Wouldn’t it be great if you could be on vacation every day, or better yet, on a cruise everyday?!?! You would oscillate between clear, blue-sky sea days and stops at various ports of call where you could participate in shore excursions that suit your fancy!
Alas, there are these awful things called work days that get in the way of our cruising dreams. While sometimes a short cruise vacation might be feasible, other times you just cannot get away from home.
Even though you might not be onboard a cruise ship and the weather might not be a perfectly sunny 85-degree day, why not enjoy all the excitement of a shore excursion in your home town?
By designing your own “hometown excursion”, you can take a day away from the monotony to try something different. No matter where in the world you live, there are always great attractions close to home. Often times, these places attract tourists from all over the world but are over-looked by us because they are in our backyard. Organizing an outing with the family to one of these locations can be just what you need to recharge the batteries.
Here is our guide to planning a hometown excursion.
You do not need to live near a seaport to have an excursion
Excursions include a variety of different experiences that vary from adventurous to cultural encounters to sightseeing tours and shopping sprees. If you live near a major city, it might be easier to find something new and different, but that doesn’t mean you have to be in close proximity to a city to create a shore excursion. With a little investigating, you can surely find an array of interesting and new experiences close to home.
You can definitely decide to venture off and do something that is a bit farther away, but we suggest picking a destination that is no farther than an hour and a half away from your house. Any further and you will be spending too much time travelling and not at your destination!
Find top rated attractions in your area
Even if you know of some possible activities you want to try for your shore excursion, it always helps to see what others who have travelled to the same area have done while visiting. There are a variety of different resources online to help you see what others have enjoyed on their recent trips.
Tripadvisor is a great resource to read reviews and find top rated attractions and things to do in almost any location. You might think about creating an account and giving a review of your shore excursion once you have completed it to help others in the same boat, pun intended. Fodors.com also provides lots of suggestions for interesting sights to see and different experiences for countries and cities all over the world. If you are a member of the American Automotive Association (AAA) their website has tons of suggestions for different trips, attractions, and you can save money by using their exclusive discounts.
If your shore excursion is going to include dining, you can get great restaurant suggestions from sites like Yelp and OpenTable. You can peruse menus and even make online reservations so you can ensure you have a table when you arrive.
If you do happen to be located near a seaport, you can look up shore excursion reviews on message board sites like Cruise Critic or Cruiseline.com. Both sites have a long list of excursions with tons of member ratings.
Lastly, you can always check a city’s chamber of commerce site which will have links to websites promoting popular attractions and places that might be great stops on this hometown excursion.
Set a specific agenda and stick to it
When you purchase your shore excursion, either through one of our preferred vendors or directly through the cruise line, you are given a specific description of the shore excursion, an approximate tour length, and you are informed of things you may need for the excursion.
When doing your own hometown tour, you might think about just trying to wing it, but we recommend setting up a simple plan that includes some specific information.
Among the important elements of your trip should be the mode of transportation to and from the location(s) that make up the excursion, departure times and total tour length, whether you will include food (and adult beverages) during the trip, as well as information about venue opening and closing times, driving and or walking directions, and a list of items you will need for the excursion.
If your excursion includes places like museums, organized tours, or shows, we suggest purchasing tickets ahead of time to ensure you get the times you want for that particular attraction. Same holds true for dining as getting a reservation at some of the more popular restaurants that day might be difficult.
Creating an agenda should be easy and fun too, as you get to plan the details of this mini- vacation. You can be flexible in designing your hometown excursion to truly customize it to your party’s interests. Knowing what the tour will include and making sure everyone understands exactly what will and will not be included during the excursion will increase the likelihood that all members of your party will have a good time.
Be realistic when selecting your excursion
When you dream of a day-long excursion, you may be thinking of a nice warm day at the beach, toes in the sand, and a couple of pina coladas in hand. Depending where you live, this may work but you certainly can’t plan a beach break in the middle of January if your hometown is Boston!
While the dreary times of year are probably the days you dream of doing your hometown excursion, you need to keep in mind that you are going to be restricted in the activity choices given your location and the time of year. This does not mean you can’t have fun and do something wild and crazy, it just means you might have to think outside the box and get a little creative when trying to plan an excursion .
Want to do something thrilling and exciting in the middle of winter? Perhaps an indoor ropes course or rock climbing session. Don’t live near the ocean, but still looking for a beach break? Maybe a local lake or river provides access to swimming areas and camp sites that can give you the quiet, relaxing day you were dreaming about. Or if you really need a wet and wild experience in the middle of a New England winter, you might want to try an indoor water park which is open all year round!
By doing a little research, you can set up a hometown excursion that is feasible and fun regardless of where you live and the time of year!
Treat it like you are on vacation
The locals always have a unique way of looking at things. To them, it is no big deal to do a city tour as they live it every day. You would never catch them doing one of those cheesy trips or going to the “tourist traps”.
But, sometimes letting go and doing something that is typically reserved for tourists might actually be fun and informative. It may give you a new appreciation for some aspect of the area that you did not know.
So when doing your hometown excursion, we are giving you the liberty to act like a tourist. Ask questions of a tour guide, take a lot of pictures, go ahead and splurge, eat some ice cream in the middle of the work week. You are on vacation!
You have our permission to go to that restaurant or go see those overcrowded attractions that you would normally avoid. Whatever you decide, most likely you will be surrounded by people who have traveled much farther than you but your fellow tourists do not need to know that.
Have a good time
Most importantly, remember that you are doing this hometown excursion to break up the everyday routine and add a little vacation excitement to your life. So, whatever you decide to do, go all in and make the most of it. Remember to have fun and enjoy this quality time with your family.
If things do not go as planned, or the excursion is not what you thought it was going to be–yes this does happen from time to time–roll with it. If things like weather, traffic, or unexpected events throw you a curve ball, pivot and keep on moving. As long as you are all experiencing the hometown excursion together, whatever happens, your family will have plenty of memories and photos to remember the day trip.
Tell us about some of your hometown excursions. How do you plan mini-trips nearby to get your vacation fix? Drop us a line below to help your fellow cruisers plan their escapes today!