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Are D​a​y Trips Worth It? What Happened On My Day Trip To Santa Barbara

Travel

Last year, I traveled a lot. There were moments when I was jetlagged and fatigued, but traveling benefited my spirit in a way nothing else in my life has.


I would attribute that to my love of learning more about the world around me. I haven't been out of Los Angeles since January, and I could feel myself needing to feed my inner adventurer. So, I traded in my usual Saturday ritual of couch surfing, ordering in, and binge-watching a series on Netflix for a day trip to Santa Barbara, CA. I'd even contemplated staying overnight, but the way hotel prices in Santa Barbara are set up, that would have been too much of a splurge.

I have historically not been a fan of day trips. They usually leave me feeling tired and rushed. But, most of the day trips I've taken were for work and were usually fours hours (or more) away —making my trek eight hours roundtrip. Since the train ride to the coastal town was just two hours (and I didn't have to navigate through LA traffic), I thought, Why not?

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I bought my ticket on the Amtrak site two nights before and did my usual Sunday chores like laundry, grocery shopping, and wash day Friday evening after work because I knew that I'd want to make Sunday my "do nothing" day. The next morning, my alarm went off at 6:30 am. I rolled my eyes and hit snooze, thinking to myself, Why did I book an 8:21 am train ride? After hitting snooze more times than I can count, I got up, got dressed, and called my rideshare.

I boarded my train, and I was off on my day trip adventure. I even treated myself to a mimosa and cheese plate. My day was filled with trying local restaurants, chatting with the locals, wine tasting, and just taking in the beauty of Santa Barbara. Here are a few things I learned about making a day trip count:

Don't Go Too Far

Courtesy of Bianca Lambert for xoNecole

If you're traveling to a city for the day, consider how far you'll have to drive or ride to get there. My two-hour train ride was just enough. I was able to read, have a drink, and relax while taking in scenic views of the Pacific Coast. My new rule of thumb for day trips is that if you're in route longer than the time you're spending in the city, you might want to make it a weekend trip or choose a closer location.

Plan Ahead

Courtesy of Bianca Lambert for xoNecole

Day trips might seem like something to wake up and do, but without taking the time to think about the things you want to do once you get to your destination, you'll likely waste a portion of your day deciding what to see, eat, and do. TripAdvisor and Yelp can be great guides, but finding information put together by local bloggers or publications give you a chance to explore the city like a local and skip the tourist traps.

Turn Off Anything That Will Make You Want To Scroll

Courtesy of Bianca Lambert for xoNecole

Before I left my house on Saturday morning, I deleted my email and social media apps. I tend to mindlessly scroll when I have nothing to do, and two hours of scrolling on a trip that was meant to help me clear my mind seemed counterproductive. Instead of using my phone to keep me entertained, I brought a book. I know that we want to share our travels with our friends in real time or answer that work email really quick, but you'll only be away for a few hours. Stay in the moment and share your memories with your internet friends when you return home.

Do What You Enjoy

Courtesy of Bianca Lambert for xoNecole

I love visiting art museums and eating at local food spots, but I don't do enough of that in my free time, so I found a way to do all of those things in a seven-hour window without feeling rushed. I started my day at a Parisian cafe called Bree'osh with a bacon and egg brioche bun coupled with a dirty chai latte. I sat in the sun and ate while I read my book. I felt like I was on vacation even though I was just ninety-five miles away. My next stop was the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to see the Kehinde Wiley piece they were showcasing. Of course, I had to leave a little black girl magic there (see above).

Follow The Locals

Courtesy of Bianca Lambert for xoNecole

When you're trying to find things to do in a new city, it can be easy to get caught up visiting all the "hot spots" or touristy areas. No shade to those part of town, but my general rule of thumb is to spend no more than an hour channeling my inner tourist and spend the majority of the time going where the locals go.

Santa Barbara is known for its wine tasting rooms, so I knew I had to go to at least one. I found one that was a little off the beaten path that was connected to a cheese shop. I opted for the twenty-dollar wine tasting, and then went next door to C'est and made my version of a charcuterie board, which was very basic, but was just enough for me. Five pours of wine later, I was feeling it and needed food. There was a must-go-to taco stand on my list, but I decided to go with an option that is known as a local favorite called Lily's Tacos. The tacos were cheap, yummy, and just a few blocks away from the Amtrak station. Once I was done, it was time to head back to the station.

Lately, I've been feeling the need to "get away," to be honest, I've wanted to run away — which I know isn't a good thing. I thought maybe I'd run away to Italy for a month or go off the grid in Sedona, but I know that isn't a reason to travel because running away solves nothing. But, if I focus on being mindful and grateful while tapping into the cities around me, maybe that thought of running away will get quiet (which is what happened). We don't have to plan a big trip to get out of town nor do we have to spend a ton of money. My trip cost me $109, roundtrip Amtrak ticket included.

Next time you want to get out of your home city, think about the places nearby that might have something to offer whether that's nature, good food, or an opportunity to do something out of your comfort zone.

Traveling is good for the soul, and you don't have to go far to get the benefits.

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