So, you’ve prepared yourself with a fake doctor’s note, a call in to your boss (or school), and a few emails to your coworkers asking them to fill in for you. You’ve accomplished what over 40% of Americans no longer do each year: You’ve taken a bit of time off.
…And you probably have no idea what to do with it. When most of us think of taking a “vacation,” we draw on distant memories of complicated weeks-long getaways to exotic locales. Few of us know what to do with ourselves when we have limited time and money to spare, and the last thing we want is to waste our precious, brief break.
Fortunately, if you’re stuck wondering how to plan a cheap last-minute vacation, the following 5 ideas should help:
Our favorite vacation spots for a quick getaway
- Go camping. If the weather permits it, why not pack a tent and some camping supplies into your car and drive off in search of adventure? Camping not only costs very little, the lack of internet and cell reception means that you’ll be forced to truly leave your working life behind. Plus, America has some of the most beautiful national parks in the world, many of which don’t get the attention they deserve. Some of the best “hidden gems” include North Cascades National Park in Washington, Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida, the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, and Congaree National Park in South Carolina. (If you have the money, you might even want to rent an RV and see these in style.)
- Rent a cottage or house. If roughing it in the wilderness isn’t your style, you can opt for a more comfortable peaceful retreat in the form of a rented cottage or house. Many cottage and homeowners allow their vacation properties to be rented out on a short-term basis when they’re not using them, giving you an inexpensive and easy way to enjoy a bit of R & R. Whether you’re looking for a lakeside (or seaside) beach house, in the mood to escape to a quaint village, or simply want to experience life in a different city for a few days, there’s a property rental out there that’s sure to please. Be sure to check out sites like AirBNB.com or HomeAway.com.
- Take a road trip. The beauty of a road trip is that it can be as short or as long as you want it to be—there are no flight or hotel reservations to worry about. For a truly creative and adventurous getaway, skip the obvious “tourist” destinations and explore back roads, ghost towns, and other off-the-beaten-track curiosities. America is a veritable paradise where eccentric roadside attractions are concerned, so you never know what you might come across. (If you’re looking for inspiration, Roadside America provides an excellent resource for those seeking the weird and wonderful.)
- Get on a boat to nowhere. Yes, you read that right: In recent years, many cruise lines have begun offering people the option of taking quick one or two-night stays aboard their vessels while they’re anchored. It helps them to get the most out of their investments and provides people with little time to spare the option of enjoying the restaurants, spas, live entertainment, shopping, swimming pools, and other amenities that come with luxury cruise liner life. While these weekend getaways aren’t as cheap as the other options on this list, they also won’t set you back nearly as much as a week-long cruise would.
- Try local tourism. If you only have a single day off, this “staycation” idea is ideal: Drive around unfamiliar neighborhoods, check out tucked-away “mom and pops” stores and restaurants, and investigate the history, culture, and flavor of your own hometown. You’ll probably be amazed by all the things you’ve missed while caught up in your daily grind.
Whatever you choose to do with your time off, remember to leave work behind: A vacation should be all about you. This is your chance to refresh, refocus, and revitalize your mind, body, and spirit.