Travel Tips For Planning Your Pure Michigan Vacation

The moment planning a vacation begins is the moment it feels real. There’s no more wishing or “what ifs” about your perfect getaway, just the excitement of finalizing details and the anticipation of the day you finally pack and get on the road. But in order to get there, the real planning needs to begin—and that can be the hardest part. 
In 2019, 768 million vacation days went unused by Americans, and 236 million vacation days were forfeited altogether. This year, to make sure your vacation time doesn’t pass you by, we invite travelers to participate in National Plan for Vacation Day. Created by the U.S. Travel Association, National Plan for Vacation Day falls on the last Tuesday of January every year and encourages travelers to plan their vacation days for the whole year.

Why Vacations Are Important

Woman swimming in Lake Superior on sunny day
Paradise Cove on Lake Superior | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

A break from the office can do wonders for our well-being. Studies show that those who go through the process of planning out their vacation time are happier with their interpersonal relationships, experience increases productivity and job satisfaction, and are healthier overall. Research also shows that being outside in nature not only feels rejuvenating, but it really does have health benefits. So, if you find yourself flipping through the calendar and waiting for the next holiday, create your own!

Now is the perfect time to plan your Pure Michigan vacation. To help you get started, here are our vacation planning recommendations.

Travel Tips To Help You Plan

Couple sitting around campfire at camp site
Camping at Port Crescent State Park | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

Even though you may know where you want to go, tackling the details is sometimes a daunting task. Here are five tips to help you plan your vacation.

Tip No. 1 – Find Your Perfect Place To Stay

One of the most important things to plan is booking the perfect place to stay. If you want to spend evenings strolling charming downtowns, choose a central location within walking distance. For a camping trip with the whole family, make sure you review the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. No matter what you’re looking for, Michigan has everything from resorts to campsites and bed and breakfasts to boutique hotels.

Tip No. 2 – Explore Travel Deals And Packages

Another thing you will want to consider is looking for travel deals and packages in the area you’re visiting. Many hotels, wineries, attractions and more offer deals and discounts throughout the year for travelers, whether it’s a romantic weekend away, a family-fun getaway or an outdoor adventure with your friends. Discover upcoming deals and packages in Michigan here.
Tip No. 3 – Look For Events
Once you’ve planned the basics, see if there are any nearby events or festivals (or, plan your vacation around an event). Michigan communities host a diverse range of events like the iconic Traverse City Film Festival, ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Festival, Tulip Time in Holland, the UP200 dogsled race in the Upper Peninsula, pow wows throughout the state and much more.
Tip No. 4 – Plan Your Trip Itinerary
Researching the main attractions to experience on your vacation is a great way to ensure make the most of your trip. Michigan has scenic routes along coastlines and through forests that make for picture-perfect road trips throughout both peninsulas. If you’re bringing your pet along for the ride, check out Michigan’s variety of pet-friendly destinations, attractions and outdoor spaces. Michigan is also a top destination for accessible travel, so everyone has the opportunity to experience outdoor recreation and sensory-friendly attractions.
No matter your destination, the opportunities for making memories are endless. To start planning your trip, find more trip ideas here
Tip No. 5 – Don’t Plan Everything
While planning your itinerary and must-sees and -dos on your trip will feel like you’re setting yourself up for the perfect vacation, make sure you leave room to explore. If you have your days packed from breakfast to bedtime, you might end up passing by some of the most memorable hidden gems. So take your time, live like a local and let yourself truly unwind on your vacation.

Michigan Destinations And Trip Ideas

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning to your favorite vacation spot, Michigan has some must-see destinations and attractions.
Outdoor Adventure
Michigan was named the top travel destination in the world for outdoor enthusiasts in 2020 by TripSavvy, and it’s easy to see why. With more than 3,000 miles of shoreline and 19 million acres of forests, the opportunities for adventure are endless.
Man hiking along coast of Isle Royale
Backpacking at Isle Royale National Park | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

In the Upper Peninsula, kayak or tour by boat along the multi-colored sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the beautiful waters of Lake Superior. For a true, remote escape from the routine of daily life, take a seaplane or ferry to Isle Royale National Park in the northern region of Lake Superior. As you hike or backpack the 165-mile network of trails, discover the island’s iconic moose population and other abundant wildlife. Outdoor enthusiasts can also find spectacular mountain biking, fly fishing, waterfalls and more in the UP.
In the northern region of the Lower Peninsula, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers some of the best panoramic views of Michigan’s natural landscape. With 64 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and towering bluffs that rise 450 feet above the water, the park is perfect for everything from hiking to fishing or snorkeling to snowshoeing.
Scuba diver swimming above shipwreck
Scuba Diving at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary | Photo Courtesy of Joe Gall

On the east side of the state in the waters of Lake Huron, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a true hidden gem in Alpena. Nicknamed “Shipwreck Alley,” there are nearly 100 shipwrecks within the sanctuary, some dating back as far as 1844. They can be explored by scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking and more.
There’s even more adventure waiting for visitors throughout the state. Michigan is home to more than 100 state parks, seven national parks, four national forests and more. If you’re looking for a golf getaway, Michigan has 650+ golf courses to choose from. You can even find otherworldly stargazing and northern lights in Michigan’s dark skies at six dark sky preserves and Headlands International Dark Sky Park. This year is the perfect time to plan to try a new outdoor activity during your vacation.
Urban Escapes
Along with seemingly endless outdoor adventure, Michigan is home to vibrant and exciting attractions and urban areas.
Explore exciting cities like Greater Lansing, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Flint where you can find top-notch entertainment, arts and culture, sporting events, dining options and places to stay.
On the west side of the state is Grand Rapids, also known as Beer City USA due to its thriving craft beer scene. Here you won't want to miss out on the amazing museums and arts attractions as well, including the famous Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. In Detroit, there is a diverse variety of dining options as well as professional sporting events that can be enjoyed year-round. In the Greater Lansing area, Michigan’s capital city, discover small-town charm in an urban setting and explore unique neighborhoods like Old Town or nearby East Lansing and Michigan State University.
Buildings in downtown Detroit
Downtown Detroit | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, is a lively college town with a range of boutique shops and dining options. In Kalamazoo, get a flight of beer at the iconic Bell’s Brewery or shop at the nation’s first outdoor pedestrian mall at the historic Kalamazoo Mall. If you’re looking for outdoor opportunities and urban attractions, check out Flint where Michigan’s largest county parks system and a variety of museums and galleries can be found. When you head north, Traverse City will welcome you all the excitement of a vibrant and urban downtown set against a stunning northern Michigan backdrop.
From nightlife to casinos and museums to shopping, Michigan’s cities have something for everyone.
Attractions & Unique Hidden Gems
Whether you’re headed to the wilderness or the city, Michigan has a lot to offer from unique hidden gems to must-see attractions.  
For a day full of thrills, visit Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon, which is home to seven rollercoasters and the state’s largest outdoor waterpark. For an adventure on the wild side, check out Michigan’s zoos and aquariums. Whether you’re exploring Detroit Zoo’s extraordinary penguin conservation center or feeding giraffes at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, your sure to have unforgettable interactions with wildlife from around the world. In spring 2020, visitors will even get to meet Jaali at Lansing Potter Park Zoo, a new black rhino calf.
People visiting St. Joseph lighthouse
St. Joseph Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

With thousands of miles of coastline and a rich maritime past, Michigan’s historic lighthouses can be found throughout the state and are waiting to be explored. Some lighthouses have even become bed and breakfasts, so you can even stay the night just as lighthouse keepers had when the lights were still in operation. You can dig deeper into the Great Lakes’ history at museums like the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena.
Immerse yourself back in time at the iconic Mackinac Island, located in the Straits of Mackinac between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas and home to the famous Grand Hotel. Here motorized vehicles are prohibited, so your only option is to enjoy spectacular views of the water and island via horse carriage ride or bicycle. You can also get a glimpse into the past is in Ossineke, home to the unique Dinosaur Gardens where the whole family can explore a forest of more than 25 life-size reproductions of prehistoric dinosaurs and birds—as well as mini golf.
Experience Four Seasons
Not only is Michigan home to four of the five Great Lakes, pristine forests and diverse natural landscapes, but it also experiences beautiful changing seasons. So if you’re not planning your vacation in the spring or summer, there’s still a variety of travel opportunities.
Woman cross country skiing in snowy forest
Cross Country Skiing | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

In the fall, experience the fun of warm-weather travel with fresh, crisp air and a stunning change of scenery. Travel on scenic routes and trails where trees have changed to vibrant reds, golds and oranges, or visit apple orchards for apple cider or refreshing hard cider. When winter arrives, try a new sport at one of Michigan’s 47 ski and snowboard areas. Discover a peaceful winter wonderland as you trek across thousands of miles of snow-blanketed trails with cross country skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles. To stay warm, find indoor fun at world-class museums, indoor waterparks and cozy wineries.
This is only a sample of what you can find in Pure Michigan. If you’re still unsure of what trip you would like to plan on National Plan for Vacation Day, check out our Featured Destination Finder that will help you choose the perfect destination based on your interests and season of travel.