(Coronado Island, San Diego, CA, Dec. 2012)
One of our favorite ways to bond and enjoy some fun is taking day trips together, or an overnight weekend getaway. We prefer to go places that we can get to within a couple of hours by car, if possible, unless we have more than two days. Therefore, a lot of our travel blogs will include areas around or outside of the Los Angeles area, that we can get to without spending an entire day in the car.
Early on in our marriage, we talked about how we’d like to celebrate certain holidays or special occasions. Since both of our birthdays are in December—and we could still give Christmas gifts to each other—we decided to make it a yearly tradition to take a weekend getaway to celebrate our birthdays instead of exchanging gifts. We also like to do the same for our anniversary in May. Those occasions call for overnight stays, normally two nights / three days. And it’s a fun thing to do two times a year, when we can swing it.
There are also times when we just want a day out of town, even if it’s not an overnight. Our goal is to take one day every other month and go on a day trip somewhere.
Our love of traveling together started when we made the long trek out from North Carolina to California, moving Chris from NC to Los Angeles after the wedding. I didn’t know that I would enjoy trip planning so much, but since that time it’s become a hobby. The funny thing is, from the moment we knew we’d do that cross-country road trip, Chris was excited about it.
I was not. I thought all that time in the car sounded boring. I was never a fan of being in the car as a kid (but my idea of a road trip was taking a whole day to drive from NC to MA and that’s a long time in the car for a kid. It wasn’t about stopping along the way to enjoy various touristy areas. It was about getting there.) That’s kind of how I pictured our cross-country road trip.
I saw Chris’s enthusiasm and wanted to find some for myself. We decided we wouldn’t be in a hurry to get to California, and instead try to enjoy the sites along the way. So I decided to start investigating the locations and map out a route. I found places to stay along the way and needed to plan reasonable mileage intervals for each day. We decided to make the trip like a second honeymoon. Planning it was a blast, and it was the beginning of a new hobby for me. We did that trip in eleven days, ten nights, driving no more than about 400 miles per day, so we’d have energy to enjoy the places where we stopped. (We will do a separate blog about that trip, for anyone thinking about taking that sort of trip.)
(Bed & Breakfast in Little Rock, AR, Day 4 of 11 on cross-country road trip, July 2011)
For those of you out there who “don’t get out much” (like I never did), I wanted to share some suggestions on how to plan a day trip or a weekend getaway, and how to make the most of your time, especially since, by nature, time is very limited when you only have one to three days to play with.
Take a look at a map of the areas surrounding where you live that you could get to within a couple of hours. Make a list of all of the places you may like to visit. Then start working on an itinerary for the trip.
How to plan a day trip:
- When you choose a destination, take a look at any of the cities or towns on the way to determine if there are any stops worth checking out.
- If there is more than one way to get to the place, determine if you should go two different routes, one on the way and one as you return so you can see different sites each way instead of retracing the same steps. Choose the prettiest route when it’s light out if it will be dark on the way home, unless there’s a stop you really want to take on the way there of the other route.
- Once you choose the destination, use a travel site that has a list of the best things to do with traveler reviews and ratings. Use them to decide which ones you would like to try that would be fun for both of you, or trade off and pick an activity one would love then one the other person would love. (When I plan our trips, sometimes I love to plan a surprise stop that I know my husband would enjoy, but I keep it a secret from him.) Trip Advisor has become one of my new best friends! It’s my favorite site for getting travel ideas. It has a great system divided out by the best hotels (for weekend trips), restaurants, and things to do in a particular area. The reviews are very useful because people who contribute to that site give you tips that may not be obvious if you visit the official websites for the attractions. A site like Trip Advisor will rate the best things to do by most popular / highest rated. Most people will let you know costs, parking information, anything helpful like how to find a location if there’s something about it that makes it challenging. Knowing all of this information in advance has helped us tremendously to have a really smooth trip. When you only have one day or one weekend, you don’t want to waste time looking for things. They also can give you great information about the best times of year to go and why. (For example, certain flowers or animals / mammals may only be around during certain times of the year, so if that’s important to you, you can plan your trip to that destination accordingly. We have looked into trips based on butterflies season, or when elephant seals and whales are visible, or poppies and lavender are in bloom.)
- Make a list of all the potential things you’d like to do, then find the official website for each activity so you can get current information on cost, parking, and hours of operation. This will help you plan your trip. If it’s based on something beach related, closer to your trip you may want to check for the times of low and high tides, if an activity like tide pooling is on the agenda (where low tide is important).
- Create a schedule of what you will do and in what order. Naturally you can leave room for flexibility. Have enough planned but don’t be afraid to drop something off your list if you are enjoying a location so much you want more time there. You can always pick up what you missed on a separate trip. (And believe me! We have lists of things we didn’t get to.) Just don’t make being in a hurry a detriment to enjoying where you are.
- Next, print off maps and address information for every place you want to go. (Don’t assume you’ll have cell phone reception in every area or even GPS signal.) To save us time, I would program all the main addresses into our GPS before we left town, so I wouldn’t have to mess with it once we were on the road. This way, when it was time to go to the next place, I just hit the address already found.
- Try to mix your activities up between outdoors and museums and give yourself a nice variety of things to do.
- Do a search for coupons if you plan to visit any museums. We often found buy-one-get-one-free or a few dollars off just by searching for the attraction or museum name and the word coupon on the Internet. Print those off. Every little bit counts!
- While you can’t always plan where you’ll be when you’ll want food, definitely research a couple restaurant options in each place you may be around mealtimes. A restaurant that sounds good maybe not be well reviewed. People may also review a place that is good for local flavor if you’re looking for something unique. You can also look into pricing so you can choose places within your budget for the trip. Also feel free to bring a cooler of drinks and a picnic lunch if you know you’ll end up in a place that would be good to have a picnic, early in your trip. Sometimes, to save money, we’d bring lunch but eat out for dinner.
- Take photos! Track your trip in pictures or videos. I love to scrapbook our travel adventures. We also try to find fun places to take photos that aren’t your typical pose and smile type photo.
(See what I mean? Wacky photos. 🙂
This was in Williams, AZ, about one hour below the Grand Canyon, on Route 66.)
In the future, I will be blogging about particular trips we’ve taken and some suggested itineraries for that place.
The focus of this site, Finally One, is also about bonding and finding ways to create intimacy in marriage, which sometimes comes just from getting out and having fun together. “Finally One” is a phrase that came to us, not only because of our books that start with the word “Finally” or out of the concept of being “one” in marriage, but being of one accord, in agreement, on the same page, or in peaceful harmony.
Every trip we’ve taken together we feel has been an investment in our marriage. It’s not “money wasted”. Sometimes we’ll forgo eating out for the month to put our whole entertainment budget into one day trip. It’s worth it to us because of how meaningful these days have been.
I strongly encourage married people to take some time away together like this, because it gives you some focused, concentrated time to spend together, to talk, to enjoy each other’s company, and get away from regular distractions and technology.
In Jan. 2012, I had gotten pretty sick, and it lasted for almost two months. So Chris and I had very little we could go out and do for an extended period of time. When I started feeling better, I was aching for a day trip. We chose Newport Beach. Not for an overnight, just for a day. I can’t tell you how healing that day felt. To be outside, to breathe, and to get some focused time away with my husband where we just got to play and have fun together. It was so good for my soul and for the two of us.
(Newport Beach, Balboa Island, on top of the ferris wheel, Feb. 2012)
I think too often, married couples forget to have fun together. So I am suggesting, if you haven’t tried incorporating this type of activity into your marriage, give it a shot. It’s so fun to experience new places together.
If you aren’t married yet, find a friend who would enjoy travelling with you. When I was single, I stayed home far too often. I never ventured out much to enjoy the places around me. I had no idea how much California had to offer in fun places to see until Chris came into the picture. But there is absolutely no reason to wait for that! It’s safest to travel at least in pairs. So find a friend who wants to enjoy an adventure!
I got to take one such trip with one of my best friends, Caroline, before I got married. We road tripped from Niagara Falls, to Ontario, to Montreal, the east side of Canada, across New England (New Hampshire, Vermont) back through New York and home again. It was the trip of a lifetime, for me. I remember being so surprised by how awesome everything looked, how colorful, how unlike where I lived day to day. I was so fascinated by things, like leaves. (It was October. Having been in Los Angeles for the ten years prior, I hadn’t seen a real autumn in so long.) That trip made me realize I had stayed home too much in the so-called “comforts” of home and forgot there was life out there. I am thankful to my friend for encouraging me to go on that adventure.
Sample Canada Trip Photos (Oct. 2010):
I hope everyone is encouraged to get out there, experience life, and enjoy the trips along the way, whether you are single or married!
Stay tuned for future blogs about specific places you can travel.