If you’ve been dreaming about taking a vacation but your PTO is tricky and you only have the weekends available, you should know that you can still plan an exciting trip. Whether you want to explore a new city or just lie on the beach for a few days, a weekend excursion might be just what you need to come back to work refreshed. You can recharge your batteries, spend quality time with family and friends, or enjoy some much-needed solo time. If you’re ready to unwind and make the most of two to three days, we’ve got some advice from a few travel experts on how to plan an amazing weekend getaway.
Consider Taking a Road Trip
If you’ve only got two days for a weekend getaway, consider taking a road trip with friends or family or hitting the road solo. If you don’t work weekends, you could ideally leave on a Friday afternoon, explore (or relax) all day Saturday and Sunday, and then head home Sunday night.
“We love taking road trips and we have a few destinations that are under a six-hour drive from us,” says Ann-Marie Donaldson, who shares her travels with her husband on the YouTube channel Marv & AnnMarie. “One of the places we love is Memphis. You can catch a Grizzlies game, enjoy blues music on Beale Street, or enjoy a live music performance at Crosstown Concourse. Atlanta is another great weekend destination because of the trendy restaurants, great shopping, and amazing nightlife. And outdoor enthusiasts should head to Gatlinburg to hike or admire the Smoky Mountains.”
The key to a great weekend road trip is to choose a destination that’s just a few hours away to maximize your vacation time. Some of the other benefits of choosing a road trip include flexibility, being able to pack what you want, and choosing locations that can be more budget friendly.
Plan Around Federal Holidays
Though it’s possible to enjoy a weekend trip in just two days, check the calendar for any upcoming federal holidays to take advantage of a potential three-day weekend. You can also maximize a holiday weekend by adding a day or two on each end.
“It’s important to take quick breaks even if it’s just for a few days to give yourself a chance to be more present in your everyday life,” says Keem Smith, solo travel expert and travel coach known as The Passport Abuser. “The best way to maximize a weekend trip is to plan it around a paid holiday. For example, when I had a 9-to-5 job, we were given Monday off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. day. I would then request the Friday before off. This way, I was only using one day of vacation each month. I would fly out Thursday after work, and have all of Friday through Monday to relax before returning to work Tuesday morning refreshed.”
Take Advantage of Flight Deals to Nearby Cities
If you can get a flight deal, flying to a nearby state can also make sense for a weekend trip. You can do a quick search on Google Flights or Skyscanner for low-priced flights or sign up for alerts to let you know when an inexpensive one is available.
“If you’re taking a flight for a weekend trip, make sure that the travel time is no more than three or four hours max,” says Terika Haynes, DBA, MHA, FACHE, owner of Dynamite Travel, a full-service luxury travel agency. “One of my favorite destinations for a quick weekend trip is Scottsdale, which is great for spa, wellness, and self-care activities. Foodies and music aficionados should head to Nashville, and Sonoma is great for wine aficionados.”
Additionally, make sure that you book a direct flight because any flight delays or missed connections will eat into your weekend time. Although a flight with a connection may be a good deal on paper, a connection can easily turn into a day spent in an airport.
Explore the Caribbean
If you have a three or four-day weekend available, consider heading to the Caribbean. A lot of islands offer all-inclusive resorts, which means all you have to do is show up and relax.
“If you’re thinking about the Caribbean, I definitely recommend Antigua, the Bahamas or St. Lucia,” says Smith. “These locations are beautiful and are full of activities – from exploring the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas or taking in the views of the Pitons in St. Lucia. One of my favorite islands is Antigua. It has 365 beaches, but it’s only about 11 miles long, which makes it the perfect getaway if you want paradise but with a more intimate feel.”
Another great tip is to consider passport-free locations in the Caribbean. U.S. citizens can visit the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John) and Puerto Rico without a passport, and these locations cut down on the time spent in immigration and customs lines on both sides.
Whether your weekend trip is to the Poconos or Puerto Rico, consider packing a carry-on suitcase or overnight bag because getting to your destination without your luggage will put a damper on your weekend.
“Pack clothing that can easily fit in a weekender size bag,” Haynes says. “If you’re traveling to a colder destination it is best to wear your heavier attire so that it does not take up too much space in your luggage. Packing cubes work great for making the packing process organized.”
Though it’s tempting to pack your entire closet for a weekend trip, it’s likely you won’t end up wearing all of it. Instead, grab a few of your favorite outfits and focus on unplugging from work and enjoying your weekend.