How to Plan the Ultimate Weekend Getaway

woman watching plane take off at airport

You don’t need a long vacation to get away from it all, recharge, or have fun. Weekend getaways can be just as adventurous – and more affordable – than that big yearly trip. With just a few days to work with though, making the most of your weekend travel takes planning.

According to Statista.com, weekend trips are becoming more popular with travelers. In fact, more than 40% of adults under 40 reported getting away for the weekend multiple times a year.

Enterprise’s Annual Weekend Getaway Survey showed that 85% of respondents said they would take a weekend trip in the next year, up from 78% the year before. That’s a lot of trips Americans are taking!

Weekend trips are a great way to relax and have fun without sacrificing vacation days, and with a little planning, you can have new adventures and discover great destinations without breaking the bank.

Here are five tips for how to plan the ultimate weekend getaway – and how to save money doing it!

1. Keep It Simple

Between work, raising a family, going to school, or just dealing with the challenges of everyday life, the idea of taking a vacation may seem out of reach. But working a short trip into a busy schedule doesn’t have to be that hard. A weekend getaway can be as simple as driving a few hours to a nearby city to explore a new area. Look for destinations that are up to a half-day travel distance.

If you’re busy, don’t go overboard by filling the weekend with planned activities. Don’t worry about mapping out every minute of every day. Instead, just plan for one to two activities per day, building in a little downtime into the weekend to relax. Winging it is also an option: just decide what you want to do once you get there.

2. Choose Your Destination Wisely

Look at affordable places that are easy to get to. Consider destinations that only require a direct flight from your home airport, or just keep it within a half day’s drive. Find vacations that only require you to pack a small bag or a carry-on bag. Many airlines have cheap direct flights or weekend “getaway specials” that you can find directly on their websites.

Quick internet searches for cities on your short list will give you a goldmine of activities and events happening in that area during your planned travel. Another way to choose a place to visit is to decide what your main goal is for going. Do you want to relax or hit the town? Are you in the mood for a hike in the great outdoors or would you rather take in a music festival or concert?

Who you plan to travel with makes a difference too. A weekend with friends will have a different itinerary than a weekend with small children. Get everyone’s input on what they would like to see or do and use that as a starting point. Once you’ve choose your winning destination, look at the area’s “what to do” page (typically found on most state or city tourism sites) for additional itinerary input.

3. Plan With a Budget

Travel, even weekend travel, means you’ll need a budget. Thankfully, most weekend trips won’t break the bank, but a budget will still help you feel prepared.

Check out websites like BudgetYourTrip.com or SavingForTravel.com that help you figure out what expenses you’ll need to consider. Hotel stays, local transportation costs, average meal costs, souvenir expenses, and admission to area attractions should be included.

Once you have an idea of how much money you need to save, have a plan to set aside cash for the weekend. Try setting aside 5 to 10% of every paycheck into a dedicated savings account for travel. Apps like Qapital, Acorns, or Digit link to your bank accounts to help you save automatically. Some will simply round up your charges to the nearest dollar and contribute that extra change to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) bank account or into an investment portfolio. When you’re ready to take your trip, cash those savings in. Savings add up quickly, and you rarely miss those extra pennies.

woman packing carry on suitcase

4. Pack Light

For those two- or three-day trips, you don’t need much. You should aim to fit most items into a carry-on or duffle bag. A good rule of thumb is to pack two outfits per day: one casual outfit and one night outfit for each day. Also look for transitional pieces like jeans that can be paired with a casual shirt in the day and a dressy jacket for the evening.

Ladies, don’t go overboard on the shoes. Again, pairing is important. Depending on your planned activities, try to bring one pair of shoes you can wear during the day as well as with your with evening wear. If you plan to do a lot of walking, take comfort into consideration and pack a pair of sneakers.

Packing cubes will make you a pro at packing. Usually sold in sets of various sizes, packing cubes compress into your luggage, maximizing the space so you can not only fit more into a carry-on but organize your items as well.

If you’re staying in a hotel, you’ll find shampoo, conditioner, and lotion provided for you in your room, so save space by leave those items at home. Some hotels even provide complimentary toothpaste, razors, and other personal items by request at the front desk.

5. Snag Deals on Flights and Hotels

For flights:

Many airlines like Southwest Airlines have deals for quick getaways right on their website. Pro tip – instead of heading straight to Kayak.com or Google Flight Search, use airline websites to find cheap flights for a chosen weekend to anywhere from the airport nearest to you. By not having a particular destination in mind, you can find super cheap flights to destinations you may not have otherwise considered.

Getting flight pricing alerts through services such as Scott’s Cheap Flights or Flight Scanner allows you to get updates when airline prices drop for the destination you’re interested in.

As for hotels:

Skip the third-party online travel sites and use Roomkey.com instead. You may think you’re getting a discount by using sites such as Expedia or Booking.com, but the truth is, their rates are the same as the rate you’d pay if you book directly with the hotel. Hm, not what you expected? We’ll explain…

Price parity agreements between hotels and online travel agencies (OTAs) dictate that the price shown for a specific hotel room must be the same no matter where it’s sold. This means that if you’re looking at a room on Marriott.com and Priceline.com, the base rate for that room will be the same.

So how are you supposed to find hotel deals, then? The answer lies with loyalty rates. Many hotel brands offer discounted rates to members of their loyalty programs. These lower rates are allowed to bypass the price parity agreements because they are sold to “closed user groups.”  This just means you must be a member of the program to snag these deals. Not to worry though, these programs are completely free to join and don’t obligate you to spend any money before you can take advantage of the lower rates.

Because loyalty rates are for members only, OTAs don’t have access to these rates and can’t list them on their sites. Room Key is different though. Thanks to our connection with our partners, we do have access to loyalty rates and can list them on our site for you to browse. On Room Key, we aggregate all of our partner hotels and show you the lower price you could get by booking a loyalty rate, which is the only way to get a true discounted rate for hotel stays.

Once you’ve found a room and rate that fits your needs, we’ll take you directly to your chosen hotel’s website to complete your booking where you’ll be able to start reaping the rewards that come with booking direct.

Ready to book your next weekend getaway? We’re here and ready to help.