In years past, many people would travel to visit family over Christmas, taking long road trips or braving crowded airports to make their way “home for the holidays.” Some people are fortunate enough to have family close enough that the family gathering is more of a day-trip and afternoon/evening spent together.
Then there are folks who do nothing on Christmas. My wife and I have fallen into this category for the past several years. We don’t trek cross-country for family time, but we have extra time off of work while the office is closed. It’s easy to default to treating the long holiday weekend like an extended Saturday with too much time watching TV and hanging out on the couch, but this can be so unfulfilling. We’ve all experienced that tired/wired screen time hangover, right?
What about a different approach – the overnight getaway. Why not use the extra time off from work for a mini-escape that will make the most of your few extra days?
Pick a close destination
The key to an easy weekend getaway is picking a city or town that’s within a 1-4 hour drive. This lets you make the most of a few days and pack a ton of activities into a small window of time. So you’ll head out on Saturday morning, reach your destination in time for lunch, and have all afternoon and evening for various adventures. Sunday is brunch and more exploring and then departing for home in the afternoon. You’ll be home in time for dinner. And, hey, you can even pick up your favorite takeout on the drive in and eat dinner while getting in a few episodes of your favorite show. It’s like you never missed a beat! Except that you had an awesome weekend adventure.
Spend a few hours preparing
If you take a little time to do some minor chores in the days leading up to your getaway, your trip will go smoothly. More importantly, your “re-entry” will be seamless. Somehow, it’s easy to ruin an awesome trip with all the crap that has to be done when you get home. If you tackle a few things in advance, you can completely avoid any issues that might cast a shadow on your otherwise perfect weekend.
- Do your laundry 2-3 days ahead of time so all of your favorite clothes are ready to be packed.
- Pack your bag 1-2 days early, leaving your toiletries or other daily necessities as the only items to be packed on the morning you leave.
- Go grocery shopping 2 nights before you head out, even if it’s just to pick up enough food for the day after you get back. Nothing ruins a trip out of town faster than having nothing to eat in your house when you get home.
- Get gas on your lunch break the day before you leave. It is so frustrating to be itching to get on the road only to have to stop for coffee and breakfast and then realize you need gas too. All of the sudden your, quick getaway feels hectic. No thanks.
- Clean the house. 1-2 nights before you leave, take time to vacuum and straighten up clutter. Put all those clean clothes away. Give the kitchen an extra good wipe down. It is so welcoming to walk back into your clean house after spending a night away. And having everything clean in advance makes it much more relaxing when you do get home.
If you spend even 30-60 minutes for 2 or 3 nights before you leave taking care of the above items, you are exponentially increasing the odds that your trip won’t be ruined by coming home.
It’s a holiday weekend. Don’t hope or guess that the cool restaurant you’re really hoping to try will have availability. Call on your lunch break the week before and make a reservation. Not only does this help avoid disappointment, but scheduling your day around a few reservations will give a nice structure to your free time. You don’t have to schedule all of your meals. But having dinner and brunch reservations can help you avoid long waits and give you extra time for wandering around and window shopping or having time to get in a short hike to enjoy the amazing winter scenery.
Don’t make it about spending money
A quick getaway should not hurt your bank account. A hotel on the cheaper end is fine for one night as long as it’s safe and doesn’t have bugs. Make it a challenge to spend no more money than you would at home on a long weekend. Plan an outdoor activity for Saturday afternoon or after brunch on Sunday. Winter hiking is beautiful. Sledding can be a blast. Even walking around downtown feels somehow more romantic and exciting in the winter. Don’t use this trip as a chance to blow a bunch of money. Have 1-2 nice meals and keep your other meals on the budget end of the scale. The point of a trip like this is to spend time with your honey exploring a new place or enjoying an old favorite haunt. A quiet afternoon in a cafe talking or playing a game over lattes can make you feel closer than you thought.
Don’t plan to do too much
It’s easy on a quick trip to feel like you really have to pack everything in. The better approach is to scale back. A trip is almost always more fun if it’s relaxing and you aren’t stressing out about getting to the next thing. Pick an activity for your long afternoon or evening and another for the next morning and then leave the rest of the time free for exploring. Maybe you’ll wander past a great bookshop or you’ll end up taking an hour taking pictures of the beautiful city or countryside. Maybe you’ll feel like taking a hot bath and then taking a nap before dinner. Leave time and space for things to happen.
Everything about this year has felt crazy and different. Instead of hibernating for another long weekend, make some smart travel plans. A simple one night trip to a nearby small town could lead to lasting memories for you and your sweetie. It’s a chance to make the most of your “one wild and precious life”.