As Thanksgiving is approaching, many of us may be finalizing plans to go on holiday with friends and family, or we may be looking into exploring somewhere close to home. Whenever I travel with my family, I’m always the unofficial planner of the trip. Although I’d like to think that I’m tasked with this job because of my spectacular planning skills, the reality is that most of the time everyone else finds this job too overwhelming. As a natural-born planner, I’ll never turn down an offer to create a detailed itinerary, so I thought I’d share my approach to planning the perfect day trip.
Before traveling there, do your research
Don’t restrict yourself to the most popular tourist attractions in an area. Although these are definitely important to visit, try to look into some of the hidden gems or lesser-known local favorites. Talk to people that live in the area, watch YouTube videos and browse Reddit. Eventually, you should have a list of everything you would ideally like to see, ranked from favorite to least.
Map it out
PinPoint all the locations you would like to see on Google Maps, or if you’re old-fashioned, you can simply print out a map and do it by hand. Ultimately, you should end up with a visual and spatial representation of the coolest spots in the area you’re visiting.
Take note of transportation
It’s important to consider how you’ll be getting around. Are you renting a car? Are you going to use Uber? Your primary mode of transportation will impact the kind of activity you’ll be able to do, as well as how far away your activities can be from each other.
Research the restaurants
I’m not saying to plan every single meal you’ll have on your trip, but you may want to secure some of the local favorites. In my opinion, food is one of the best ways to discover a city’s culture, and I’d hate it if I traveled somewhere exciting just to eat somewhere boring! Use Yelp and mark your favorites onto your map, so you know what sights and activities are nearby.
Plan your route
After studying your map of restaurants and activities, you should be able to plan a route for a day trip to your intended destination. Make sure to consider how long each spot takes when formulating your plan, as well as traffic rush hours.
Limit your areas
Whenever I’m traveling, I’m always tempted to make the most of the trip and visit as much as physically possible in one singular day. At the end of the day, though, you have to take into account who you’re traveling with. Although I know I’m perfectly capable of running all over town all day without losing any energy, my parents and younger siblings aren’t too fond of this plan. Incorporate some flexibility into your itinerary, and schedule in time for rest and naps.
I think my worst nightmare would be planning a comprehensive, time-specific schedule and then arriving at a precise destination to find that it’s closed. Make sure to check that the activity and restaurant hours correspond with your schedule to avoid catastrophe.
Be open to spontaneity while on the trip
Say you just-so-happen to drive past a food festival that only happens once a year, but it’s not in the itinerary. What do you do? My response used to be: “Well that’s a shame, but we can’t divert from the plan.” Yet over time, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s important to be flexible and ditch the plan. Sometimes a little spontaneity can be exciting, especially in a whole new environment.
After being stuck at home for the past year and a half, I think all of us are longing for some travel. No matter how spontaneous you may be, a little planning always helps to make sure you make the best memories on your trip.