Healthy and Fun Day Trip Ideas

6 Tips for Taking Budget-Friendly Day Trips.

For many families, summer vacation will look much different this year than it may have in the past. I know that will be the case for my family. Because of budget constraints, safety concerns and not knowing what will be open when, planning for our vacation came to a screeching halt months ago. But now that things are opening back up, I know that we will need a change of scenery at some point this summer. That’s why we’ll be taking short trips – to break things up a bit and to discover more of the state we’re in. With gas prices lower this summer than they’ve been in a long time, road trips are going to be key for us. Here are some of the healthy and fun day trip ideas that we’re going to be following to keep our excursions budget-friendly and sanity-saving.

Photo of waterfall as an example of healthy and fun day trip ideas

1. Develop a Day Trip Budget for the Summer 

Deciding on what your vacation spending can look like is a good idea anytime but especially right now. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be spontaneous, but it does mean that you have a good idea of what is realistic for you without putting too much of a strain on things once the trip is over. If you begin by figuring out how much you can spend for the summer, you’ll know the types of activities that might be a possibility when you’re thinking about your day trip ideas.

Some of the things that you may want to think about for budgeting purposes include the following:

  • If you’re going fishing, do you need to invest in new rods, fishing licenses or any other equipment?
  • Will you need to pay entrance or other fees for any of the activities that you’re doing?
  • Will boat or any other type of rentals be involved?
  • How much gas is needed and what will that cost? (It’s probably best to assume a cent or two increase from current prices.)
  • What food and other supplies might be needed?
  • If you’re going somewhere to go shopping, should that cost be included in your trip budget or is that accounted for somewhere else?

2. Plan For When Day Trips Are Going to Happen

I don’t know about you, but my family is very guilty of starting out the beginning of every summer by vowing to “take a day here and there” to go do something different and fun. While we usually get a week-long vacation in, the shorter trips rarely happen. That’s because we don’t plan for them. We let the weeks slip by, and if day trips aren’t scheduled in, the summer is gone before we know it.

Deciding on the types of places that you want to go will also help in figuring out whether you’re going to go on a weekend or if you’re going to take a day during the week. At a time when social distancing is still very important, that could be an important factor in what you want to do and what you’re able to do. Once you’ve decided when you want to go, put those days on the calendar so that everyone can schedule their work and other activities accordingly.

3. Day Trip Ideas in Your State

Coming out of the recent crisis, travel writer Sonja Hoyt from over at The Happy Travel Bug believes that it’s best to start with small road trips in your state. She says this is “a really good opportunity to learn about your home state and all it has to offer.” If you don’t know where to start with that, simply do an internet search for “the best hidden things to do” in your state. This will more than likely give you a list of things to do or see that may be more on the absurd or novelty side or that may include hidden historic treasures that you didn’t even know were there.

I’m using the results from this search to combine things that are in similar areas of the state so that we can devote a day here and there throughout the summer to exploring as many of the sites as possible in each area. I’m also finding other things to do in those areas so that we can pack as much into one day as possible. Other good internet searches to get day trip ideas include “day trips near me” and “fun day trips near me.”

4. Learn About the Sites or Areas That You’ll be Going To

There’s no doubt that you’ll get more out of your day trips if you take the time to learn about the places you’ll be going to or what you’ll be seeing or doing. This also lets you build a sense of anticipation so that you can reap many of the same mental benefits from traveling as you would if you were taking a larger trip. In addition, it gives you time to figure out whether there are related activities that you would be able to do that would enhance the experience even more. We’re talking about the kinds of things that when you get somewhere, you might say, “I wish I had known because we could have done…”

5. Pack Healthy Food and Snacks

One of the many wonderful things about a good day trip is that you can control what you eat. Packing a cooler full of healthy food and a bag of good snacks is very doable. Yes, you’ll probably want to throw in some extra special items, whether it’s packing them in what you take or allowing for a stop at a local ice cream shop or other type of well-known local place to eat. But at least you won’t have to rely on convenience stores and fast food for everything.

In fact, taking your own food gives you a lot more flexibility. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing if someone gets hungry, you have more options for being able to take advantage of surprise picnic spots or parks that you may find along the way, and you don’t lose time by having to look for just anywhere to eat.

Packing relatively healthy foods also makes sure that everyone has the energy they need to be able to enjoy the day and that no one feels “icky” after it’s over.

6. Explore Your City

Sometimes we get so busy traveling to other places that we forget to explore what’s in our own backyard. This is the perfect summer to play tourist in your own town or city. Focus your day trip on the things around you where you’ve always said, “We need to do that” or “We need to go there sometime.” Finding the hidden and no-so-hidden treasures near you will help you appreciate where you live all the more.

Budget Benefits of Day Trips

In addition to helping you design fun experiences, these day trip ideas will also be much easier on your budget. With gas prices as low as they are, being able to pack your own food instead of having to buy it all on the road, potentially doing activities that are free or cost much less and not having to stay somewhere overnight, the cost savings are enormous. That’s something that we could all benefit from right now as we navigate the lingering unknowns of our current crisis.

Just because this summer’s travel may look different than what we’ve done before, doesn’t mean we can’t create memories. In fact, “the summer of day trips,” may just be a time that your family talks about fondly for the rest of your lives.

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