I'm a big fan of day trips. The whole premise of getting out of your immediate environment and exploring a different place for a day — even if it's just the town over — really appeals to me. And while I've extolled the virtues of the day trip, there are certain aspects you should consider before you go to ensure a successful mini-vacation.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Taking a Day Trip
1. Forgetting to do your research.
While the notion of hopping in your car and pointing to a destination on a map sounds romantic, it pays to do some research before you head out. Are there tolls on your route? What's the parking like at your final destination? Is that restaurant you've been dying to try closed on Sundays? Where are the public restrooms located?
If you research questions like these ahead of time, you can prepare accordingly and minimize surprises later on (like having to find a laundromat that will exchange cash for quarters so you can pay the meter).
I also like to get a lay of the land before I embark on a day trip. I round up a few places I want to go, and then map them to get a sense of their sprawl. When I go to Providence, Rhode Island, or Portland, Maine, for example, I prefer to leave the car in one spot and spend the entire day on foot, as the cities are small enough to explore that way.
2. Overextending yourself.
On the other side of the coin, there is such a thing as planning too much. It's nice to have a list of activities and restaurants to follow as a guide, but don't put so much pressure on yourself to check off each and every item.
Maybe you planned on stopping at three pizza joints in New Haven, but after the second stop you feel uncomfortably full. Go ahead — skip the third stop. No one will hold it against you.
One time, at the tail end of our day trip, my husband and I paid admission to a museum we were so excited to check out, but after about 30 minutes, our exhaustion from the day caught up with us. We soldiered on through room after room, each feigning moderate interest in the art (which all started to feel like it was blurring into the same thing), before we admitted to each other that we were dizzy and tired and didn't care about "getting our money's worth" anymore. Lesson learned.
3. Imbibing a little too freely.
I don't know about you, but when I'm on vacation — even if it's just for one day — I want to enjoy a cold glass of rosé (or two). But so many activities involving alcohol can sneak up on you — starting your day with a couple mimosas at brunch, checking out local breweries, or sampling flights at a swanky wine bar. One minute you're having fun, and the next you've got a pounding headache at 3 p.m. that just won't quit.
As a general practice, I'd say enjoy booze sparingly (you will have to drive home at the end of the day, after all), and make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
4. Traveling too far.
It's helpful to set a limit on how far you're willing to drive in one day. The drive to your destination always feels relatively easy — the excitement of the day ahead giving you a little added boost — but after a day of exploration, you'll probably have less stamina on the return trip home. Figure out how much time you're comfortable with spending in the car in one day. A good rule of thumb? If you're spending more or the same amount of time in the car as you are at your destination, it's probably not worth it.
5. Not bringing the essentials.
Some people like to use vacation as a time to unplug, but I am not one of them. I rely on my phone not only to navigate the city (Google Maps is my everything), but also to document the day (hello, Instagram!). Being as reliant on my phone as I am, I make sure to always have a phone charger with me, along with some raw nuts to stave off hanger and a light sweater in case the AC is cranked too high at dinner.
Figure out what your essentials are, and then never leave home without them.
4 Reasons Day Trips Are the Best: An Ode to the Day Trip
What are your tried-and-true tips for enjoying a successful day trip?