Wanderlust for the last-minute traveler seems to be the way of life for many milspouses. My husband’s schedule changes all the time. As you may remember from my previous posts, however, I’m a fan of road trips. Whether it be with your long-distance partner or just with your pet, it’s always a fun, budget-friendly way to get out of your town for a bit!
This past Mother’s Day also fell on the same day as my birthday and our baby’s six-month birthday. To celebrate the trio of events, my husband and I decided to take a last-minute road trip and make it a weekend getaway. Although being spontaneous is part of the fun, it still requires a bit of planning to set the time away off right. Here are some pointers we figured out along the way to have an awesome weekend out of town — last minute!
1. Be flexible. The key is be as flexible as possible. If you can’t be too flexible with your dates, be flexible with your location. Travel within your means, both financially and distance-wise. If you have a longer amount of time to get away for, you may not mind driving further to your destination. If you only have a long weekend, you’ll probably want to stay a little closer to home.
For our trip, we couldn’t leave until after work on a Friday afternoon and planned to return home Sunday evening to maximize our time away. We chose to visit Asheville, North Carolina, which was about a six-hour drive for us. For some, this might be too far to travel for such a short time. But being the road trip warriors that we are, six hours was half the distance we are accustomed to traveling to get anywhere near our family, friends and hometowns. It was within our means and a destination we were itching to travel to — hello, Smokey Mountains!
2. Pack only the essentials. There’s no need to go overboard with packing for a last-minute getaway. That sometimes takes the fun out of it. Keep the season and climate in mind and pack according to the type of fun you plan to have. A nice dinner out? A casual stroll downtown? A hike in the mountains? Bring a few basics that you can mix and match. And don’t forget a comfortable pair of tennis shoes or sandals!
Having a premade packing list always works for us. I made up a basic list that I printed out and laminated, so every time I travel I can just check off what I need with a dry erase marker and reuse it the next trip. Now that we have the baby, our list has gotten a lot longer. But we’re still able to save some room in the car. I called ahead to the hotel in Asheville before we arrived and found out they had cribs they could bring to the rooms, so we just used theirs and only had to pack the linens.
3. Get directions. Timing is everything, as is the amount of time it takes you to get there. Check the estimated travel time (and the best route, as well as alternate routes in case of traffic or accidents) through your phone’s map app, a portable GPS or an in-car navigation system. And of course, there’s always good old fashioned maps and driving directions you can print from a computer. Once you have the directions, you can plan your route and get an idea of restaurants, attractions and rest areas along the way.
We pretty much use our phones to navigate everywhere, and that also comes in handy when reading reviews on the go. Once we find a place we want to go to, we read a few reviews and visit the location’s website for their address and local directions. This helped us find a great hotel, good eats, a brewery tour and parking at the Biltmore!
4. Think like a foodie. Food. Yum. The biggest expenses when traveling always seem to be where you’re staying, how you’ll get there and what you’re eating. If your destination is known for its cuisine, as Asheville is, plan accordingly! We chose to eat at our hotel for breakfast, get something easy and light for lunch, and go to a hot or popular locale for dinner. This is also helpful if you have food allergies. For example, I’m allergic to gluten, so I was able to plan out several different restaurants with gluten-free menus so that I knew I’d be good to go at meal time!
We also like to take healthy munchies for the car ride. We always take a cooler with waters, sandwiches, granola bars and veggies. That way we don’t have to stop as frequently along our route! It also helps to keep a few nonperishable snacks in your purse or diaper bag for in between meals once you’re there.
5. Prep your car. Aside from filling the tank with gas, make sure your car is in travel-ready shape. Nothing will ruin a road trip quicker than car trouble! Check your oil levels, tires, windshield wipers, etc. Also, pack some cleanup supplies. A roll of paper towels, wet wipes and a trash bag go a long way. We usually bring a stash of grocery bags so we can toss the trash at each rest stop. And never be without hand sanitizer!
However you go about it, try not to get caught up in too much planning. Sometimes driving just an hour outside of town for a change in scenery is enough of a getaway. You might find a perfect mini-vacation somewhere small and low-key. Hopefully these tips will help you manage a fun, inexpensive, last-minute trip full great memories with your crew.
Oh, and one more last-minute tip: Don’t forget the camera!