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A mile a minute

How to plan for your day trip across the country

By Rachel Pfeiffer | Echo

One sunny day late in the summer, my brother proposed a day trip — to a destination 1,000 miles away. I’m normally not an adventurous person, but we only had two weeks left before college started again. Summer break was fading away — my last summer break ever. What could I say but yes? Below is a small glimpse of our adventure with some tips on how to plan your own.

Travel light — but pack what you’ll need.
We each took a drawstring bag and were careful to pack only the essentials. Headphones, phone charger, wallets (with cash and debit cards) and boarding passes were all quick choices. After some thought we both added an extra t-shirt and deodorant, and I’m sure the other passengers on our return flight appreciated it!

Plan your transportation carefully.
In the summer months, one can often grab a round-trip ticket for less than $100. We managed to find tickets for $80 each, and just over a week later at 2 a.m. my alarm blared, signaling the start of our journey. We made sure we knew what we were doing for parking (valet) and how much it cost ($25). It was a little more expensive than short term parking, but convenience justified the extra 10 bucks.

A scenic view of New Orleans. (Photograph provided by Rachel Pfeiffer)

A scenic view of New Orleans. (Photograph provided by Rachel Pfeiffer)

We handed the nice man our keys and strolled into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Soon we were in the air, New Orleans bound! Once we landed, we printed our boarding passes at the kiosk for the return flight then took an Uber to the historic French Quarter. Uber isn’t cheap, but in New Orleans there aren’t many options for airport transportation. When you’re only in a city for one day, every minute counts!

Decide ahead of time what you want to see and do.
We had our Uber driver take us to a café in the heart of the French Quarter, and it was a great choice for breakfast. After some coffee and a sugary beignet, we were ready to start exploring.

I highly recommend doing a historic tour of the area you visit. Our tour was free, and many cities offer free tours, but we tipped our tour guide at the end because she did an amazing job. We learned about the founding of the city, the architecture, important people in French Quarter history and plenty more fun facts. Our tour ended at the French Market, which brings me to my next point.

Try the local delicacies.
After some persuading, we tried alligator on the stick from the market. It was very sausage-like and surprisingly good. We were still hungry, so after walking along the boardwalk to the outlet mall so I could charge my phone, we found our way to the Crazy Lobster Restaurant. We decided to split a platter of jambalaya, catfish soup and red beans and rice, with a side of gumbo. The food contained amazing flavors, and I’d recommend all of it except maybe the slimy catfish soup.

Give yourself a good time cushion to get back to the airport.

We explored a little more after we ate, but around 4 p.m. we grabbed another Uber back to the airport. The traffic and security weren’t terrible, but one never knows what it can be like during rush hour. We really didn’t need to head back as soon as we did. We had two hours until we had to board, but better early than late. At 11 p.m., we landed back home, and after an hour drive, I took one of the best showers of my life and collapsed into bed.

All in all, it was definitely a long day, but one I won’t soon forget. We all need to be a little adventurous now and then. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a bag and jump on a plane somewhere — you won’t regret it!

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