It’s the night before Thanksgiving, and despite the impeccable timing of a snowstorm, we’re headed to Charleston, SC, tomorrow morning to experience some of that famed Southern hospitality. It was a hard decision, to leave during what is probably the most family-centric holiday of the year. Some might even call it selfish—heck, I call it selfish. But we’ve been talking the last couple of weeks about making the most of limited vacation time, and this is how we have to do it. With only two vacation days left this year, this was the only possible time to make a trip like this. Plus Thanksgiving Day is one of the cheapest days of the year to fly, so we got great rates! It’s hard to pass up. We’re lucky to have an understanding family. (Thanks, guys!)
We booked just a few short weeks ago, so I’ve had an abbreviated amount of time to plan the perfect trip. Somehow actually booking things with real money is very different than dreaming my day away while perusing travel sites. I actually find it rather stressful. I know we have a finite amount of time, and I want to make the most of it. The worst thing for me is getting somewhere and then having to read a guide book because I don’t know what to do. I like to have a game plan; whether I stick to it or not is a different story.
Plan of Attack
What do I do to plan my days, you ask? I always like to go into a trip with a day-by-day schedule, which gives me easy access to a general timeline, and pertinent reservation details for airlines, hotels, and car rentals. In college, my roommate and I took a grand 8-day road trip down the east coast to Florida and back up through Louisiana and Tennessee, and had every minute planned out on elaborately decorated pages placed in a three-ring binder. I don’t take it to quite that extreme now, but I don’t leave home without my travel folder.
I’ve been scouring TripAdvisor for the best attractions and restaurants, reading review after review, and picking places that make the most sense for us. I’ve also found the 36 Hours column in the New York Times extremely helpful. We’re actually going to Charleston and Savannah, so I’ve printed both and placed them in my folder for some reading on the plane. (I do leave gaps in my itineraries for serendipity, but I like to have suggestions like these to fall back on in case we find ourselves with an afternoon free and nothing to do. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s always good to be prepared!)
Packing Tips for Short Trips
A lot of friends have asked me about some of my packing tricks. I’ve come a long way since having my three pieces of rolling luggage for two arms during my study abroad in Florence. Seriously, it wasn’t pretty. The thing that sealed the deal for my packing wizardry was my trip to San Francisco in early October. I broke my finger several weeks before in Cancun, and wasn’t able to carry any luggage. I was traveling alone, so I had to make five days’ worth of necessities fit in a backpack. And I was going to a conference, so I needed business and practical clothes—plus room for souvenirs.
Even for long weekend trips, I used to need “options.” I’d fill up a giant suitcase with clothes for a week, and would only wear a quarter of them. I’d take a giant make-up case filled with all kinds of products I never wore at home, and a separate set of jewelry to match every outfit.
Now I pack the basics. Five outfits for five days (and even that’s a bit much, because you can re-wear things). I like to bring versatile outfits—one cami for two different days. A scarf that will go with three things. Multiple outfits that can handle the same couple sets of jewelry. I no longer need the huge Vera Bradley toiletry kit. I pack my medicine, face wash, toothpaste, jewelry, and make-up in separate sandwich bags, and place them in a much smaller zippered case. It takes up a quarter of the space, and is really all I need. Kyle and I are only taking carry-ons this time, and I had so much room left in the small suitcase that I packed an empty backpack in one of them so we can bring home souvenirs. Yes, I’ve become much more efficient!
We are really excited to be visiting Charleston and Savannah—two of the most beautiful cities in the country. Charleston is consistently rated amount the top cities in the world, and I can’t wait to discover why people love it so much. I’ve heard that you’re either a Charleston person or a Savannah person, so it’ll be fun to visit them back to back to see which one I enjoy more.
Have you been to either city? Do you have any recommendations for us—you know, for that “serendipity” time in our itinerary?