Resolved to do anything that sparks enthusiasm in my heart

Cheap Weekend Getaways

Sam Adams Brewery

Every so often it is essential to leave our routine to refresh ourselves, regroup, and gain perspective. But how can this be done when both money and time are tight? Get the most out of your weekend and your wallet:

When to Leave: 

Early Saturday morning. Although it may seem like you will miss out on the weekend, in reality you will feel better sleeping in your own bed after a long work week. Leaving early on Saturday saves money (no Friday night hotel) and avoids heavy traffic.

Where to Stay: 

  • In a tent: Camping is cheap if you have the gear! If not, check out your local REI, outdoor club, or college for gear rentals.
  • In a cabin: Many national parks or major hiking trails have cabins or three-sided shelters on the trail that are free to use. See if you can register/reserve online ahead of time or check at the ranger station when you arrive.
  • On a couch:  Stay with someone you know, or don’t know.
  • In a room: Stay at someone’s house with AirBnB.
  • At a hotel: Book/Bid with Priceline the DAY OF your trip for substantially lower hotel rates.

What to Eat: 

Eat breakfast at home Saturday morning. Pack lunch and snacks for both Saturday and Sunday. If staying at a hotel, find one that includes breakfast. If not staying at a hotel, pack breakfast too. Think quick, lightweight, and easy: instant oatmeal, whole fruit, tuna packets/crackers, chocolate bar, etc. Eat out Saturday night.

What to Do:

  • Be a tourist in your own town: We often settle into a routine where we live and then overlook exploring many fun activities that are at our disposal. Explore the museums, history trails, and free offerings of your town or city. Think WWTD (What would a tourist do?). You may be surprised by how much fun you have!
  • Check out a college town (When school’s out): College towns are often packed with quaint shops and restaurants. Walk around campus and explore the town. Visiting during the summer months will likely result in cheaper hotel rates and restaurant deals as it is the ‘off-season’ for most businesses.
  • Take a hike:  Hiking is free, fresh air is rejuvenating. Plan a short walk in the woods, an all-day hike, 2 day hikes, or a 2-day overnight excursion. I recommend the free Trails.com app which uses GPS to find all the trails closest to your current location. Selecting a trail provides reviews and a general description.
  • Rent a boat: Almost every lake or river has an outfitter nearby ready and willing to rent affordable row boats, canoes, and kayaks. Spend the day on the water and get a workout at the same time. Go fishing. Paddle to an opposite shore to eat your packed lunch. Spring for a whitewater rafting trip if the budget allows.
  • Rent a bike: Rent a bike for the day and explore. You’ll be surprised at how your perspective can change going from 4 wheels to 2, even in your home town. Pick a distant location, pack lunch (or find a fun diner), and eat at the halfway point. Take your time and go at your leisure. See if there is a winery nearby, or a wine biking trail.
  • Take a foodie tour: Visit a town and eat the foods that make it famous. Think Primanti’s in Pittsburgh, cheese steaks in Philadelphia, southern BBQ in Atlanta.
  • Brewery/Winery: Brewery tours are often free or very cheap (Sam Adams suggests a $2 charity donation) and are accompanied by, you guessed it, beer! Local wineries offer affordable tastings. Buy a bottle and drink it as you relax on the property lawn.

Relevant Links:

What are your favorite ways to getaway on a dime? Where will you go next? Comment below!

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2 responses

  1. Stef Sydlik

    great ideas and good find on the trails.com app! do you have/ recommend a trails.com subscription? after the 14 day free trial (for the subscription, not the app) it’s $50/yr. i’ve not signed up because on principle i think trail maps should be free!

    February 21, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    • Thanks for reading Stef! Frankly, I don’t hike often enough to warrant the subscription for trails.com (although I wish I did!). I have a subscription for backpacker magazine, which always has great ideas for weekend trips and hikes. I would recommend gathering ideas for a hiking/camping trip from what you can find online (including the maps posted by the national parks) and seeing if you can download other maps online. If those are insufficient, opt for the 14-day trial and scour trails.com.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:56 AM

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