My wife just gave birth to our first child. If you’re like me, you don't have the time or the money for a vacation this summer, but maybe you can spare a few hours for a day trip here and there. If economic or other reasons (such as a screaming baby) are keeping you from enjoying that long flight, faraway drive, or overnight hotel stay, short day trips might be just what you’re looking for.
On Hotwire, they refer to this kind of vacation as a "straycation," or "travel that's within a close proximity to the customer's origin," according to its president, Clem Bason. As a big Beatles fan, I like to call it Day Tripping. But how does one make the most of a day trip? Here are some suggestions.
Put Yourself in the Role of a Tourist
I’m from the Philadelphia area and I thought I’d seen just about everything worth seeing, but there’s a lot more to do than I initially considered. Your closest metropolitan area probably holds at least a few hidden gems for you to discover. By assuming the mindset of a tourist, you start to think like a visitor and can seek out things like ballpark tours, free outdoor concerts, roller skating, visiting a museum you haven’t been to before, or simply going for a hike or bike ride on a beautiful trail. The only limit is your ability to work the search engines.
Speaking of Search Engines, Use Them
Your local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) website has a wealth of information about day trips in your area. I searched for "convention and visitors bureau" and "PA", and my first three results brought me Philadelphia tourism, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and York County, PA (apparently the Factory Tour Capital of the World - who knew?). And be sure to click (safely) on links that bring you to other tourist sites—you never know what undiscovered treasure you might find (see Crayola Crayon Factory tour).
Don’t Go Too Far
If you feel trapped in the city or suburbs, then get out of town, but not so far that you feel like you really should be spending the night. Typically, three hours is pretty much the maximum you’ll be able to travel each way without feeling really tired and losing the enjoyment of the trip, especially with kids in the car.
Plan a Visit to a Park
The big national parks like Yosemite and Grand Canyon tend to get all the attention from vacationers, but thanks to the growing popularity of day trips, state parks have found themselves to be popular destinations as well. State parks across the country are pushing the concept of day trips with an advocacy group called America's State Parks which promotes state parks as "smart vacation" choices because closer destinations cut down on vehicle emissions and will also save you money.
Consider Your Budget
Staying at home doesn't mean you have to skip the fun, especially with tweens. Consider a day trip to a local arcade, amusement park, or a Dave & Buster's. The kids will have a blast and you won't need to spend a fortune. That’s the whole idea behind a great day trip. And although you might have to wait a year or more for that “real” vacation, you might as well have some fun in the meantime.