Samantha Brown's Secret Tips To Pick The Best Destinations For A Day Trip

A day trip is just the dose of exploration you need to leave your comfort zone without sacrificing too many vacation days. One day offers a quick escape to get to know a new place and take in fresh sights, all without venturing too far from home (or your main destination, in case you decide to squeeze a day trip into an already scheduled getaway). On top of that, a 24-hour-or-less trip can be easy on your wallet, as you won't have to pay for flight tickets, accommodations, and other expenses required for longer excursions.

However, if you don't do your research before your trip, you might find yourself in an uninspiring town that's hardly worth the gas money. So, how can you get that fresh destination feeling without traveling far from your regular stomping grounds? Travel expert Samantha Brown shares some helpful tips on her website that make finding nearby gems simple, from limiting your range to seeking out small business hubs and much more.

The best places to live also make for great day trip destinations

According to Samantha Brown, you might not find your perfect day trip destination in a guidebook or travel blog. Instead, you're likely to find it in the places where regular people spend their everyday lives. First, she suggests sticking to spots within a three-hour journey from your home base to avoid spending all day in the car or on a train. Brown says to look for some surprising qualities to help you narrow down your options. Instead of scouring magazines or scrolling through travel content on social media, the PBS star recommends searching online for the best places to live in your state or region. Brown suggests that the results can often reveal places with a lively downtown or central neighborhood where you're sure to uncover charming shops and high-quality eateries.

On that note, Brown also says to seek out places with independent bookstores, even if you don't consider yourself a bookworm. As she explains, areas with indie bookstores will likely host a range of thriving small businesses, allowing you to step away from the chain restaurants and big box stores to discover a destination's distinct charm.

Don't be afraid to go off the beaten path during a day trip

If you've watched a few episodes of "Samantha Brown's Places to Love," you've likely realized by now that the travel guru features both well-known tourist destinations and less-traveled spots in her show. Keep this balance in mind when deciding on your day trip destination. There's no need to limit yourself to towns trending online or cities with big reputations. A spot you know little about could turn out to be one of the most rewarding to visit.

In an interview with Insider Travel Report, Brown explained that she calls these destinations "B-side destinations" because they're often overlooked compared to the more popular "A-side" cities. Even if these places fly under the radar, they tend to be less crowded and cost less money to visit — a win if you're looking for a low-stress, budget-friendly day trip. Plus, opting for B-side destinations is a great way to ensure you're not contributing to overtourism, resulting in a trip that benefits the local economy and offers a more authentic glimpse into the local lifestyle.

One way to uncover these hidden gems is to look for small-town attractions and events. Brown suggests finding a festival within a couple of hours of your location and visiting the area, even if the festival isn't currently being held. Large state and national parks, hiking trails, and other natural landmarks are also a good indication that a delightful town is just around the corner.