No Memorial Day Plans? Get Going with 3 Last-Minute Holiday Travel Ideas


How is it May already? I flipped the calendar in disbelief last week, not only because we’re already five months into 2013, but also because Memorial Day is coming up fast.

Like many of us, I hope to get away for the long weekend, but have yet to make plans.

No worries, though. With any good trip, a laid-back attitude and being open to possibility often results in the most rewarding experiences. Let’s embrace the unexpected, see what’s available, and get going!

Here are some options if you’re also looking to take a last-minute Memorial Day getaway.

1. Go Urban

Here’s a little secret: Memorial Day weekend is one of the best times to visit a major U.S. city. It’s the holiday where urban dwellers head to small towns for barbecues, family reunions, and parades, resulting in quieter, less-bustling cities. It’s also the kick-off weekend for summer, and many locals are more than eager to leave their city for beaches and lakeside retreats. So, if you’re open to bucking the trend, check out a city you’ve been hoping to visit, or a long-time favorite metropolis you’ve been wanting to see again.

At press time, two major online travel agencies (Orbitz and Travelocity) were running Memorial Day hotel sales at cities around the country. You can also call your preferred hotel property (the hotel’s local number, not the 800- central reservations line) and ask if they’re offering any Memorial Day specials. I also like to check the specific city pages of Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Local Deals to find last-minute travel, restaurant, or entertainment deals (just make sure to read the fine print and ensure any blackout dates don’t fall over the holiday weekend).

2. Go Local

So, you may not want to buck the trend (or you’re a city resident yourself), and are longing for that small town, beach, or lake getaway. Take advantage of the three-day weekend to explore the quick jaunt trip – a new-to-you destination within a one- to two-hour drive; or, a series of three day trips, all in your (relative) backyard; or how about a do-it-yourself culinary or attractions tour of your area, where you visit several local restaurants or historic sites you’ve always wanted to experience, but hadn’t gotten around to yet.

Get inspired by consulting the New York Times anthology, 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada, for possibilities both well-known and off the beaten path. I also recommend visiting a region’s convention and visitors’ bureau website to find accommodations, local deals, and things to do, as well as any special events happening over the holiday.

3. Go Far-Flung

While Memorial Day and summer travel may be synonymous with road trips, jetting away for the holiday may satisfy the need for a beach weekend. The key here is letting the deal guide your plan – if you’re not picky, you can find an affordable tropical setting with an umbrella drink just a few clicks away. At press time, I found three-night airfare-and-hotel Grand Cayman getaways from $519 per person with JetBlue Getaways, and three-night airfare-and-hotel Puerto Rico packages from $709 per person with If a beach—any beach—will do, let your budget determine your location, keep an open mind, and you’ll be sure to find something to suit you.

Have a great long weekend, and happy travels!

Image: Julien Haler