The only thing that flew by faster than this summer was Labor Day (seriously, did it already happen?) and if you missed this free vacation you have to hold on to that regret the next time a three-day weekend creeps up on you. Guilty (and shameful) of working on the 4th of July, I determinedly made it to Niagara Falls and the Finger Lakes this day off around, but after a ridiculous course of events in the week leading up to it—the kind that threaten all of us in the trip planning process.
To me, the biggest challenges with every weekend getaway opportunity, particularly when an extra day comes into play, are getting there and getting over being back. While not knowing what day it is for the rest of the following week is inevitable, I can help with making that trip happen in the first place despite the life/stress/work/obligation/budget obstacles that are bound to arise. If you’re a friend of mine, you know that by help I mean text message, tweet or IM you the entire week before to encourage (peer pressure) you to commit. But with or without this endearing persistence, here are the keys to ending up far from the couch all on your own.
- Try to realize it’s one weekend. As many excuses as your commitments will provide, your world will survive without you for two to three days. Think of it as the rest of the world only getting those couple days. You know when you lose or forget your phone for a few hours and you have overwhelming anxiety about how much information you’re missing and who must be worried sick you’re out of touch, and then you finally get a hold of it and you don’t have a single message? Or the only one you have is from your mom? Putting your chores off, ignoring your work email, or rain checking rain-check-able plans for a few days away can be just like that. And usually better.
- Use your bucket list. Whether you’re OCD and have a thorough list or simply continually pass things by or hear about places and remember they’re on your to-do’s…now is the time; let those motivate you. Travel lovers know if you want to see the whole world, you better get started, and every long weekend is a little bonus. I couldn’t make it to India or Australia this weekend, but I could certainly see the things that are lower on the list, but closer and less expensive. When the day off was approaching, I went through my endless wishes to see what was feasible—whether that referred to funding, proximity or group appeal—and saw Niagara Falls for the first time, plus tasted Finger Lakes wine, all in two days.
- Be up for anything. On this particular trip I had to be up for third-wheeling, borrowing a friend’s car, staying in a very scary but cheap motel, cutting the time down from four days away to two, and driving seven hours each way to make it work, and those waterfalls were completely worth it. On the other hand we were also up for attending a family’s annual picnic even though they were complete strangers, taking an impromptu winery tour from a brand new employee who wanted to share his version, and settling for pizza when every restaurant we’d wanted to try closed early. For these settlements, we got small town charm, local history, an intimate and personal tour complete with grape tasting, and really good pizza. Simply agreeing can lead to so many memories that outdo what you had planned.
- De-emphasize sleep…and money, for once. When we think of an extra day off, we think of more time to rest and one less day of waking up for work. But we lose sleep for work and responsibilities every day of the week, why not lose it for travel? When you squeeze a 14-hour trip into two days, the only way to really take advantage of that little time is to forego sleep in favor of driving. As tired as we all were Tuesday, I’d rather stay in for a night than have missed out on all we saw and did. Similarly, money limitations don’t have to hinder or prevent travel, try to make your budget work. Save on gas and hotels by bringing more people, look for free events or activities, be up for camping, grab fast food when you have to or pack snacks.
The truth is, you can’t always get away, but when you can, determine how conquerable the obstacles are. Our country hands you TEN free days a year, that’s 10 extra days to see the world, and when you’re determined, you can take those a long way. And when you can’t go far, apply these steps to your weekend at home. They should still get you off the couch.
- a little good here: The Finger Lakes’ annual wine competition (FLIWC) is the largest charitable event of its kind on this continent! Proceeds benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times, a getaway for families affected by cancer and other life challenges.
- a long way: While the camp can always use volunteers if you have extensive time in this area, they’re currently accepting used books in a partnership with Great Lakes Book Buyers who are making donations for every book collected. They’ll even come and pick them up. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Where have three-day weekends taken you?