Via magazine
Via magazine - Your AAA Magazine

12 Tips to Make Weekend Travel Count

Think a two-day trip is too short to make a weekend getaway count? Think again.

picture of a couple on a road trip standing outside their car looking at the sun setting over the ocean
Photo credit
Photo: gradyreese / istock
Photo caption
Planning ahead lets you get the most from your weekend trip.

For most travel lovers with a 9-to-5 job, the appeal of a weekend getaway cannot be overstated. But making the most of those quick jaunts is easier said than done—even spontaneous adventures sometimes require planning.

The best way to make your trip feel more indulgent is to extend your stay, but remember you aren’t the only person trying to take advantage of a three-day weekend. To be sure you’re making every precious minute of your weekend count, you might need to change the way you travel. 

Stay in the Center of the Action

While you might save money by booking accommodations just outside the city center or national park, you might spend too much vacation time shuttling between your room and all the stuff you want to do and see. Splurge a little on your hotel and you’ll have more fun time and less transit time.

Go Where the (Last-Minute) Deals Are

If you care less about where you’re going (so long as you go), you can take advantage of sales on things like unsold hotel rooms and under-booked flights. Get to know a AAA Travel counselor in your area, so when you’re itching to get out of town, they can find the best last-minute deals for you. AAA Members can take advantage of additional savings, too, making weekend trips even more appealing.

Make Reservations in Advance

Yes, stumbling onto a charming café is a splendid vacation memory—when you’ve got time to go meandering around looking for lunch. With limited time, minutes spent deciding what to do next or what everyone wants for dinner are unlikely to feel very relaxed. Book as much as you can before you leave home—accommodation, tours, activities, restaurants—to maximize time enjoying yourself.

Know What’s Open When

Just when you think you’ve got your whole weekend planned, you arrive at the museum’s door only to find today is the one day of the week it’s closed. Before you finalize your itinerary, find out the open hours of every attraction you might visit.

Fly Carry-On Only

Not only is a weekend trip short enough that you shouldn’t need more than a carry-on bag, not checking a bag means no wasted time loitering by the baggage carousel waiting for your luggage to get unloaded.

Read More: Best Fall Trips in the West

picture of a mother and son looking out the window at the airport during sunset
Photo credit
Photo: baona / istock
Photo caption
If you're flying for a weekend vacation, you shouldn't need more than a carry-on.

Extend Business Trips

When that conference ends on Thursday and your company is paying for airfare, arrange to come home on Sunday night instead of Thursday. Then, as soon as the last session is over, you’re already in your weekend getaway destination—no additional travel needed. Yes, you might have to burn a vacation day (depending on the business trip schedule and your employer), but it’s worth it.

Think About Timing

Don’t leave for your road trip just as rush hour is getting bad. Avoid busier times at the airport to minimize waits in the security line. Fuel up the car the day before so the first stop on your adventure isn’t the gas station queue. Pack your bags ahead of time and depart right from your office. Choose a destination that doesn’t require more than a half-day just to get there.

Travel in Shoulder Seasons

Shoulder season travel usually means you’ll save money, which is nice, but smaller crowds also mean shorter lines at every attraction you want to see.

Make Your Own (Virtual) Map

Having a list of recommended restaurants, shops, and attractions is fine, but when you’re in an unfamiliar city, a list of addresses isn’t much of a time-saver. Plot the whole list on a map you can access from your smartphone—create a custom Google Map or use a purpose-built app like TripDoc. When you’re hungry or you’ve just left one museum and want to know what’s next, open the map and the blue dot will tell you what’s nearby.

Be Direct

It probably goes without saying that choosing direct flights for short weekend trips is the way to go (layovers are enormous time-sucks), but being direct is about more than flying. You might otherwise be inclined to use local transport to get around, but all those bus stops before yours keep you from enjoying the city. Spend a little more on a taxi (or a private rideshare) from the airport to your hotel and any longer trips during your stay.

Adjust Your Work Schedule

If you’ve got a job that allows for some scheduling leeway, see if you can come in on a Saturday in exchange for taking the next Friday off (for instance). That way, you get both a three-day weekend and the ability to leave Thursday after work, thereby avoiding Friday evening traffic jams.

Don’t Think of Weekend Trips as Inferior

The fastest way to be disappointed by a weekend getaway is to think of it as less than a “real” trip. Sure, you’d get to see and do more if you had two weeks instead of two days, but a 48-hour getaway is better than no getaway at all. Prioritize what you want to get out of your weekend away, and plan to pick up where you left off the next time you visit.

Up Next: Weekend Getaway in Palm Springs