Day trips are the best. They’re an opportunity for you to explore the Earth, push your comfort zone, and experience the feeling of freedom you get from traveling, but they only require a very little amount of planning and money.
They are the perfect way for everyone to get outdoors and explore this planet we call home.
Hiking, skiing, rock climbing, paddle boarding, scenic drives, swimming in hidden lakes, and exploring secret spots are just a few ways to get out there.
Whether you have hardly any experience in the outdoors, or day trips are your Saturday tradition, here are some tips that just might make your adventure days run a little smoother.
To Save Money:
Check for Any Entrance Fees
From National Parks to your local trailhead- there are a lot of places that require entrance fees. A lot of places don’t, but there are a ton that do. On top of that, some places will only take cash rather than credit and vice versa.
So before you go, just check to see if there are any entrance fees where you are going.
If it is a National Park, I highly recommend you get the National Parks Pass because it will save you a ton of money. For reference, the pass is $80 to get into any National Park or Monument for 1 year while a day pass is around $30 per vehicle. There are also State Park Passes which you should look into getting if you plan on visiting multiple state parks within a state.
These passes will save you loads of money each time you dodge that pesky day entrance fee.
Download the App, “Gas Buddy”
I have saved so much money since downloading Gas Buddy.
This legendary app tells you the gas prices of each gas station. By just looking at a super easy-to-read app, you can easily find the cheapest gas near you and along your driving route.
Pro tip: if you have a longer drive, take a look at the app beforehand so you can plan to fill up in areas where gas is cheaper.
To Help the Day Flow Easy:
Pack Your Own Snacks and Water Bottle
… and make sure you have plenty of each.
A few years back, my friend and I went on a hike. We woke up with the sun and made it to the trailhead just before 7 AM, thinking we were legends for getting there so early and beating the heat.
We did not, in fact, beat the heat. We also ended up choosing the 11-mile hike as opposed to the original 6-mile one we were intending on.
We were still about a mile away from the peak when we started having to ration our water. You would think this would be a sign to turn around, but we were beyond stubborn and insisted on seeing the peak after making it that far.
It was a stunning hike, but honestly, when I try to remember it I just see the darn water (or lack thereof).
You probably shook your head and rolled your eyes as you read that, but this kind of thing happens far too often. Both of us grew up on hiking trails and even with all those years of experience, we were still left dehydrated, overheated, and being absolutely grilled by our parents as soon as we walked in the door.
The same goes for food. There is nothing worse than being way far out and having a great time, then getting real hungry with no food to eat. You’re in a beautiful place, doing fun things, but your stomach is aching, you get a little lightheaded, and oh man are you hangry.
Even if you don’t think you’ll be out there for that long, just pack some snacks. Take 30 seconds to make a PB&J before you go, maybe an apple, and a bar- or 2, or 4.
Maybe you won’t end up needing it, but if you just tuck it away in that front pocket of your Pure World backpack, you won’t even notice it’s there as you carry on through your adventure.
Check if You Need a Time Reservation
Quite a few National Parks, State Parks, and other areas that monitor who enters the area get very busy, so they require that everyone reserves a time to go.
This is generally super quick and easy to do, simply look up the place you are going to and on the website, it will let you know if you need a reservation and how to make this.
It doesn’t take too much of your time, and you might not even need one at all, but always check ahead of time to avoid getting turned away.
Take a Look at Your Drive Route Before Hand
If you know where your final destination is, I recommend looking at your drive route before you go, even if you know the way without a map.
This might help you avoid areas with construction or times when the road is very busy and has a lot of traffic. This will also help you figure out where you can save money on gas and maybe decide if you need to bring your own lunch or if there’s somewhere you want to stop.
Research All the Cool Places
If you have a place picked out, do a bit of research to find all the cool spots there. It can be a lot of fun to just explore and poke around once you’re there, but in case it is difficult to navigate and you’re not sure where to go, it’s nice to have some background information.
This made my day run smoothly when I was in Death Valley. Before I went, I googled “cool places to go in Death Valley National Park” and looked at a couple of travel blogs with cool photos all over the park. I wrote down my favorites, and when we were driving around I could just take a quick peek at my list whenever we drove passed a turn-off.
Since we only had one day there, the five minutes of research I did helped maximize our time since we knew which spots were cool and could skip over the duds.
Make a (Loose) Itinerary
Once you’ve got a solid list of very cool places make a little itinerary. Even if you are not a planner and prefer to just go with the flow instead of a schedule, still try this.
Use a map to see where these places are and in what order you should go to each place. Make a note of the drive times between each spot. This is definitely important to do before you go because you might not have reliable service once you’re there.
This way, you can still avoid following any sort of schedule but you easily check back to your itinerary throughout the day to see where to go next.
Pack Everything You Need
Whether it’s your favorite post-hike snack or the meds you need, it’s kind of a bummer when you realize you forgot something.
Before you go check once, then check again to make sure you have everything you want and need.
Share Your Plans/Itinerary With a Friend or Family Member
To give everyone some peace of mind, let somebody know where you’re headed.
This is for safety first of all. No matter how much experience you have in the outdoors, it is way too easy to take a wrong turn, end up on a different trail, and suddenly have no idea where you are. This can be scary, but you will take a big breath of relief knowing someone you trust knows where you are.
Plus, when you get home afterward and your psych levels are through the roof because you had the coolest day ever, you are guaranteed to have someone to tell all about it.
Share Your Location
On top of that, sharing your phone’s location with someone you trust is also not a bad idea. This is helpful when you don’t know exactly where you are going. You might tell someone you’re going hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it might be tricky to explain exactly where you will be and what trail you will be on.
This is also helpful when you’re driving and aren’t able to text and update someone where you’re at or if you lose your phone.
Note: this will not work when you don’t have service. If you think you’re about to lose cell service, text your trusted person and let them know. Also be sure to change the settings so that it tells them your last known location before you lost service, rather than not showing your location at all.
Day trips are a way to feed your adventurous soul when you have a limited amount of free time. They’re a way to travel without taking too much time off of work or having to plan or spend money on lodging for multi-day trips.