Stress-Free Unplanned Mini-Vacation in Old Town, Alexandria
For those who have had a stressful time this year and just need to get away, but don’t want to either: go far, or have a trip where you need to plan every step, an unplanned long weekend away is calling your name. Originally, my mom/mother/the-end-all-be-all and I were supposed to go to Charleston, South Carolina this year. However, life has been
a bit of a huge nut this year. SO while having some down time, I decided on a whim to cancel the trip and opt for another historic charming town, which my mother had never been to — Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. On a whim, I canceled the flights and hotels and rebooked everything (yay free cancellations and Southwest Airlines!). I told my mom (yes TOLD her) she needed to take 4 days off of work on certain dates. She had absolutely no idea what was going on, only that she’d be traveling and neither of us wanted to plan anything beyond our accommodations.
I should note that just because I travel a lot, doesn’t mean I’m made of money, so I picked the least expensive dates to travel. I highly recommend NOT having specific dates in mind, and research different dates for airlines and hotels. As much as I love some spontaneity and not planning all trips down to exact details, I do enjoy affordable trips. I DIGRESS!
I plan to share, in detail, our outings in a follow-up post featuring a mini ‘unplanned vacation’ guide. So for a ‘sneak peek’ I thought I would share 5 tips for an unplanned mini vacation and a few of our favorite unexpected adventures.
5 Tips for an unplanned mini vacation
Tip #1: Use the Trolley, it’s FREE!
If you are traveling to or around Old Town, particularly during the summer, fair warning it be hot and humid and can quickly take the fun out of the venture if you are uncomfortable and possibly, probably complaining about the heat that you would rather return to your hotel room. As such, I absolutely highly recommend taking the trolley down King Street. It picks up on every 10-15 minutes on every other street corner traveling from King St. Station to the Waterfront. Not only is King Street filled with restaurants and shops, but it’s just a charming street to wandering around with no goal in sight – aimlessly – and landing at the Waterfront makes it even more picturesque.
Tip #2: Check events in the area.
Even though your travels may be unexpected and/or unplanned, I think it’s still a great idea to do a little bit of research. Our timing in Old Town was great because our dates coincided with Restaurant Week in Alexandria. You all know how I love a good deal, but also good food. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Restaurant Weeks, so to briefly break it down, Alexandria’s restaurant week had brunch, lunch and dinner deals. Brunch for $25/person, lunch from $10, $15 and $20 per person, and dinner deals either being $35/person or $35 for two people. What made this even better was that there are a variety of restaurants in and around King Street that you could possibly make your dinner plans while walking around or making a reservation on your phone on the Restaurant Week website. Convenience all around!
Tip #3: Be an eavesdropper.
It’s OKAY to be an eavesdropper. Many of you know I don’t hide that I occasionally people watch. Well sometimes eavesdropping can help you learn tips and keep those tips in mind for your wanderings. I should clarify that my eavesdropping was not on a serious level, but it was definitely a money saver. Not only did I hear about the Free Trolley by way of eavesdropping and shortly afterwards seeing the trolley when I lived near D.C., I also heard about how many of the surrounding hotels, such as the Springhill Suites Alexandria, have free shuttles, on call, from the hotel to Old Town, dropping off a mini-street away from the Trolley pick up stop. This information was not available on the website, I checked, and it was great to find out that it existed and also went to Carlyle Square next to King Street, this saved money as we thought the shuttle only went to the metro, which for us was one stop away from King Street, and it would have cost $2.00 or more each way to take it one stop to King Street. Yay unexpected money savers!
Tip #4: ‘Breakfast included’ hotels are nap friendly and food gold.
Originally I didn’t plan to find a hotel that had breakfast included, but after thinking about things, I realized that breakfast included would A) provoke me to wake up earlier and start the day sooner, but also B) allow me to grab food, bring it to my room and go back to sleep thus eating when I was fully awake. This was meant to be a stress-free 4-day vacation, so it was going to be A one day and B another day, which I was perfectly happy with. In addition to this, I also realized that we would be eating out for both lunch and dinner, so who would it hurt to take your time really waking up and taking your time getting ready to wander, rather than being ruled by your grumbling stomach (ha! that’s funny. my stomach rules my life really). They are also food gold because you can grab snacks to munch on later, while wandering!
Tip #5: Pack comfortably, pack lightly.
Now I know everyone packs differently. I used to overpack every time I traveled, and now I try not to overpack, especially when I just want to wander without having to worry about lugging a big bag. I say pack comfortably, because you may end up walking a great deal. The free trolley was amazing, but there were side streets that really represents how charming Old Town is, that was not viewable from the trolley. So stepping in your comfy sneaks and wandering had to occur. I also say pack lightly (not just light) because, yes, it is a good idea to not overpack, but it is also a good idea to pack clothing that is made of light material. Having lived in the DC area and the Maryland area for 7 years, I knew how humid it could become during the summer and was able to prepare properly. I love a good pair of airy leggings and soft, yet light maxi dresses; they definitely came in handy!
*I made the mistake of telling my mom about this post, so she asked me to add another tip, inviting a ‘cool’ partner to travel with you, but in her words that was: ‘invite a cool mom’. I’ll leave that comment-less. Now you know where I get it from.*
I hope these tips help you to have a much-needed mini-vacation, whether planned or unplanned! Also, you can download this ‘cheat sheet‘ of mini vacation tips to have for when you need a little help getting ready for your [hopefully] stress-free travels. I will be sharing more wander posts about my stay in Old Town, but also my 3-day stay in Washington D.C. I would also love to know if you’d like me to share a ‘carry on only’ guide for any upcoming unplanned vacations. Let me know in the comments! Here’s a little gallery of the scenic town.