The 30 Hour Mini-Vacation

If budgets are tight and you are still looking for a great mini vacation, try a 30 hour vacation in a city close to home. The key is to make it feel like a full weekend by staying close to home (within an hour's drive) arrive at your destination by mid-morning and stay until the following late afternoon. Besides saving on one night hotel, you don't fight the traffic on Friday night and find yourself relaxed and ready to go on Saturday morning.


This past Saturday, our family headed out to San Francisco to immerse ourselves in the festivities of the holidays and treat ourselves to our mini-vacation. Leaving our home in Marin county at 10 am we headed out to one of our favorite districts - Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights for a bit of shopping and an early lunch at Le Mediterranean, a small Greek restaurant that has been there for over 25 years.  Next we headed down the hill to the Marina where Zoe-Pascale wanted to get desert at Miette, a French Bakery on Chestnut Street and so we said, "Why not. It is our vacation-- anything goes."


In our 20s and early 30s Jean and I had lived in these two areas and we felt our heartstrings being pulled back to the time we were young and childless, hanging out with friends at nearby restaurants. Gazing around we felt nostalgic and sad to say a bit older.


Having booked a hotel at the Marriott downtown we decided to save some of our budget and instead of paying for parking downtown we parked on a side street in the Marina district and took the 30 Stockton down to Union Square. A savings of over $80. This bus ride became our next amusement as Zoe had only ridden the bus once before when she was much younger. Arriving at the hotel, we checked in a bit early and headed off to Union Square for a bit of shopping, a browse through the bookstores, a twirl on the ice at the skating ring, and watching the twinkling lights of Macy's windows come to life with bright wreaths shining with tiny white lights with big red bows.


Back at the hotel we took a rest, read and adorned ourselves in our fancier attire for dinner out at Lulus, a nouveau California cuisine with a brick oven and the best roasted chicken in the city. Splurging on dinner we ordered 3 types of appetizers, the roasted beets and ricotta cheese on bruschetti, were amazing and Zoe sipped her Shirley Temple while we toasted to the future. An hour later we were all satiated with a beef steak, a cassoulet, and fresh tomato Margarita pizza.


By this time we were at hour 10 and felt like we had been gone for days. Returning to the hotel we took a dip in the indoor pool with jacuzzi big enough for 16 and snuggled into bed to watch the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For us this is a big treat as we have no TV at home and our screen is the size of a computer (in fact that is what we watch DVDs on). As a result, the large flat LCD screen jumped out at us with the beauty of Charlie's Chocolate Factory.


22 hours later, we awoke and I happily went down to Starbucks to bring back "Room Service Budget style." Two lattes and a hot chocolate served with hot oatmeal beat the room service breakfast and coffee and at a great price. By 10, we were packed and ready to head out to the Museum of Modern Art to see the Anniversary show, lunch at a nearby cafe, and a whirl around Nordstroms.


By 3pm we grabbed our luggage and headed over to the busstop to catch the bus back to the Marina District. The day which had started out beautiful and bright turned an ugly gray with drizzles threatening to turn big. We are on vacation we said, it doesn't matter, let's end the day with a great walk along Crissey Field from the Marina Green to the Golden Gate Bridge. Over the years the city had upgraded the running/walking path, enlarged the beaches, and provided a vast space for everyone to both exercise and relish in the beauty of the bay. Wrapped in raincoats and carrying umbrellas we forged ahead talking about the new year and what we wanted for ourselves, each other, and the world.


The beauty of the wild bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the peacefulness we felt was such a contrast to the crowds of the city center and Union Square during the Holidays. And yet here we were not even 3 miles away and it was a different world.


The 30 hour mini-vacation might just be the next thing that comes into fashion as hotels look for guests and tourism trys to find vacationers. Meanwhile, create your own, one night hotel is cheaper than two, meals can be at the low or high end, entertainment is vast, and the idea of just getting away for one night is sometimes all you need. 


The secret is find:


  •  a great place to stay at a good price,

  • a hotel that allows you to walk places, and has a pool (indoor in winter).

  • an area where there is something everyone can enjoy


These key elements allow everyone to feel like your 30 hour mini vacation was tailored for them and is as memorable as any other vacation.