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7 Tips For Planning Your Perfect Day Trip

By: Joe Whitson + Save to a List

I know what it’s like to want nothing more than to just grab your backpack, jump in your car, and find some far away locale to spend a few quality days in the wilderness, but never feeling like you have the time to do it. You have a full (or more than full) time job. You’re bogged down with school. You’re a working parent. It would be great if we were all professional adventurers and could spend every day in the great outdoors, but the reality is that too often, even a weekend is more time than we can spare. Do not despair, for I bring you hope! The day trip.

The lowly day trip, often dismissed as the least of adventures, has for too long been undervalued. A well-planned and ambitious day trip is more than a consolation prize; it’s an adventure unto itself. In order to help you make your day trip the amazing experience that it should be, I've come up with 7 tips for planning the perfect day trip.

Photo: Joe Whitson

1. Plan your route

I love just following the wind as much as the next person and sometimes, not having a plan can lead you to amazing discoveries. That being said, many times you end up nowhere. Do some research before you leave. Where do you want to go? How long will it take? What is the most scenic route? Are there places you want to stop along the way? Even if the plan changes, knowing a little about what you’re going to do cuts down on decisions the day of.

2. Get up early

Did you know by 8:00 AM, the day is already a third over? Don’t sleep your trip away! Get up with the sun or, even better, get up before the sun so that all that city driving is done in the dark and you can catch the sunrise somewhere awesome along the way. This is especially important in the winter when you may only get eight or so hours of daylight.

3. Don’t be afraid of a long drive

There’s that waterfall you’ve wanted to check out or that hidden beach, but it’s five hours away and wow, ten hours of driving is way too long for a day trip, right? Wrong. Follow the above steps and book it to your destination. You’ll be surprised at how much time you still have left. Or make the ride the destination, hopping from place to place and reaching the end at golden hour. The ride back always seems faster than the ride there.

Photo: Joe Whitson

4. Pack a lunch and go out for dinner

There are places in this world where restaurants are few and far between, so be prepared and bring your lunch. This will help maximize those precious daylight hours and allow you to eat at some beautiful picnic ground or scenic lookout. When the sun sets, go find some unique local joint to wind down for dinner before the long drive home.

5. Dress for success

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing. I think that’s all I need to say here.

Photo: Joe Whitson

6. Recruit friends

We all like a solo trip once in a while (unless, you know, you’re one of those extroverts), but long hours in the car and one of a kind hikes are just more fun when shared with friends. This is a great opportunity to bring all those friends who can never come camping because they are “too busy.” Most people have a single free day once in a while.

7. Ditch the plan

Alright, now that I’ve told you to be a good boy scout and be prepared, I’m going to remind you that sometimes you need to throw the plan out the window and grab opportunities as they present themselves. Be flexible. That waterfall will still be there for the next day trip, but that small town cheese curd festival only happens once a year and is something you don’t want to miss.

Photo: Joe Whitson

Check out Joe's Instagram and website. You can see all of his amazing adventures and articles on his Outbound Profile.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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