Not every road trip you take has to span hundreds of miles and last days upon days. A quick jaunt — whether it’s as little as 24 hours or as long as a weekend — can go a long way to give you the getaway you need. From driving a few hours to the nearest city to setting out for a serene rural oasis, there are a wide array of ways to design a road trip around your interests. Below are 20 ideas for mini road trips perfect for quick escapes.
1. Camping Trips
Pack a tent, a sleeping bag, and some snacks and hit the road to enjoy the great outdoors. Call campgrounds ahead of time to be sure there’s room for you. Even if you stay for just one night, you’ll savor the chance to completely unplug and take a much-needed break from your everyday life.
2. Weekend City Jaunts
Nothing compares to the electric energy of urban centers, which typically lay claim to a host of museums, restaurants, and historic sites. Study the map and pinpoint a city or large town you can reach in just a few hours; that way, you’ll have more time to spend exploring your destination.
3. Shopping Trips
Whether it’s outlet malls, antiques markets, or thrift stores that thrill you the most, you can design a road trip to give your credit card a workout (or simply window shop). This is especially a good idea if you need to retool your wardrobe for a new season, redecorate your place, or even just spend time with friends with the same passion.
4. Waterfront Escapes
Drive to the coast, hightail it to the nearest lake, or find yourself the perfect spot to relax by a secluded river. There’s something reinvigorating about spending time near water, even for just a few hours. Don’t think it has to be a high-profile place — study the map to look for an under-the-radar spot that will give you some personal space to decompress.
5. Hiking Excursions
What’s the best way to stretch your legs after spending hours in a car or RV? By heading out for a vigorous hike. Make sure to choose established trails and plan to be back before dark.
6. Spa Getaways
If you’ve ever had your aches and pains tended to by a professional, then you know that driving hours to indulge in your favorite spa treatments should never be out of the question. Just be sure to get a strong coffee for the drive home — it’s not always easy to face hectic traffic when you’re in a totally blissed-out state!
7. Foodie Pilgrimages
8. Dog-friendly Trips
You’re not the only one who needs an adventure from time to time. Your loyal pup could probably use an outing too. Plan a route that allows you to stop at dog parks, make use of trails, or stay at dog-friendly hotels. Certain cities around the country are known for their acceptance of a woman’s best friend — San Diego, Portland, Madison (Wisc.), and Tuscon are some of the friendliest, according to SmartAsset.com.
9. Architecture-focused drives
From well-preserved historic districts to residential neighborhoods packed with eye-catching façades, there are plenty of ways to incorporate architecture into your mini road trip. Research architecture walking tours in your destination ahead of time, or try to find decorative art museums that give tours. If nothing else, you can simply cruise through a neighborhood that catches your attention as you drive.
10. Photography-focused trips
Whether you’re a professional-level photographer or simply a hobbyist who likes to take snaps with your phone, traveling to get the perfect shot can be so satisfying. Beautiful landscapes, rough-around-the-edges urban scenes, selfies...there’s a lot of potential to capture new images and work on your skills.
11. Stargazing Trips
If you live in or near a city, you already know that seeing the stars is practically impossible, thanks to light pollution. But drive just a few hours away and the skies burst with visible stars, constellations, and even planets. Try to plan your road trip during a meteor shower for extra impact.
12. Road Trips for the Views
Maybe you’re in search of the perfect sunset. Or maybe you’d like to find a scenic lookout to take in the landscape for as far as the eye can see. City lights, too, can lure in spectators entranced by their twinkling. Sometimes a short road trip is worth it simply for the scenery.
13. Museum Voyages
Museums give you access to completely new worlds. Covering subjects ranging from natural history to modern art, these institutions expand your understanding of your destination and the world at large. Find a destination that offers an array of museums to choose from.
14. Journeys to Botanical Gardens
Most major cities and even some smaller towns boast conservatories and botanical gardens brimming with flowers and plants. In winter, conservatories that house tropical plants transport you to warmer climates. In summer, the outdoor spaces provide the perfect place for a picnic.
15. Networking or Career-focused Trips
For the go-getters out there, mini road trips focused on network opportunities or continuing education can be trips well worth taking. Meet up with colleagues, attend a professional meeting, touch base with a mentor, or scout a location to expand your business.
16. Family Visits
Squeezing in family visits can be hard to do, especially when you don’t get much vacation time. If you owe aunt, uncles, cousins, or grandparents a visit, fuel up and set out to get reconnected with extended family. Aside from spending quality time together, you may even save some money, since your hosts will likely provide food and accommodations free of charge.
17. Winery or Brewery Tours
Is there a winery or brewery you’ve been meaning to check out? Oenophiles and beer snobs alike can plan fun excursions for sampling their elixir of choice. Distilleries have started popping up across the country too, for the 21-and-up crowd who love a stiff cocktail. Just remember to drink responsibly and never get behind the wheel after drinking.
18. Trips to Orchards or Fruit Farms
If you love driving back country roads, you’ll probably come across a number of pick-your-own orchards and fruit farms. Make a quick stop to stock up on the freshest fruits you’ll ever taste — for a steal.
19. Ghost-Hunting Drives
Haunted houses. Creepy graveyards. Abandoned psychiatric hospitals. Some people simply can’t get enough of the paranormal. A mini road trip centered on all things ghostly (especially around Halloween) can send shivers up your spine.
20. Amusement Park Journeys
This type of trip is a no-brainer if you love roller coasters, cotton candy, games, and all the nostalgia around amusement parks. State fairs and carnivals that pop up through the summertime might do the trick if there are no amusement parks nearby.