How to Plan a Weekend Away That Actually Feels Like a Vacation

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

This post is brought to you by Enterprise, but written by me.

It's a common misconception about travel: that, in order for it to “really be travel,” you have to spend tons of money and go really far away.

But this couldn't be further from the truth. You can travel without using your passport, without getting on a plane, and without spending thousands of dollars.

How, you ask?

It's pretty simple, really: you travel closer to home! I've touted the idea of the long weekend trip before, and now want to take it one step further and talk about the “small-cation,” or weekend trip.

Upper Falls at Old Man's Cave

Can you really “travel” in just a weekend, though? Well yes, yes you can.

Weekend trips are actually great ways to break up your routine and relax without sacrificing any of those precious vacation days. You can still discover new places, have adventures, and make great memories – all within the time you usually have off from work anyway.

And the popularity of weekend trips is on the rise. According to Enterprise's Annual Weekend Getaway Survey, 85 percent of respondents say they plan to take a weekend trip in 2018, up from 78 percent in 2017. That's a lot of weekend getaways!

Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie

So let's talk more about these small-cations. Why should you take them, and how can you make them feel like a legitimate vacation?

The benefits of a small-cation

The benefits of taking a break from your regular routine are many and well-documented. Going on vacation – no matter how short or long – can help reduce stress, increase productivity when you do go back to work, and generally just make you happier. (In fact, even just looking forward to a trip can release enough good endorphins to positively affect your mood.)

And the benefits of indulging in weekend getaways go even further.

You can take more of them!

The best thing about a weekend trip is that it doesn't require you to take much (if any) time off work – meaning you can pack a LOT more weekend trips into your annual schedule. This means more breaks from routine, more chances to de-stress, and more fun trips to look forward to.

My husband, Elliot, and I try to plan a weekend getaway at least a few times a year when we can't squeeze in longer trips. These are great opportunities for us to make memories together that go beyond what we normally do at home. Traveling with a significant other can definitely bring you closer as a couple.

Amanda and Elliot

They won't break the bank

Going on a weekend trip will usually mean traveling fairly close to home – which means you won't be shelling out for expensive plane tickets. You'll also be saving money on accommodation and meals since you're looking at a 2-day trip instead of a 2-week one.

They're easier to plan

When you only have to figure out 2 nights of accommodation and a couple of activities, a trip can be much easier to plan. The most time-consuming part of planning a weekend trip is often just deciding on where to go!

Plus, when you're just going away for the weekend, you don't have to worry about getting vacation time approved at work or planning really far in advance; you can be slightly more spontaneous with a small-cation.

It's easier to disconnect

In that survey by Enterprise, people cited reasons like stress (43 percent), news (39 percent), the current political climate (38 percent), and social media (24 percent) as reasons why they wanted to escape for a couple of days.

In today's digital age, this makes sense. Along with a break from the stressors of work and other obligations, we all need a break from the constant barrage of social media updates and political drama, too.

Your brain actually NEEDS downtime from things like this – and it's much easier to disconnect and ignore the news and notifications when you're just going away for a weekend.

Sunset over Lake Erie
Disconnect to enjoy more sunsets like this.

How to plan a weekend away that actually feels like a vacation

So now that we've talked about WHY you should consider planning a small-cation, let's talk about how to make the most of such a short trip.

Pick somewhere that's close

Technically, you could plan an awesome stay-cation and not even leave home. But if you're craving more of an escape, then I recommend choosing a destination that's no more than 2-3 hours away by car. Any further away, and your weekend might feel rushed.

Elliot and I recently took a weekend trip down to Columbus, Ohio, which is only 2 hours away from where we live in northeast Ohio. It was far enough away that we still felt like we were “going somewhere,” but not so far that we had to spend the whole day traveling to get there.

You can use a weekend trip to visit those close-by places that you always write off as uninteresting because they aren't far away, or that you tell yourself will always be around to visit “later.” Well, now is the perfect time!

(And for those of you who are about to say “But there's nothing interesting near me!,” I'd tell you to check again; I guarantee there's something cool nearby – you just might not know about yet.)

Deer on Rich St. Bridge in Columbus
Columbus is close AND pretty cool.

Stay in the middle of the action

When you're searching for a hotel or B&B or any other type of accommodation, consider staying downtown or close to whatever attractions/activities you're planning to see or do in order to maximize your time away.

Don't be afraid to splurge a little bit, either, if you can. Nothing screams “vacation” quite like handing your keys over to a valet, snuggling into a cozy robe, or relaxing in the hotel spa. If you're only going to be gone for a night or two, you might be able to justify spending the extra money to stay somewhere you'd never consider for a longer trip.

Seek out unique things to do, see, and eat

Even though you might not be far from home, that doesn't mean you can't find unique things to do on your small-cation.

For example, for our trip down to Columbus, Elliot and I sought out some things to do that we can't do at home. Things like touring a local distillery, trying out axe throwing, and even taking a falconry class! Since these things were unique to Columbus, it felt like we were truly discovering a new destination, even though we were still in Ohio.

Ohio School of Falconry in Columbus
Me and Henson the owl

Take photos!

This one might seem like a strange suggestion, especially if you're not the type of person (ahem, like a blogger) who takes photos of everything anyway. But hear me out!

Taking photos of the unique things you're seeing and doing – and especially taking photos with your partner or family or whoever you're traveling with – can help make the trip seem more special and vacation-like.

Consider turning your cellular data off

Since chances are that you're using your small-cation to try to get away from things like news and emails, consider turning off your cellular data while you're gone – or, at least turn it off while you're out doing things during the day. This will minimize distractions, and help you be fully present for your short time away.

It might seem strange at first to not be scrolling through Facebook or answering text messages whenever you have a spare second, but you'd be surprised at how quickly you get used to the freedom from your smartphone!

Lanterman's Mill in Mill Creek Park

How Enterprise can help with your weekend getaway

For those of you who live in bigger cities and don't have a car – or for those who want to give their cars a little break – Enterprise has more than 5,800 offices located within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population. Book a rental car from your local neighborhood location, and head off on your weekend adventure.

And for additional trip inspiration, visit

Who's ready to plan a small-cation now? Where would you like to go?


Pin it for later:

How to plan a great weekend trip


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

12 Comments on “How to Plan a Weekend Away That Actually Feels Like a Vacation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I was just talking with my wife today about how we need to spend more time traveling close to home. Right now we’re in Crawfordsville, FL near Wakulla Springs State Park. We’re less than 6 hours by car from our home in Atlanta and having a delightful time. We ate brunch at the Wakulla Springs Edward Ball Dining Room this morning. It was a throwback to the 1940s. My parents honeymooned there in 1950. We enjoyed another Florida state park today, too.

      You can have lots of cool adventures without traveling very far at all!

    I love the term “small-cation!” That’s so cute! It’s bigger than a stay-cation but not as big as a proper vacation. So perfect! I guess we’re going on a small-cation next week when we go camping about an hour from our house. I’m definitely excited to disconnect and do some exploring in our backyard.

    Hi Amanda… apart from the post, your blog interface is simply awesome, very cool without any unnecessary highlights.

      Thanks very much, Stella! I just did a site redesign this summer, so that’s great to hear!

    Good article

      Thank you! Hopefully it gave you some inspiration to plan your own small-cation!

    I love weekend trips! My August & September are filled with them! I have found a new website which I absolutely love to find sights in cities or areas I thought would be well-known & boring – Atlas Obscura. It’s a great resource to find fun sights!

      Ah yes, Atlas Obscura is great! And you’re right – the perfect place to find quirky spots that are nearby!

    I love doing “small-cations!” With my husband working Sunday mornings though, ours are usually Thursday-Saturday trips. Luckily, living in Michigan gives me access to lots of great weekend destinations. I can even drive into Canada easily! I like using to find interesting and unique spots near me.

      Definitely lots of great weekend destinations in that part of the country!

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On