Planning A Short Attention Span Trip

What is a “short attention span trip?”  The philosophy is simple.  It’s about seeing a lot of cool stuff in a short period of time.  Whether that’s a day, a weekend, or a week, often we don’t get the chance to really “dig into” a place and stay a while.  Does this mean we can’t really have fun?   Or can’t really get to know a place?  I don’t think so (feel free to disagree).  I also don’t think it’s “checkbox” travel, either.  Just showing up, taking the selfie, and leaving.  That’s not good travel, either (although I’ve done it, admittedly).    SAST is definitely fast paced, but there are always opportunities to slow down and enjoy.  It’s about finding the most quintessential elements of a place and checking them out–or those things that are kind of off the beaten path.  Mixing up the known tourist destinations with some local gems can really give you a sense of a place.

How can I see a lot of fun stuff in a little time as possible in my destination?  -SAST trip

Here are some ideas for planning and researching a Short Attention Span style trip.  I usually go through a few basic checklist-style questions when researching a new destination.  I also have a few good books that talk about where to go during different times of the year for inspiration (aka travel porn).  I think the key is to do a quick assessment of a few different ideas, versus spend too much time digging in on one particular place.


  • How much time will I be spending overall?
  • Do I have a day, weekend, or week?
  • Do I want to spend time in one destination, or am I going to visit multiple places?
  • Is it feasible to actually see all the places I want to see in this timeframe?


  • Quantity or quality?
  • Is it a city that has a lot to see/do/eat?
  • Should I take a tour, or can I self-guide?
  • Even better, is there a weird or quirky tour?


  • What is this place known for food-wise?
  • Are there restaurants that I need reservations for?  Do I need to advance plan?
  • What are the local eats?


  • What’s the main mode of transportation around?
  • Is there a good subway or train system?  Will there be a lot of walking?
  • Can I Uber/Lyft/Ride share?
  • Do I need to rent a car?


  • Where are all the activities I’m doing–and is there a hotel central to them?
  • Is there an interesting/special hotel I should stay at?
  • Should I have a look at AirBNB or Couchsurfing?
  • Is camping an option?

Getting there/back:

  • What are the flight/train schedules?
  • Do I have a backup plan if I miss my flight/train?



  • I check on my plans–is it going to be good/decent weather when I go?  If not, maybe I save that destination for the right time of year.


Once I do the preliminary research, I usually come up with a two or three options and think about them for a bit (unless it’s a more spur-of-the-moment weekend trip).    I also don’t like to “overplan” a trip.  I have friends who write detailed excel spreadsheets for every vacation, even the simple ones.  Hey, you do you!  Often, some of the most fun I’ve had was when I had some time to wander and unexpectedly stumbled onto something good.

I’m currently using this checklist for a weekend getaway for next week.  I have MLK day off on the 15th, and it seems like a good idea for a weekend trip!  We’ll see where I end up.

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