Day trips have become more popular than ever in the past 1.5 years, as people are traveling to places within driving distance of their homes. As such, I’ve received some questions about how to plan a day trip, and so today, I’ll be answering your questions and sharing how I plan the perfect day trip
Above: Watch Hill, Rhode Island
Q: What is a day trip, and why would I do that when I could go anywhere else in the country?
A: A day trip is any adventure or travel that takes place in less than one day! It’s a fun alternative to a longer vacation because it involves a lot less travel, planning, and resources, plus you don’t have to worry about securing overnight accommodations. Because of these factors, it’s much more accessible for people looking to get out of the house, especially with region-specific lockdowns, travel delays, and a lack of time off from work. It’s also a great way to get to know your surrounding area a bit better!
Q: How do you decide where to go? I never know what’s going on in my area.
A: To find out what’s happening in your area, I recommend joining “(your state) happenings/events” or similar Facebook pages. Follow the “Only in Your State” Instagram accounts specific to your state (if you live in the United States), and sign up for your local tourism board’s newsletters.
Even a quick internet search of “things to do near (your city)” or “(your city) festival schedule” can help you find neat things in your town or a nearby town you’d like to visit for the day. Find something that sounds fun and this will help you when planning the perfect day trip around that!
Q: How far away should a day trip be? Does it have to be within driving distance?
A: I’ve only ever made day trips that are less than 2.5 hours driving time away, but depending upon how much sleep you need and where you want to go, you could wake up really early and hit the road before the sun rises to get to where you want to go.
I wouldn’t recommend flying anywhere for a day trip, although you certainly could, just because you’ll spend a minimum of 2 hours at the airport, plus air transit time, which is too much work for a day trip in my opinion. However, if you really want to go somewhere for just a day, and it’s too far to drive, flying would theoretically get you there faster.
If you don’t want to drive far, you could even take a drip to another neighborhood within your own city, particularly if you live somewhere bigger like Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Tokyo, London, or beyond!
Above: Westfield Century City Outdoor Mall in Los Angeles, CA
Q: What do you bring with you? Do you pack a bag like when you go on an overnight trip?
A: I generally bring water, some snacks, my camera, my wallet, sunscreen, and anything specific to the activities I’ll be doing. So, when we take a day trip to the ocean, I’ll also bring my swimsuit, towel, a hat, and a change of clothes. You can bring the clothes on your back and your wallet, phone, and keys if you really want just to wing it and find food or drinks along the way; it’s totally up to you.
One of the main reasons I love road trips is that I don’t have to plan out my outfits, pack, or worry about my luggage getting lost! It’s so much simpler, and it can be much more spontaneous.
Q: Is a day trip something I should wake up early for, or is it something I should be able to roll out of bed, get ready for, and head out at my leisure?
A: That’s totally up to you and where you’d like to go. Generally, we wake up a little earlier just so we can head out the door and get going, but then again, we are definitely morning people. A good rule of thumb to help determine when you should wake up and leave is to calculate your driving time and add that to the average amount of time it takes you to get ready. Then, figure out when the first thing on your itinerary opens, and work backward from there to determine what time you should wake up.
For example, if I want to get breakfast when a popular café two hours away opens up at 8 am, and it takes me 30 minutes to get up and get ready to go, I would want to wake up around 5:30 am. If you feel like sleeping in or have nowhere, in particular, you want to be, enjoy sleeping in a little, and then hit the road when you’re ready. A day trip should be fun, so don’t push yourself to get up and get going early unless you want to do something.
Q: How do I plan a day trip? Should I have an itinerary?
A: Generally, we find two places we’d like to eat and two alternate places, one thing we’d really love to see or do in our target town, and then 2 alternative things in the event that for some reason we can’t get into what we wanted to do or it isn’t as much fun as we thought it would be. This allows us to have a general plan and some flexibility if tickets are sold out, a place has a long wait, or something isn’t as enjoyable as we’d hoped it would be.
If you want a guarantee that what you want will be available when you arrive from out of town, make reservations or buy tickets in advance whenever possible when planning a day trip.
Have questions for me about how to plan a day trip, or something else? Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll answer them in an upcoming Q&A series!
Follow me on Instagram @AnnieFairfax for more travel & photography content.