Wedding travel is what you make of it. I took a trip to San Francisco last fall only because my friend was getting married there. I turned it into a long weekend trip and had a great time. I like to take opportunities where they come and weddings are perfect for an impromptu trip. I mean, why travel to a destination just for an overnighter? There's no point in that! So if you're like me and plan to turn your destination wedding into a getaway, these travel tips are going to help you out.
1. Only pack what you absolutely need. Start with the basics like undergarments and then factor in what you need for the wedding. There's two ways this can go. If you're only attending the day of, only one dress/outfit is needed. If you have several events to attend for said wedding, you'll need more. So here's my tip for you. Pack basics so you can mix and match. The dress code will weigh heavily on this decision but if you can swing one dress three different ways, you've got yourself three outfits with one main piece. Only pack a maximum of two shoes: a pair fancy enough for any events and another pair to suit whatever activities you have planned for yourself. Wear a casual pair on your feet. I normally try and stick to flats when I travel because they don't take up a lot of space and are light.
2. Travel size or nothing at all. If you still cram full-sized toiletries into your suitcase, stop! You can get practically anything travel-sized nowadays and if not, there are empty travel bottles you can buy to fill with your favorite products. OR, you can not bring anything along with you at all. Hotels typically have shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion in the rooms so you can use what they give you and just bring the other stuff you can't live without (hello, gel and frizz serum). If you're not thrilled with what the hotel provided, stop at a drugstore and pick up a few travel-sized things and throw them away before you leave.
3. Leave extra room. If you're in a new city, you'll most likely go shopping whether that's for some local coffee beans or new clothes. Don't overstuff your suitcase when you leave because that leaves no room for anything on your way back.
Money Saving Tips
1. Go halfsies. Do you have other friends or family going to this wedding? Share a hotel room. Even if they're not staying as long as you, that is still a few bucks you can shave. Same goes for car rentals. If a car rental is necessary for where you are traveling to, sharing one will cut the price in half.
2. Buy your flight 45-90 days out. It's the best time to find a decent price. Also look at flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays if you can as they generally tend to be cheaper than other days of the week. Look for the flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays because Tuesdays are usually when airlines roll out their deals. Fly during a meal hour, super early or super late. These times are less trafficked so they tend to be a bit cheaper. Finally, compare, compare, compare! Don't find one deal and call it a day. Look around to see where you can get the best one. In the past, I've found my best deals on Priceline.
3. Eat big, late breakfasts. It will scale you down from 3 to 2 meals saving you a few bucks. Also, try hole-in-the-wall spots and research local haunts. If you're a huge fan of 5-star dining, pick your top three and make reservations at whichever one is in your budget. Because you're limiting yourself, it will be that much more special.
Maximizing Your Time During Travel
1. I get most people can't take a whole week off just for a wedding. So if you turn this destination wedding into a trip, it's important to make sure your time is well spent. With that said, research, research, research. Don't just wing it. Make four lists: dining, outdoor activities/recreation, cultural activities/events and general touring. Rate them, map them out geographically and plan days by location. You don't need a strict schedule but it's good to have an itinerary of some kind so that you can refer to it rather than waste time looking for something to do. By planning the days according to location, you cut travel time giving you more time to explore.
2. Hit large tours. City tours might not normally be your kind of thing but they are great to cover a lot of space over a few hours. I did a Napa tour because I had one day to explore there. Most cities and towns have these tours whether they are led by an expert or self-directed. Sometimes you can find ones that have different topics and themes too in case you want something different from the general tour.
3. Wake up early to get the touristy places covered. High traffic areas are less crowded early in the morning right after opening. This would be the best time to conquer spots like these if you are dying to visit them.
4. Don't be afraid to go solo. Sticking around with any other wedding guests might be fun but chances are you won't get to see much. Make plans for lunch or dinner to get time in with everyone you want to see but plan to have the majority of time away from the wedding to yourself. Unless someone wants to tag along (which is completely fine and even welcomed), be a solo tourist to get as much in during the time you're there.
I didn't maximize my time as much as I would have liked to in San Francisco so please learn from my mistakes. The one thing I did right was the tour of Napa Valley. We covered quite a bit of land in one day. I have become a master flight planner so those tips I listed above are legit. I don't know how many times I can brag about my $250 flight from Chicago to Dallas to SF and back to Chicago again. Best deal ever. Are you traveling for a wedding soon? What are some tips or questions that you have. Tell me in the comments below!