Discovering New Day Trips

Sometimes it's difficult to find new places to day trip, whether you're searching for locations near home or further away for your next vacation. You may not know where to begin searching, or what to search for. Even if you have a starting place in mind, finding awesome places, attractions, and events nearby can seam like searching for a needle in a haystack. But there are quite a few ways to discover new day trips, or to prompt your searches. When I'm looking for new day trips I typically find them with one of the following sources (or several):

1. Social Media

My Facebook and Instagram feeds are overflowing with beautiful places, and food my taste buds would love to hang out with. Pinterest has photos and links to blogs for just about anywhere you can imagine, and then some. All three have search bars, and the sky's not even the limit. On FB, searching for #s will be your best bet. From there you can discover posts, groups, and pages - I follow pages for specific and broader locations, and for types of travel or food. FB will learn what you are typically looking for and will suggest new pages to like and groups to join, and within these you can discover many useful tips, tricks, and new places to experience. On Insta, just start typing in your search and an array of #s, locations, and pages to explore. If you have a specific city or area in mind, start with that and add descriptive words to narrow your search, like Boston seafood, NYC chocolate, or NYS waterfalls. Or if you're not sure where you want to head yet, start with broader topics like day trips, best beaches, or New England. The same goes for Pinterest as for Insta - just search, search, search broad and specific. The more specific your search, you may not get as many results, but you'll be surprised what you can find. It usually best to start broader and narrow your search along the way, but no matter what, you will discover so many ah-mah-zing places and events!

2. Search Engines

Just like searching on social sites, searching on the general web will yield awesome results between websites for specific locales to blogs like this one, dedicated to traveling. The results possibilities are endless, and again, search broad and narrow topics and terms to find the best day trips for you. If you come across a specific location, see if they have a direct website for more info. Many cities, town, and regions have websites of their own, typically offering information about local must see spots and upcoming events. Plus, a lot of smaller locations will also have sites of their own, with info on what to do and see there, hours, pricing, and directions. In general, you're favorite search engine will do, but searching through Bing will earn you gift cards to further your travels. Click the link to sign up for Microsoft Rewards, so every travel topic you search will get you one step closer to free coffee, lunch, or portable charges for all your day trips to come!

3. Deal Sites

My mom and I have discovered quite a many day trips on Groupon, from wineries and boat trips to historic forts and museums. They also offer classes, tours, trips, restaurants, and a whole lot more. Many times when I'm not sure yet what I want to do on my next day trip, I will head here first to look for ideas. Groupons for wineries and cideries around NY and MA have lead to day trips wine tasting at multiple locations (w/ a DD of course!), lunch in quaint little towns, and shopping at eclectic shops you won't find in your local mall. Living Social is another great site, typically with many overlapping activities. The great thing about both sites is you can search within your region or hundreds of others. So if you're heading on vacation in another state, change your search location to the city closest to your destination and see what new places and discounts you can find there. Just be sure to check the expiration dates before purchasing, as many will only be good for a limited time - typically 30-90 days from date of purchase, with an extended expiration for the paid value after initial expiration. They also offer hotels and excursions, so you could book your entire vacation through them at a discounted price. Always be sure to check both in case one has different places or better prices than the other.

4. Guides, Brochures, and Magazines, Oh My!

Travel guides are usually available for countries, states, regions, and even specific locations (like Disney World!). These will offer lists of pretty much everything you would need to know about that place, including things to do, places to see, annual events, places to eat or sleep, and other regions nearby. You can purchase them pretty much anywhere books are sold, or check them out at your local library for free. Plus, if you're a AAA member, you can also get travel guides for free. They do have some for purchase, but all of their own are free to members, and are republished every year to stay up to date. Brochures can always be found at AAA, rest stops, and welcome centers, and usually at tourist attractions, hotels, and some restaurants as well. Pick them up for a quick reference to attractions and events near and far. You should come across travel magazines for larger regions too. If not, these can be ordered from many sites online, including TravelGuidesFree, or by going to the website for a specific state's or region's travel. Most travel magazines will feature articles on specific locations or events, lists of where to visit and eat broken out by regions, and upcoming or annual events. AAA members receive a monthly subscription with info on travel destinations all over.

5. Review Sites/Apps

Sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are great places to not only discover new places to eat, play, and stay, but also to find the best places based on what others have experienced there themselves. Anyone can post their reviews and opinions about so many places, and rate them to let others know if they're a hit or miss. You can search by location or category, and they're available for all over the world. Within each search the results can be ranked by category or distance, and each place is ranked within its region and category. For example, if you are searching restaurants in Lake George, each result will have a rank out of the number of results (i.e. #5 of 27) so you know how popular it is. When sorting through the results, pay close attention not only the rank, but also to how many stars each has and how many reviews total. A place with an average of 4 1/2 stars w/ only 7 reviews may not be as ideal as one w/ 4 stars but 275 reviews. When reading the reviews, it's good to read a little from each star rating, but many suggest paying closest attention to those in the mid range, as they usually tend to have the best details, as opposed to the extremely vague reviews given w/ most 1 or 5 star ratings.

6. Maps

So passé you say? Not true in the least. I constantly utilize paper and digital maps to check how close or far places are from home or my main destination, in order to plan multi-location day trips or find new towns to research. On multiple occasions my fam and I had a Groupon to a winery, or brewery, or cidery, or distillery (what can I say - we're half Irish, half runs in our blood!) and wanted to make a day of it, so we turned to the maps to plan out which places were actually close to each other for quick in between travel. Even when multiple -eries are on the same trail, they can still be quite a distance apart from each other, and some are not yet on a trail at all. No matter where you're headed, it's a great idea to plan a few different locations along the way, including a meal or two, and utilizing maps will help you determine how much distance or time will be spent on the road. For a trip to Springfield, MA to explore the Springfield Museum, I attempted to find a winery or cidery nearby or on the way home, so I was using the map sites to determine the distance between locations and how far off the route they would take me. I'll also pull up a map and zoom in on certain locations to see what cities, towns, parks, beaches, etc. are around, and then search those places through Bing or Pinterest to see if there's any travel info associated with them. I've found a few new places of interest this way, including a CT beach I've day tripped to a couple times now. Google Maps, Mapquest, and your phone's map app are all great choices. Mapquest is especially helpful to figure out the distance of multiple locations to ensure you're visiting places in the best order to avoid too much backtracking, since you can plan your trip w/ multiple stops and see all on the screen at once with their Route Planner.

7. Ask Around

Many people in your life travel at various times throughout the year, whether for vacations, weekend trips, day trips, to visit their family and friends at their homes or schools - the list goes on. Many people have their favorite go-to places for meals, entertainment, adventures, or relaxation, and new places they've just recently discovered. Ask your family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, dentists, mailman, whoever. Most will be more than excited to share their most recent trips, advice on where they love to go, or places they may have just heard about from someone else. You could even ask if they're been to places you're thinking of heading, to see how they liked it if they have been. Check out their social media pages to see where they've been or are heading to soon. Sometimes it's difficult to know if someplace is right for you, but if you have people suggesting them to you, or talking about what a great time they had there, you'll have a better idea of where to head on your next trip.

8. TV & Movies

Wouldn't it be awesome to visit the locations in your favorite TV shows and movies? I know I would! Look to them for inspiration based on filming locations, cities or specific places featured within them, and places they may be based off of. A few places I would love to day trip to include, Six Flags Magic Mountain (Step by Step opening credits), Mount Rushmore (North by Northwest), The Alamo (PeeWee's Big Adventure), Wilmington, NC (One Tree Hill - in general, major filming location), Salam, MA (Hocus Pocus), Cheers (Cheers), and Empire State Building viewing deck (Sleepless in Seattle). Some locations I have day tripped to which are prominent on the screen are Monument Valley (countless films), Rockport, MA (The Proposal was set in AK but filmed here), NYC (need I say more), Niagara Falls (Jim & Pam got married there!), Woodman's of Essex (restaurant featured in Grown Ups), Park Güell in Barcelona (Emerald City), and the Rocky Steps leading to the Entrance of the Philadephia Museum of Art (I've run up them and cheered at the top on several occasions!). There are so many more places around the world I would love to visit - especially Game of Thrones filming locations. Some networks and studios offer tours including NBC in NYC, and QVC (I've behind the scenes there!). I recently discovered On Location Tours which has quite a few bus and walking tours in NYC, and one walking tour in Boston, featuring filming locations from countless famous movies and TV shows. Also in the realm of Hollywood, discovering places your favorite celebrities own or frequent is another great way of finding new day trips. One place in particular I want to plan a trip around is Samuel's Sweet Shop in Rhinebeck, NY - a candy store co-owned by Paul Rudd and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I would melt like chocolate if they were actually there!

9. History

Dust off your time machine to find places with historical roots. No matter where you live or travel to, there are countless locations with a rich history waiting to be told. From battlefields and ghost towns, to businesses which are over a hundred years old, there is never a shortage of places to be found in the history books. In NY's Capital Region you can day trip to Saratoga National Historic Park, where the US forces won a crucial battle against the British during the American War for Independence. Visit locks on the Erie Canal, which just celebrated it's 200th anniversary in 2017. There are dozens of locations around NY which were part of the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves find freedom throughout the North and Canada. Other notable places around the US include Philadelphia, Gettysburg, DC, New Orleans, Boston, Pearl Harbor, and Charleston, just to name a few. Turning to the world, London, Athens, and Rome come to mind first. Open any book referencing the general history, or the history of a specific location, and you will never have a shortage of places to day trip. Plus, it is always very interesting to learn about what took place in these places, and how they came to be.

Bonus. Products and Brands

Look all around you for inspiration - the foods, games, clothes, etc. can be the start of many day trips to come. Tons of businesses and companies offer welcome centers, tours of their factories, tours of where they grow their ingredients, museums, and more. including Ocean Spray, Hershey, Ben & Jerry's, Herr's, Cabot, Jelly Belly, Pez, Cape Cod Potato Chips - I could go on forever. Chances are they will have samples a plenty, and a shop where you can purchase their products and merchandise. As mentioned above, thousands of wineries, distilleries, cideries, and breweries open their doors for tastings, tours, and more tastings! On the product side of things, Harley-Davidson offers factory tours in three states, Crayola runs The Crayola Factory tours in PA, Louisville Slugger has a museum and tour, and Hallmark Visitor Center let's you watch as products are being made. These are just a sampling of what companies offer folks a behind-the-scenes look at how your favorite things came to be and come to life for your everyday enjoyment. Look up your favorite companies, products, food, and drinks - not everyone offers tours and such, but many around the world do, whether generally to the public or as part of a special tour. Plus, in addition to tours, there are lots of museums dedicated to products, companies, and categories of products.

While you may have to do some research to find new places to day trip and explore, there are absolutely no shortage of places. Inspiration can be found literally everywhere around you. So grab your phone, your TV remote, pour yourself a glass of wine, and keep your eyes peeled for your next must see day trip location!