’t stress! If you liked the trip enough, you can always visit again!
Have a backup plan.
Having a backup plan can save your weekend trip. Think about all the different ways your trip can go wrong.
Maybe you wanted to go to the beach but it started to rain. Perhaps one of the tours, concerts, or events you wanted to do got canceled. Or you might have no luck finding a hotel room.
Day to day, everything may not always go as planned either. So it’s good to stuff your to-do list with a bunch of fun activities!
Keep reading our tips to make sure you’re well prepared for your weekend trip!
Look at all your options for places to stay.
If you need to book a hotel or campground, be sure to do some research online before you commit. You should enjoy your time on vacation, and a poor resort, hotel, or campground can ruin your experience.
But don’t worry! This research is easy. Just google all the different places to stay in your area and check out the reviews!
Also, it doesn’t hurt to ask around. See where your friends and family have enjoyed their stay!
Book a hotel or campground in advance.
You might think: it’s just a weekend trip. I don’t have to worry about booking my hotel or campground in advance. But so many people are traveling today. It’s a great idea to plan ahead and get everything scheduled to save you some potential stress.
Another reason to book in advance is you’ll have more time to find the best place to stay.
There’s a lot to consider. If you don’t have a lot to spend, you’ll definitely need to look closely at your budget. Also, it’s really convenient to find a place close to the city, trails, parks, or other attractions.
If you’re going to a busy place, maybe choose a slow time of the year or book your trip in a less popular area.
Finally, make sure that your friends and family book their rooms if needed.
Bring a phone or camera to document your fun!
It’s easy for me to get distracted by my daily work routine. Just the other day, I realized it’s been a couple of years and I haven’t gone on a trip!
If you’re this way too, definitely bring a phone or DSLR camera so you can document your experience! You can shoot photos in the city, wilderness mountains…anywhere! Don’t be shy; you’ll want these memories to last a lifetime!
We reviewed some professional DSLR cameras under $600 right here; check them out!
Bring extra batteries and chargers.
Always remember extra batteries and chargers for all of your gadgets. The last thing you want is for your camera to die right before you capture a beautiful shot!
Dress to impress!
Ok, if you’re going on a two-day backpacking trip or hiking through the mountains, this won’t be your #1 priority.
But if you enjoy city life, why not bring a few new outfits to show them off?
Also, wherever you’re headed, check out the shops! You might find some fun new outfits to try out!
Set a budget and stick to it.
You’d be surprised how easy it is to blow through $1,000 or more, even on a weekend getaway. Between eating out, buying souvenirs, and paying travel expenses, there are many different costs to consider.
Make some rough estimates for expenses before you head out and be disciplined!
You might be wondering: what’s most important to prioritize with my budget? Check out the next tip!
Decide how often you want to eat out. It’s one of the biggest expenses when on a trip.
To keep a close eye on your food budget, you can do a couple of things.
1) Set a hard limit: $50 a day or $100 a day, for example (depending on how many people you’re with)
2) Choose how many times to eat out, typically once, twice, or three times (if you’re really splurging).
Pack the right clothes!
Whether you’re headed to the beach, going on a rafting trip, hiking in the mountains, or exploring a city, make sure you dress appropriately. Take a few outfits of the right clothing and don’t forget flip flops if necessary!
Check the weather before you leave.
Weather is reliable 10 days out, so you can check it pretty far in advance if you want. The day before, you’ll get the most accurate results. So just double check the weather before you leave.
In rare cases, it may force you to reschedule the trip. But most of the time, you can just bundle up in cold weather. Or, pack a few more tank tops and t-shirts to stay cool in the summer.
Check your destination for any upcoming festivals or events.
If there’s a local event going on, you might want to check it out! Or sometimes these events are so large, you may want to avoid them.
Major cities sometimes block off streets for large festivals, making it hard to get around. You’ll want to avoid this downtime if you’re just going away for a weekend.
Arrange daycare, pet care, or babysitting if needed. Or, bring the kids!
We touched on bringing kids in an earlier tip. If you decide that your trip isn’t for them (maybe you want some alone time or to have a few drinks), then arrange for a babysitter. Ask family and friends who aren’t traveling if they’d be able to take care of your kids for a few days. The same goes for pets.
You can take kids to a daycare or pets to pet boarding, but this can put a hole in your wallet. So always reach out to friends first.
Keep all your work at home.
Any trip, no matter how small, should be relaxing or enjoyable. That means, no work! Of course you can have a contact for emergencies. But if you truly want a break, don’t bring anything work-related.
7 Quick Tips for Flying
Bring something to do while flying.
This might be the one exception to our earlier rule about limiting the electronics you bring. If you need something to do on the flight, electronics are great to pass the time. You can also bring some books or your Kindle, but not if you struggle with air sickness.
Once you get to your destination, pack away those electronics until your flight back!
Remember your passport and other important travel documents.
You’ll need your passport, Real ID driver’s license, and plane tickets to fly. Your driver’s license or passport can be a standard form of identification. You don’t need a passport for domestic flights, but they are required for international travel. For your weekend trip, just make sure you’ve got your ID and tickets.
For easy access, keep your wallet with your ID on you. Also, have the tickets in your carry on so you can take them out at a moment’s notice. If you brought your passport, keep that in your carry-on as well.
Look for the cheapest seats to save money.
If you’ve flown before, you know that tickets can get expensive. And if you’re just trying to enjoy a long weekend away from home, you may want to save some money.
The plane ride will likely be an hour or two max, so just bite the bullet and use the money you save on something nice!
If you’d like, you can always ask the flight attendant if an upgrade is available. You can’t guarantee anything, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Get to the airport 2 hours early.
When you’re flying out of town, you should arrive about two hours early for domestic flights and about three hours early for international flights. Here are a few things you have to account for when arriving at the airport:
Parking and shuttle transportation
This is the first thing you’ll need to worry about. Depending on the size of the airport, it can take 30 minutes or more to find a parking spot, haul your luggage to a shuttle stop, wait for the shuttle, and drive to the airport.
Once you arrive, go inside and orient yourself. Find the airline check in area. This will usually include choosing your seat, dropping off your luggage, and getting a boarding pass.
An agent will ask you to weigh your luggage before drop off, so make sure you’re within the requirements before you arrive at the airport.
Keep your boarding pass on you when you board the aircraft. It’s your ticket to fly!
TSA security screening
This area of the airport can have some pretty long lines. Don’t be surprised if it takes 45 minutes or more to get through TSA screening.
Research what you can carry on a plane to make the trip through airport security easy.
Before you go through security, it’s a good idea to make sure you don’t have any prohibited items on you.
Take a look at some prohibited items to carry on a plane in our guide here.
If you have doubts, just google “can I bring (item) on a plane?” You’ll find several of our articles that give you all the information you need before boarding.
Take a look at a few of them below.
Bring some air sickness pills (if needed).
Dramamine, Marezine, or other air sickness pills will help make you feel better in flight. It’s really important to bring these pills if you know your body doesn’t react well to flying. It can put a damper on your trip to start it off feeling sick and end it feeling sick.
When researching air sickness pills, do not confuse air sickness with altitude sickness. Air sickness pills fall into the category of motion sickness. They typically help you if you get sick in a car, bus, or on a boat or plane.
But altitude sickness pills offer comfort to people who have limited oxygen due to being at high altitudes. These are often taken before climbing or hiking a high mountain.
Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
If you’re just taking one weekend getaway, noise-canceling headphones might not be a worthwhile investment. But, even then, you can find a quality pair under $100. At that price, why not enjoy more relaxing flights for years to come?
We’ve got a couple of great resources on our blog about flying with headphones and finding the best ones for travel. Take a look at our article ‘Can you take headphones on a plane‘ to learn more about the carry-on and checked baggage rules for headphones.
Or, check out our top 10 list of the best noise-canceling headphones for air travel.
6 Quick Tips for Your Road Trip
Fill the car with gas before you leave.
If you fill the car with gas, you’ve got one less thing to worry about. Imagine spending a couple of days to get everything ready to go. Then you hop in your car and the fuel light turns on. Bummer!
So, the day before you leave, take a quick trip to the gas station.
Pack food to save drive time.
It’s just a weekend getaway, and you don’t want to break the bank. Eat breakfast before you go and pack a sandwich for lunch. This way you can save your precious weekend time.
Clean out your car before leaving.
Expect your car to be about twice as dirty by the end of your trip. It’s a lot more comfortable and pleasant to vacuum the interior and wipe the seats before you embark on your weekend adventure.
If you have kids, this is even more important! They are mess magnets, so be prepared for anything. Maybe bring a spray bottle and some paper towels in case any food or drinks get spilled.
Pack your car smart.
Since you’ll likely be driving for a few hours, it’s important to get comfortable. A huge part of being comfortable is packing your car smart. Pack the trunk first. Stack your luggage if possible or place the suitcases right next to each other to save space.
Avoid cramming the back seats if you are bringing friends. Legroom is important, especially if you’re tall. At 6’4″, I’m always asking my friends and family to move the seat up so I can stretch a little!
One final thing: don’t place anything in the front that may distract the driver’s vision or make them feel cramped. At the end of the day, a safe trip is the most important.
Plan out your route to avoid delays or crashes.
Google Maps is amazing for navigation. You might be thinking: I know exactly where I’m going. So, no navigation needed!
Well, the truth is, even if you know where you’re going, use Google Maps. It has data on real-time construction, accidents, road closures, and other delays. Most of them aren’t significant. But every now and then, Google will reroute you entirely. This can shave several minutes or even hours of your time!
Pack a car charger.
For a reliable ride, be sure to pack a car charger. Navigation can use a lot of juice and you don’t want your phone to die en route to your destination. A car charger can also be useful once you arrive. You’ll pretty much have unlimited access to your phone camera.
And our final tip: Just go!
Planning a trip can seem daunting. In fact, the biggest thing holding you back might be yourself. But, you don’t need to stress. We went over all these tips to make your trip easier. Yes, there are a lot of different things to consider, but it’s not hard to prepare. Good luck and most importantly, have fun!
If you made it through this whole article, thank you. That was a lot of tips! I hope they helped you plan a weekend getaway for the ages. If you’re still looking for helpful travel advice, take a look at the articles below.