Escaping for a long weekend can be the best, right? As our children were growing up, sometimes these were the only types of getaways Mr.P and I had the opportunity to take for ourselves. Catching a quick trip to NYC while they were off at camp or MeMe's house were sometimes our only chance for a brief reprieve! So, how do you make the most of your time away? Here are eight mistakes to avoid that can quickly turn your quick getaway into an unpleasant situation. Here's what you need to know before you go!
Mistake #1: Booking a hotel too far from the action. Huge mistake! If you have a limited amount of time to visit a city you don't want to spend precious minutes on transportation. If you're going to Disneyland for a short visit it's worth paying extra to stay at a hotel right near the attractions. The same goes for short city visits, too. You could possibly save money by staying in Hoboken, NJ if you go to NYC and public transport into the city is not expensive, but it will take more time. So while, yes, saving money by staying a bit outside of town is usually smart advice, on short trips it's a bad idea. After you do the math, chances are that even paying $50 more per night for a more centrally located hotel can end up being worth it for the time you'll save.
Mistake #2: Checking a bag. Nothing is worse than arriving in Manchester, New Hampshire, and finding out that your bag is on its way to Manchester, England. It could take four days to get it back, meaning you'll have it just in time to check it for your flight home. With all the savvy packing tips out there, there's usually no reason why you should EVER check a suitcase for a short break. If you're travelling to a warmer climate, it's fairly easy to pack light. Travelling to a colder climate? Dress in layers for your trip so you don't have to pack as much in the actual bag itself. If you have sports equipment that must be checked (skis, a surfboard), consider shipping it ahead of time or, better yet, opt for rental gear instead. And just remember, checking a bag usually requires more time at the airport. Instead you can quickly jump right in, spending more time seeing the sights.
Mistake #3: Trying to make the most of every second. Instead of rushing between Chelsea and Midtown, two neighborhoods in opposite parts of town, to see five different art exhibitions during a short trip to NYC, your time might better be spent really exploring just one or two spots during your stay. Figure out your goals for the trip ahead of time and then schedule your activities accordingly. Some people want to see it all, and others will go to Paris for a weekend and just want to hang at one café and soak in the culture. Be realistic about what you can actually see in just a couple days. In the end it all comes down to personal preference. Think about what you're looking to get out of your quick getaway and what you and your travel partners can sanely handle. After all, the last thing you want is to come back from your time away feeling like you need a vacation!
Mistake #4: Booking a flight with multiple connections. The flights that float to the top when you're looking for cheap airfare on sites like Orbitz or Expedia are usually the ones that involve switching planes at an airline's hub. It's a great way to save money, and Mr.P and I do find ourselves doing this—but if it means spending large amounts of time on layovers and facing potential delays—we DON'T! It's worth it to pay extra to get the nonstop option, especially when you have a short amount of time in a place. If there's a cancellation or weather delays in a hub city, there goes your vacation.
Mistake #5: Winging it. Holy cats, I could write a book on why you shouldn't 'wing it' while on vacation! When the kids were younger we decided to drive to DC—with no hotel reservations. We just thought, 'Oh we'll drive until we get tired and stop for the night'. COLOSSAL MISTAKE. Out of the three nights it took us to drive, not once did we find a place to stay without much stress. Driving long into the night looking for a hotel with small children was such a bad idea. We were young and dumb, but we learned a valuable lesson, know before you go. I can't even image finding ourselves in that same situation had we been travelling abroad! It's also wise to look for dining option ahead of time as well.
Mistake #6: Forgetting to prepare for a new time zone. Dealing with jet lag on short vacations is the same as on longer getaways. Anywhere you go, do everything possible to maintain the new time schedule you're on. If you're flying to San Francisco from the east coast, immediately go out after arriving at the hotel, walk around the city, have dinner, have a cup of coffee… the objective is to try and get on the new time zone as soon as possible. If it's already nighttime in your destination when you step on the plane, pass on the in-flight meal and movie and pop in the earplugs for a snooze instead—that way you'll be waking up with the locals, instead of feeling like it's time to sleep when you touch down. Plan lots of outdoor activities for your first day in a different time zone, the sunlight and fresh air will keep you energized.
Mistake #7: Dressing for only one part of the day. When your time is limited, avoid dressing like a tourist on urban exploration, which most likely requires heading back to the hotel to change for the evening. The key is smart layering. For both men and women, a thin T-shirt with a cardigan or blazer is a good way to go in mild climates. For footwear, opt for comfortable leather shoes instead of the sneakers from your gym bag. Plus, choosing clothes that you can wear all day and into the night makes packing a breeze, and diminishes the chance that you will have to check a bag (remember Mistake #2?). HINT: If you're headed to an urban area like NYC, London, Paris or Rome, wear black. The locals ALL wear black, you will blend right in, also making the chances of pickpockets fewer.
Mistake #8: Mapping out where you are—once you get there. Unless you're fine with just seeing where the wind blows you, you'll lose a lot of time on the ground if you don't have at least an idea of the layout of your destination before you arrive. This is my FAVORITE part of planning a getaway! Mr.P is the pilot and I'm the navigator, I love it! And I can't recommend these Pop-Up maps enough. Just the right size for your pocket and they cover everything a city has to offer. Also if you are going international, ALWAYS grab cash from the ATM at the airport so you don't have to search out a bank or ATM near your hotel. Do your homework: Study maps before you leave and figure out the best route to take from your hotel to the attractions and restaurants you plan to visit.
Mistakes are going to happen when you travel, it's inevitable, even the most meticulously planned trips are subject to snafus. Instead of getting stressed out, learn from the mistakes you make. Hopefully in the future you can avoid making the same common mistakes that can derail a vacation. Stick to these simply guidelines, and you're more likely to have a trip that's memorable not for lost luggage and rushed sightseeing, but for the thrill of discovering a new place and savoring it.