Easy Vacation Ideas for Low-Stress Travel

Photo: Viktor_Gladkov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s officially August, which means with every passing minute, your time to take a summer vacation is rapidly dwindling. I don’t know about you, but I have spent way too much time in the past two months worrying about the fact that I have no plans to go to Europe. Despite the fact that my entire Instagram feed appears to have decamped to the Mediterranean, the obstacles to taking a big fat summer vacation have never been higher. Flying these days is a journey through the seven circles of hell and, with a few exceptions, everything fun is expensive or bad for the environment or both. With that in mind, may I suggest you take the pressure off a little? There are three weeks left of summer: just enough time to plan a super low-stakes vacation.

This is not a staycation, and it’s also not a road trip. Road trips are long, intense, and make you hate snacks. I’m talking about a short car trip (trains and buses are also welcome), anywhere from one to four hours away, to somewhere that sounds boring on paper, which is part of the appeal. Yes, it can be a day trip! When you have a car and five hours to kill, the world is your oyster. Speaking of: Why not go clamming?

A few other low-pressure summer-vacation ideas, off the top of my head:

  • Visit the three gorges closest to you
  • Find a state fair and order several funnel cakes (maybe a corn dog too?)
  • Go shopping for a good tomato candle
  • Find your nearest Korean spa
  • Pre-mix a drink and bring it on a ferry ride
  • Buy a fancy beach towel, but take it somewhere that isn’t a beach (the park, your rooftop, an engagement party, your gym)

If you need more convincing, allow me to point you to Rihanna and A$AP Rocky’s 2020 summer vacation, which Rihanna detailed in a Vogue interview earlier this year and has played on a loop in my mind ever since. According to her account, they hopped on a tour bus and road-tripped from Los Angeles to New York, with Rihanna grilling barefoot on a Walmart barbecue and A$AP Rocky tie-dyeing gas-station T-shirts. The length, admittedly, is far too much of a commitment for the kind of vacation I’m talking about. But the activities — both entertaining and very attainable — are spot on. According to that Vogue, “No matter where they stopped, they always had fun.” I’m not surprised!

The most important element of a low-stakes vacation is not to overwhelm yourself with stuff to do. Spontaneity is your friend. There’s nothing more liberating than pulling over to investigate something on the side of the road whenever the impulse strikes. I once stumbled across the best breakfast sandwich of my life thanks to an apple-picking billboard in Connecticut. But don’t let me tell you what to do! The appeal of the low-stakes vacation is that there are no rules. If you want to spend the day taste-testing lobster rolls and call it a vacation, I say why not? At least you’ll know where your luggage is.

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