This year, for the most part, I’ve lived alone. And to take my mind off of that alone-ness, I decided to travel. I decide to travel as cheaply as I could.
My obsession with solo day-tripping began in March. I was perusing Google Flights (great hobby, I should add) and I saw that on Saturday, March 3, I could fly to and from Atlanta, all in one day, for $87 on an American Airlines Basic Economy fare.
First of all, I am actually from Atlanta. I mean, we moved to Minnesota when I was a baby, but I still consider Atlanta a hometown of sorts. And I was born in 1987, so naturally I saw that fare as a sign. I booked it.
I flew from O’Hare to Hartsfield-Jackson early Saturday morning with nothing but my purse (on Basic Economy I was limited to one personal item, but when you’re not staying a night, it doesn’t matter).
Saturday, March 3, 2018 was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I got to fly (twice!), hang out inside two airports, plane spot at a NEW airport AND explore Atlanta… from the Delta Flight Museum to the Georgia Tech campus and everywhere in between.
It was an enjoyable day AND it took my mind off of being lonely. I was hooked.
I kept my eyes peeled for similar cheap, same-day fares and by mid-May, I hadn’t just visited the “Peach State” … I had been to Atlanta, Tampa, Boston and Denver. Two cities I’d never been to, one I’d never explored and one I hadn’t been to in 12 years—each roundtrip roughly $100, give or take $20.
The key to making each of these trips fun and manageable was a lot of planning.
In Atlanta, I took two Lyfts (one from the airport to the Delta museum and one from the museum to the Georgia Tech campus) and then I took Marta (public transit) back to ATL.
In Tampa, I took Lyfts from the airport into downtown and back to the airport.
In Boston, I took public transit from the airport to downtown—free into town and only a couple dollars back to the airport.
In Denver, I took a free bus from the airport to downtown and a Lyft back to DEN.
In all four of these cities I had preplanned where I wanted to go for pastries, coffee, beer, dinner… you name it. I also walked a lot, and spent time taking photos at the airports when I could. It was awesome.
I knew the perfect birthday gift my husband Scott could give to me this year was to go on one of my famous day trips with me. Daytripping had become my favorite activity, and to think of doing it with my other half was so exciting.
I found cheap tickets on Spirit to New Orleans, and knowing I had never been there and that Scott hadn’t been there since he was a kid, it seemed perfectly fitting.
I waited… and waited… and waited.. and the day finally came! Yesterday, Scott and I hopped on the CTA blue line at 6 a.m. before boarding a plane to the Big Easy a couple hours later.
Upon arriving at Louis Armstrong International Airport, we caught a Lyft to Cafe Du Monde in the historical French Quarter for their world-class beignets. For $20 we got two orders of three of the French deep-fried pastries (one for each of us), a bottle of water and two iced coffees.
We then meandered down Bourbon Street to an awesome brewery, Brieux Carre, which had a great shaded patio where we could evade the 90-degree heat and enjoy craft beer.
After that, we walked along the Mississippi River nearly two miles to the Sneaky Pickle, a restaurant nestled in a tiny house that was said to have New Orleans’ best vegetarian food. We started with the pickle plate and two double IPAs, then we each got the tempeh reuben and split a side of fries. When we ordered, the cashier told us we ordered “the perfect meal” … and it was just that!
We left the restaurant full and happy, caught a Lyft back to the airport to explore MSY and take some photos of planes, and then caught our own flight back to Chicago (landing around 8 p.m.).
I can honestly say, I had a PERFECT 31st birthday. I did everything I wanted to do… fly, eat good food, explore and fly again, all with my favorite person.
If you want to see and explore a new city on the cheap, I HIGHLY recommend a day trip. I am more than happy to answer any questions you have or help you plan your day (within reason).
Typically, if you have access to decent public transportation in your city and/or your destination city, you can get by with spending $150 a person including flight, ground transport, drinks and food). It is a great way to explore a new place without spending a lot of money and without taking away much time from your everyday life.
It sure has been a whirlwind of a year, living in Chicago by myself, hours away from my family and friends… but daytripping every so often has made it a LOT of fun. And having my husband down here with me this summer has made it the best it could ever be. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.