Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

7 Tips for Planning the Perfect Last-Minute Summer Vacation

Whether you forgot to make travel plans for the summer or simply wanna squeeze in one more adventure before the season’s over, now’s the ideal time to organize a spontaneous weekend away. Though summering on the spur of the moment can be stressful, we’re here to make it easy with all the tips, tricks, and recs you need to plan the perfect quickie holiday.

Keep It Local

Image used with permission by copyright holder

While it’s tempting to “go big” with summer travel, one of the most fun ways to do a last-minute getaway is to keep things local. By local, I mean choose a location that’s no more than, let’s say, 50 miles from where you live. This will not only cut down on your travel time but will also help keep things a little more cost-effective. We suggest picking a nearby city you’ve never explored before or a campsite where you can set up shop for the weekend. Remember: It’s not necessarily about selecting the splashiest locale, but about being open to whatever the spot has to offer!

Bring a Crew

Image used with permission by copyright holder

One way to ensure a hell of a good time is to recruit some family or friends for the trip. Sure, it may not be a luxury vacation, but the rag-tag nature of the weekend is actually a big part of its appeal. Getaways are as much about memory-making as they are about relaxation, and there’s no better way to make things memorable than to do something a little out-of-the-box. With the right attitude, anything can be an adventure, even if it’s just you and a couple of buddies traveling no further than the county line.

Road Trip, Baby!

Image used with permission by copyright holder

To that end, do yourself a favor and make the whole thing a road trip. This will imbue the weekend with some playful urgency and will make it a whole lot easier to explore your locale of choice. Mandatory road trip rules apply: make a killer playlist, stock a cooler full of non-alcoholic bevvies and no-mess snacks, and play plenty of old-fashioned car games.

Plan an Itinerary

Image used with permission by copyright holder

No matter the location you land on, a spirited itinerary is a must. Though you can obviously fill out the schedule with practical options like swim time at a community pool or a double-feature at the local movie theater, you can also work in some more creative ideas like a game of Sardines (basically reverse “Hide and Go Seek”) or a scavenger hunt. The only mandatory inclusions are any and all gimmicky roadside attractions (yep, there’s an app for that). As always, Google will be your friend in scoping out all the potential must-dos in and around your destination.

Secure Lodging

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Once you’ve got the nuts and bolts planned out, it’s time to secure lodging. Though it’s always a little stressful to book something last-minute, there are plenty of resources out there to simplify the process. For quick home bookings, I like Airbnb or Turnkey, as both have great down-to-the-wire steals. For hotels, I like using Roomkey, which aggregates offers from a number of different sites to ensure you’re getting a fantastic deal. And if you decide to go the RV route, using Outdoorsy makes booking outdoor space an absolute breeze. Or you can always try your luck with adjoining rooms at a roadside motel.

Find Water

Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you can’t imagine a summer getaway without splashing around in a little H2O, you’ll definitely want to find some water to play in.  So, before you set off on your adventure, do a little reconnaissance work to see what rivers, lakes, or waterfalls might be in the area. Sites like AnglerHub are useful for finding lakes while the World Waterfall Database is obviously the go-to source for zeroing in on gorgeous waterfalls.

Document It

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Most importantly, you’ll want to document your getaway. One way to do this is to come up with a quirky hashtag to use while ‘gramming the you-know-what out of the weekend, but I personally like the idea of utilizing disposable cameras. Grab a couple of these bad boys and let the old school vibes roll, allowing you and your pals to snap a bevy of off-kilter candids that perfectly embody the spirit of your weird (and weirdly perfect) weekend getaway.

That about does it for this guide to planning the ultimate last-minute summer getaway! For more vacation inspiration, make sure to visit our travel hub, which is chock-full of great ideas and travel guides.

Editors' Recommendations

Cody Gohl
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Cody Gohl is a Brooklyn-based writer who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, including travel, fashion, literature, LGBT…
5 Last-Minute Travel Destinations Worth Blowing Your Entire Tax Return on
luxury vacations worth your tax return azores last minute 3

Tax season is upon us in the United States. If you played your cards right last year, that (hopefully) means a big tax refund. You could do something sensible with that cash like save for your kids’ college education or max out your 401k. Or you could splurge on a ridiculously unnecessary, bucket-list-worthy vacation because you deserve a little “me time.” Assuming you decide on the latter, here are five destinations worth blowing this year’s tax return on.
For a Wild, Honeymoon-Worthy Vacation
South Africa


Read more
CEO says Southwest Airlines may add red-eye flights in certain markets
A cheap fare and one less hotel night will help your travel budget
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Departing Kahului International Airport Maui Hawaii


Following the praise from launching its long-awaited bag tracking site, Southwest is keeping up the momentum with the mention of another possible development: red-eye flights. Red-eye flights are a heaven-sent flight option for many travelers when trying to travel flexibly and affordably. 

Read more
Plan a Colorado road trip: The ultimate routes for Ikon pass, Epic ski pass holders
Hit the best slopes across Colorado
A winding road through the snowy rocky mountains

So, you’re looking to rip up the Rocky Mountain on a ski road trip, huh? Well, lucky for you, I've got the inside scoop to help you travel around these Colorado mountains with ease and avoid common road trip mistakes. Keep reading for the best routes to take for this winter road trip.

Traveling from point A to B and so on …
Assuming you’re flying into the Mile High State, you're going to need some sort of transportation. Check out these Colorado-based RVs and campervan rentals for cruising the Rockies in style and comfort. They offer tons of space and onboard amenities like cooking essentials, inverters for charging devices, and campsite gear to make your trip as comfortable and stress-free as possible. All you’ll need to bring is yourself, some buds, your skis or snowboard, and snow gear.

Read more