I have the benefit of living in the Piedmont region of North Carolina so the coast is 3-4 hours away and mountains are 2-4 hours away so both options are feasible for day trips! I also enjoy visiting different urban cities! You'll find them to be full of culture, cuisine, entertainment and sometimes, history!
So just how do I prepare for successful day trips? Well, my mom and I have it down to a science! Here are a few tips and tricks for your next day trip, whether it be spontaneous or more planned out:
1. Pick your location based off of weather and your main activity.This can be tricky because the weather can change on a whim but try to avoid massive disappointment if at all possible. Choosing based off of main activity is fairly obvious but if I want to hike, we head for the mountains, if I want to soak up the sun, maybe the beach. If I want to explore and shop, maybe a city! But you have to pick one! Sometimes, trying to be spontaneous, we can't decide where we want to go and we waste time. Be decisive! It may also be helpful to review directions beforehand in case of bad signal for your GPS.
2. Check public parking, entry fees, etc.
It's nice to know where you can park, what the cost is, where the most central location is, etc. It's also good to know the fees of places you may go to such as state parks. Keep in mind that these places may have seasonal rates and may only accept cash.
3. Pack food and water!
Jerky, dried fruit, nuts, and protein bars make great on the go snacks. Fresh fruit and cheese sticks, etc are great snacks if you're bringing a cooler (recommended). Be sure to also pack plenty of water and any other drinks you may want. Gas stations have a hefty price tag for convenience so be prepared. Also, you will need to decide if you want to take meals, eat out, or try to be there and back with no meals, just snacks! We often visit a chain sandwich shop for dinner on our day trips because it's a fairly quick and inexpensive option. If we leave before lunch, I'll typically take something to eat in the car. Don't overthink it or you'll waste precious time!
4. Bug sprays, sunblock, first aid, etc.
Be prepared for anything! We go hiking often so we have these basic items stored in our hiking backpack. Use your judgment what things like these will be applicable to your destination. For instance, I wouldn't take bug spray to explore a city!
5. Pack spare clothes and think of places to change.
Weather can change on a dime. You can get sweaty as all get out. The crusty swimsuit can start to chafe. I ALWAYS bring an extra set of clothes. Maybe I want to wear something nicer to dinner or perhaps I want to be more comfortable on the ride home. Spare clothes come in handy. I also usually bring extra layers (i.e. jackets, flannels, hats, gloves, etc.), especially in the winter just in case I should feel cold! On the same note, you don't need to pack for a week. It will be a pain to lug around unnecessary baggage so be moderate but be prepared.
6. Have a basic plan. Check hours. Have fun!
Overall, just have some sort of plan as to where you're going and why. If you plan to visit a specific park, specific thrift shop, a specific restaurant, etc. make sure to check their hours. Nothing is worse than planning on going somewhere, driving several hours only to find out they are closed for repairs. Most importantly, have fun! Relax, ride the roller coaster of the unknown, be it getting lost or getting rained on. The fun is in the journey. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you're sure to make lasting memories and experiences!
Do you like to take day trips? What tips do you have?