8 Exciting Ways to See the Country This Summer
Tired of the same old vacation routine? Looking to explore new destinations without leaving the U-S of A? Shake things up this summer by stepping out of your comfort zone and see the country with these exciting summer travel ideas.
1. Set off on a surprise excursion
Recently I met the owners of travel company Pack Up + Go, and I was immediately intrigued when they explained what set it apart from other tourism outfits. The gist of their operation is that they plan three-day surprise getaways for their customers based on a few criteria — like travel budget, travel dates, preferences, and personal information — so they can book all your transportation and accommodations for you.
A week before you leave, you'll receive an email with the weather forecast for your secret destination, recommended items to pack (like bathing suits or down parkas), any luggage restrictions, and when and where to catch your transportation. A few days before your trip, an envelope arrives, and you are not allowed to open it, lest you ruin the fun. Inside the envelope that you shouldn't even peek in until you arrive at your transportation hub are directions to your accommodations and a curated list of recommendations for everything from cafes, to restaurants and night life, to rainy day activities.
While this may not be the ideal option for hot- or cold-weather adverse travelers — you get no say in where you end up (though the planners do take into consideration where you've already been) — Pack Up + Go is a fresh, fun option to explore a new area you may never have chosen to visit yourself.
2. Sleep over with Airbnb-style camping
I love Airbnb and camping, which is why I'm an early adopter of Tentrr, a new app-based travel service that helps connect would-be campers to property owners who have erected high-quality campsites on their properties with the help of the Tentrr crew. Currently there are 55 sites available, mostly in New York, which will certainly expand outside the state and across the country as the service gains popularity and continues to grow.
Adhering to the standard setup guidelines provided by Tentrr, each site includes a large canvas tent, generally equipped to fit five or six campers (though some sites allow up to eight campers); a fire pit, picnic table, five-gallon water container, outdoor camp toilet, queen size cot, metal grill, two lounge chairs, dry food storage, and an outdoor sun shower. All you have to do is bring the food, drinks, games, and whatever else you need to stay comfortable for a couple days in the great outdoors.
There are properties available to please every type of traveler, including those close to beaches, forests, meadows, ponds and lakes, rivers and streams, and breathtaking views of the surroundings. I personally booked a trip later this summer at a mountain hideaway with a private pond. Activities in the area included canoeing/kayaking, hiking, road biking, white water rafting, fishing, golf, wineries and distilleries, a local flea market, and more. Most sites are available for between $120 and $150 total per night. The price doesn't increase based on the number of campers; instead it remains a flat rate that you can split with your friends to make your trip an incredibly low-cost, but memorable getaway. (See also: 5 Ways to Save on Your Next Glamping Trip)
3. Hit the road on a rental motorcycle
You'll never get me on a motorcycle (I can barely operate an electric can opener without hurting myself), but if you're a dedicated biker EagleRider, the world's largest motorcycle tourism company, can help you achieve your sightseeing goals. With your monthly membership in Club EagleRider ($29/month, plus a $29 sign-up fee), you receive one free rental day and free or discounted rates on additional rental days.
4. Cross the country via train
I had almost given up on rail travel because of the increasing prices — trips from my home in Manhattan to visit my family in Baltimore were sometimes over $300 round-trip, compared to below $50 for a round-trip bus ride — but when I heard about supersaver Derek Low's four-day $429 cross-country rail trip, starting in San Francisco and ending in New York City — the idea was worth revisiting. Thanks to his 15-day, eight-ride Amtrak rail pass, Low efficiently traveled from coast to coast in less than 96 hours — and enjoyed sightseeing at a few cities in between, like Denver, Salt Lake City, and Chicago — while still having several trips remaining on his pass to visit a few more quick destinations on his way back out West.
If you don't plan to make any stops, however, and just want to observe nature from the comfort of your train car, you can shave a couple hundred dollars off what he spent to bring it down to about $213, according to Low's account of his adventure. If you don't think you're savvy enough to score these deals on your own, Low offers to arrange your entire trip for you for a fee of $49. (See also: 5 Fun, Affordable Train Trips)
5. Deliver cars, campers, and RVs to their owners
Did you know that you can save a ton of money and subsidize your road-based vacation transportation costs by renting RVs, campervans, motor homes, and cars for as low as $1 day? Rental site imoova.com works with traditional rental companies to offer its customers one-way travel opportunities to desired locations. How can that be, you ask? Simple. You're not just embarking on your own travels; you're also helping the rental companies save money on hiring expensive drivers to return the vehicles back to their home bases by doing it for them.
If you're considering a road trip this year, check imoova to see what you can come up with. The hundreds of dollars you could save will leave you with more money for better dinners, a couple more drinks, and more exciting activities along the way.
6. Self-tour a new area on foot
If you like to investigate new cities and neighborhoods on foot, download the Sidewalk app to tap into a free library of city walks that you can do on your own time. These insider-curated walks provide a local's perspective on your surroundings (they're created by the very people who live there) giving you the money-saving freedom to be your own tour guide. The app just launched this spring, but it already contains 60 walks you can enjoy in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, with more cities coming soon.
7. Follow the beaten paths
When you prefer the seclusion and meditative opportunities of nature, enlist AllTrails as your travel companion. The free web- and app-based service gives you access to 50,000-plus trail maps (hiking and running) along with directions directly to the trailhead from wherever you are. You also can filter trails by difficulty, distance, rating, amenities (like waterfalls), and identify kid- and dog-friendly trails. When you're done, leave a review and share photos of your experience to enhance the experience for others.
8. Challenge your mental and physical abilities
Unlike many other fitness challenges, which last a few hours or less, Cotopaxi Questival is a 24-hour adventure series that turns this sometimes-hardcore genre into a community-driven social event.
Teams of two to six are tasked with hundreds of challenges over the 24-hour period, from Foodie (eat a taco with no hands), to Community (send a postcard to a veteran, or pick up trash at a local beach), to Adventurous (camp under the stars, run a mile in fancy dress), and more.
There are 50 locations all over the country from which to choose that are held individually throughout the year. Challenges can change to suit the location, too, so you won't know what's coming your way until 24 hours before your own event.
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