How to Make the Most of a Weekend Trip

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There’s no doubt that my wife and I love weekend trips. Truthfully, we’d like them to be longer, but we just don’t have the vacation time to use. So, we just make do with what we have and it works, quite well actually.

These trips aren’t long, hence the “weekend” part, so there really needs to be a game plan in place to make sure the time off is well used. I don’t want to brag, but now that we’ve taken quite a few of these weekend trips, we’re kind of experts at making the most of them.

Want to learn how to do it? Of course you do! 🙂

Flying vs Driving

Choosing between flying and driving all depends on where you want to go and what options you have. I try to keep our commute under 4 hours, since we only have a couple of days to work with, which basically gives us access to most of Michigan and a bit of Canada, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois if we choose to drive. That’s just fine for the summer, but in the winter what’s the point? They’re all cold!

If you do choose to drive, it may make more sense to rent a car instead of driving your own, but we’ll get to that in a minute. I, personally, prefer to avoid driving at all costs, because it’s not very “vacationy” and it’s more expensive than flying, since we have a companion pass.

That leads me to my next point: the Southwest companion pass. If you want to fly and maximize your points on a short weekend trip, the companion pass is the way to do it! It gives you (and a companion) access to the whole nation at super affordable rates. And, it’s actually not that hard to obtain, since there are many ways to do itNote: That’s a password protected post that you can gain access to by signing up for my newsletter.

Southwest Companion Pass

With a companion pass, a roundtrip ticket for two will only cost about 14,000-30,000 Rapid Rewards points and $22.40 in fees. Considering you need 110,000 Rapid Rewards points to get a companion pass, that works out to about 4-8 trips for two! Not bad eh?

As I mentioned above, you’ll want to maximize your time on vacation (i.e. not traveling). The best way to do this with a companion pass is to take a direct flight. Fortunately, Southwest makes it extremely easy to find out what flights are direct from your location with their route map (red lines are nonstop flights).

Southwest Airlines Grand Rapids Route Map

Southwest Airlines Grand Rapids Route Map

All of the direct flight options I have, which I realize isn’t many, are under 3 hours. That helps us get a lot more time actually at our destination!

Hotels

The best hotel chain for weekend getaways is by far Club Carlson, assuming you have US Bank’s Club Carlson Premier credit card and spare Gold Points in your account. Why? Because, Club Carlson is extremely generous with the perks they offer on that card. They not only give you Gold status, which offers room upgrades when available, but they give you you’re last night free on all bookings made with points that are two days or longer. That basically makes a weekend hotel (2 nights) half the points!

If you don’t have that card, IHG, Hilton, and Hyatt all offer hotels costing 5,000 points per night. That’s not very expensive either, but considering how easy Gold Points are to acquire and the free night perk, Club Carlson is my favorite weekend getaway hotel chain.

What to Do

There are two websites we check for attraction ideas when visiting a new city, Trip Advisor and Viator. Trip Advisor is great at showing you the top things to do, whether paid or free, based on customer ratings. Viator is good at getting you deals on attractions that cost money.

Using our last weekend trip as an example, we found things to do on both sites. Trip Advisor suggested we visit a free manatee viewing center (which was really cool) and Viator got us a great deal on Busch Gardens tickets. It saved us a lot of money vs buying them at the gate.

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Car Rental vs Uber

This all depends on what you plan on doing while on vacation. If you only plan on going one or two places, Uber is the way to go. That’s doubly true, if your hotel offers a shuttle to local attractions (e.g. malls, downtown, the airport). If, however, you plan on visiting multiple locations around town or you want to take a trip longer than 30 minutes, it might be cheaper to get a car rental.

This past trip my wife and I took, we rented a car from Avis for just over $60 and I’m sure glad we did, because we drove about 200 miles during that trip. We originally planned on Uber-ing around, but we found out a friend was just one town over from ours, so we rented a last-minute vehicle at an extremely affordable rate and ended up making great use out of it. That probably saved us hundreds of dollars over using Uber.

Conclusion

Our favorite weekend getaway combination consists of a companion pass, a Club Carlson credit card, and a rental car. Those three things guarantee us a fun (and quick) weekend vacation for, on average, under $125. That’s a pretty sweet deal for two people!

Do you have any weekend vacation tips?


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