How To Plan a Trip (When You Don’t Know Where to Travel)

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Thanks to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to get worn down and tired. This is exactly how my friend Lizzie and I were feeling at the tail end of an incredibly busy year. (Seriously, 2018 can GTFO). After what felt like 365 days of getting beat down again and again, we weren’t sure where, and we weren’t sure when, but we knew we needed to get the heck out of dodge—at least for a little while.

Travel with friends

WHEN SHOULD I TRAVEL?    

Lizzie and I both wanted to take a trip before the end of 2018. Mind you, we started talking about this at the end of October, so we didn’t have a lot of time to plan. We both knew that we only had a weekend, and even though I work remotely, there were three key factors that helped me determine when I could hit the road:

  1. WORK RUSH
    As the manager of content development for VisitDFW (a local tourism company in Dallas-Fort Worth), I knew that my small team needed me to help us get things ready for the holidays. After checking my editorial calendar, I determined that all of our holiday articles would be published or in progress by late November, and early December was prime time for a vacation.
  2. BUDGETING
    Seeing as Lizzie and I were nailing down a date several weeks in advance, I had a little cushion-time to save for the basics: round-trip plane tickets and an AirBnB. Yes, we’d have to buy these before taking off, but taking a trip in December would still give me a few weeks to prep for travel costs and about a month or two to save for everyday expenses during our vacation. With rent and other fun adult bills factored in, I determined I needed at least two paychecks in my pocket before heading out. Early December looked even more do-able.
  3. HOLIDAY HECTICNESS
    Since Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are back-to-back, I didn’t want to take too much time away from work (or run myself ragged traveling). Although things with work would be settled by late November, I guessed that my mental state would still be rather hectic. I didn’t want to dive into the holiday season frantic, so I figured it’d be good to give myself the last weekend of November and the weekend before Christmas to decompress. Early December it was.

max greenfield schmidt GIF by New Girl

WHERE SHOULD I TRAVEL?

After agreeing that we’d take off December 6 – 9 (and letting our bosses know we were outta there!) we blocked out an hour for a phone call to discuss the most important question. Where in the world should we go? It may be odd to you that we decided when before choosing where, but nailing down the dates first helped us ensure that we were actually going to do this thing. After all, we didn’t care so much as to where we went—we just wanted to GO! There were a few things that played into picking a place for our trip:

  1. LOGISTICS
    Initially, Lizzie and I talked about going to Canada. We were two Americans looking for a big adventure, and hopping the northern border seemed like a great idea for a weekend trip. HOWEVER, yours truly had an expired passport and renewing one of those bad boys takes 6-9 weeks. Seeing as we were planning to jet in a month, it looked like passports and new countries weren’t the way to go. Next time, Canada, next time…
  2. WANTS
    Lizzie and I had explored some of the southern states, so we figured we should experience something new up north. On our call together, we determined we wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t a tourist hotspot, but still offered arts, culture, and nature. That should narrow it down…right? WRONG! There’s tons of places in the U.S. that offer these things. We sat down with our handy dandy friend Google Maps and began looking at spots near nature parks and decent-sized cities.
  3. VISITOR’S WEBSITES
    One of the most helpful ways to get to know a destination (other than going there yourself) is taking a peek at their Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) website. Almost every city has a CVB site that’ll showcase their main attractions, whether it be their food, arts scene, hiking trails or killer photo-ops. This was a great way for us to dive into different cities from afar to see if they had the arts, culture and nature that we were hoping to experience on this trip. Pro Tip: Check CVB’s Instagram accounts for more pictures of what their destination has to offer!travel with friends
  4. LANDSCAPE
    As I said, we wanted to fill this getaway with nature. I wanted hiking opportunities, and she wanted to stay somewhere close to water. Hello, lakes and nature preserves! Maybe the Great Lakes? Michigan? Maine? New Jersey? Oregon? We began looking towards the northern coastline (and lakeside towns) for spots to stay.
  5. WEATHER
    Although Lizzie was game for chilly weather, I’m more of a wimp when it comes to bundling up. I took a look at December weather forecasts for northern states, and found that Maine and New Jersey had highs in the mid-thirties and lows of 20 degrees. I may have been willing to deal with this if I really wanted to experience these destinations, but since we were just looking for a getaway, I wanted to go somewhere slightly warmer.

With these things in mind, we agreed to nix the southern states, America’s middle region and a few states far up north (Maine, Michigan, Illinois, etc.). Utah’s still on my bucket list, but since Lizzie wanted to be on the water, I decided it wasn’t the place to go this time around. Several cities in Maine offered the arts, culture and water like we wanted, but it looked like hiking there wasn’t ideal and the weather was going to be cold. Next!

While looking along Oregon’s coastline, we a little spot that seemed pretty appealing: Cannon Beach. They had beach views, mountains, a nearby state park and a quaint downtown area. Plus, the closest airport was in Portland, meaning we had the option to explore there, too. After some back and forth texts, we decided that Cannon Beach was the place to go—and that we’d spend our first night in Portland, so we could check that off our bucket list.

Just like that, a simple “I need to get away” text had turned into an actual vacation, and all it took was a little dedication to the idea and a few hours of planning. Note to self: Next time you get hit with the travel bug, don’t put the idea off. Find the time. Find the place. And go

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