The benefits of getting out of town are manifold — and it's never been easier: you’ll reduce your stress, boost your creative, and return to work on Monday feeling energized, refreshed, and slightly less jealous of everyone else’s Instagram feed. (After all, you just got back from a great weekend trip.)
It’s okay if an exotic international vacation is too expensive this year: there are 3.9 million miles of public roads in the United States, and all it takes is a tank of gas and a sense of adventure to go find a worthy vacation destination in your corner of the country.
Best of all, advances in modern technology have made it increasingly easy for travelers to be spontaneous. No longer does a road trip require weeks of planning, a highlighted road map, a carefully outlined itinerary of rest stops and motels along the way. In 2013, if you want to, you can just choose a direction and drive. Sites like HotelTonight and AirBnB will let you book last-minute accommodations for wherever you end up.
Where to Go: You won’t want to spend more than half a day driving for a weekend trip, so see how far you can get within a 5-hour drive, and then narrow down from there. Is there a city that would be fun to explore? A great camping or hiking site? A picturesque, quiet town? The world’s largest ball of paint? (Indiana, if you’re interested.) Let your interests dictate your travel plans: foodies might use the opportunity to cross something off their gastronomic bucket list (the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA?); fans of literature might be interested in the birthplaces of their favorite writers (Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal, MO, or Louisa May Alcott’s in Concord, MA); American history buffs might really get a kick out of Route 66 and the Americana along the way. If you’re absolutely at a loss for ideas, and feeling extra adventurous, get in the car, pick a direction, and see where you end up. (One couple I know recently decided on a road trip destination by putting on a Top 40 radio station and deciding to stop the first time they heard a specific song play.)
Do Your Research: Depending on how much you like planning, this will either be your favorite, or your least favorite part of vacation planning. If you’re the type to delve in, then now’s the time to get yourself really psyched for your trip by looking up restaurants, attractions, stops along the way, etc. If you prefer to be more spontaneous, you can take a lighter approach, but be sure to at least glance at the route, and give yourself a vague idea of accommodations. (Many campsites, for example, fill up months in advance, so you’ll want to make a reservation.) If you fall somewhere in the middle, pick one thing you know for sure you’ll want to do (an attraction, a restaurant, an activity) and make concrete plans for that, and then decide on the rest when you get there.
Prepare Yourself, Digitally: Whatever type of trip you’re taking, the internet can probably help. Download everything from city guides that give you a list of the best shops and restaurants for cities, to star maps to help you really enjoy the crystal clear night sky while out in the country. You can grab packing lists and gas pricing apps (like Gas Buddy), as well as ones that let you book last-minute accommodations. Most importantly, you’ll want to download In Case of Emergency (or some version thereof) to help guide first responders and emergency personnel, just in case.
Need some advice on what to pack, how to organize a group trip, or just some destination suggestions? I'm here to answer your questions. So let's get started!
Gawker's Better State of Living Conversation Series is brought to you with the assistance of State Farm®, who's always got you covered with tips and help that get you to a better State. Today, blogger, author, and adventure enthusiast Chiara Atik is using her experience as a contributor to HowAboutWe to answer your travel questions in the discussion section below.