One thing I love about living in Europe is how easy it is to get around. Over the past months, I have used the regular flight connections to go on a series of weekend trips and explore my continent and with every place I discover, I realise there are so many more that are worth visiting.
Even if you do not live in Europe and can’t hop over to Rome for a weekend, I am sure there are places nearby that you could escape to. It doesn’t have to be Paris. A weekend camping near a lake can be just as beautiful. Don’t like camping? What about that new wellness resort that has special off-season rates?
I work at least two weekends a month and maybe that’s why I appreciate weekends off that much. They always feel special and there’s better to escape from the usual stress than to leave home for two days. But those weekends also require planning so I’ve decided to put together a series of guides that I will publish over the next weeks and that will help you plan your perfect weekend.
1. Pick a weekend
Deciding on when you want to leave is the first step. Is there an important conference on Friday afternoon? Choose a different weekend. Can you get Monday off? That’s the right weekend. For me, it’s mostly a matter of not having to work on Saturday or Sunday and having my friend coordinate her shifts so we have the same weekends off. If you never work on weekends, that makes things easier. You should still make sure you haven’t accidentally picked the one weekend where your grandmother turns ninety.
2. Decide on what kind of weekend trip you want to do
There are all kind of things you can do if you have the whole weekend. I already mentioned a few above. You could, for example, go on a city trip. This means you’ll spend the weekend exploring a city you haven’t been to before or one that you haven’t seen in depth yet. Or maybe it’s your favourite city that you want to see again.
If you’re not into cities, the alternative is to visit the countryside. Either camp next to a lake or book that cute pension hidden away in the mountains. Just want to get away from it all? How about a kayaking trip? Or a bike tour?
Nature is the perfect place to be active. Maybe there’s a sport you’ve always wanted to try, like sailing? Or you could make it an adventure weekend where you go skydiving or ziplining. Did you know you can zipline through a mine in Wales? This one has been on my bucket list ever since I read about it.
An alternative, if you’re into music, is to go to a festival. My brother loves this kind of weekend trips and he will sometimes send me pictures of him and his friends standing in front of a stage or sitting on a muddy campground. They always look like they have a lot of fun.
A different kind of fun, and one that is especially interesting if you have kids, is to go to an amusement park. When I was a kid, my parents once took me to a Centerparc. I still remember the huge pool and all those water slides my dad had to take me on because I was too scared to go on my own. And that one time I went to Europapark, Germany’s largest amusement park, for a weekend.
3. Choose a place to go to
Choosing the perfect place to travel to isn’t easy and there are a lot of things you have to keep in mind.
- How long does it take to get to my destination?
- How will I get there? Will I go by car? By train? By plane?
- When does the plane or train leave?
- At what time do I finish work on Friday? Do I have a realistic chance to catch that plane/train?
- How expensive is the destination I want to travel to? Can I afford it and is it worth it for the weekend?
My friend and I really wanted to go to London this year. However, the plane tickets in combination with the hotel were more than we were willing to pay for a weekend trip. I also really wanted to go to Amsterdam but when I looked it up, the plane tickets would have cost me around 400€. Istanbul is another city I’ve been dreaming about for ages. But is it really worth it to travel there for a weekend if my flight doesn’t arrive until after midnight on Saturday morning and I have to leave again early on Sunday?
Europapark is located in Northern Germany. As much fun as it was, if I wanted to go to an amusement park, I would choose one nearby that will allow me to spend as much time there as possible. And there’s no use in choosing a lake for kayaking that’s five hours away when we’ve got lots of them that only take an hour or two to get to. Be realistic about your plans and what you can do. And while you’re traveling, keep your eyes open for inspiration on other places you might want to come back to.
4. Book as early as possible
Once you’ve got the specifics, there is no reason to put off booking. Transport rarely gets cheaper. Remember that you’re bound to specific dates. You’re not flexible so the chance of getting that incredibly cheap flight ticket is very low. The same goes for accommodation. See any special rates? Go for them before it’s too late.
Take into account the season you’re travelling. You might be able to get a very cheap hotel room at the coast in winter. But if you wait too long in summer, everything will be booked. Same goes for amusement parks during the school holidays. And if you’re planning on going to that festival by train, don’t you think that everyone else will have the same idea? Discounted tickets might be available but they will sell out fast.
That doesn’t mean you can’t go on spontaneous weekend trips, it’s just a bit more tricky and you might not have the same choice as if you had booked in advance.
5. Read up on your destination
When my friend and I went to Milan, we didn’t find out until the famous opera until it was too late to get tickets. I missed The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci because we would have had to book tickets months in advance. As soon as you know where you’re going, get an overview of the highlights and try to figure out what you will have to arrange in advance. Sometimes, you can be lucky. We managed to get a reservation for the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid the day before we arrived. But it can’t hurt to read up on it. Plus, I love planning and thinking of all the fun things I’m going to do.
That is it for now. There are a few more posts to come with specifics on the different kind of trips you can take. Until then, tell me about your last weekend trip. What did you do and where did you go?