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5 Things to Consider When Planning A Michigan Vacation

Most Michiganders can tell you their favorite places to visit in Michigan, as many of us grow up vacationing in our own state. Whether its pristine, sandy beaches, quiet woodland wilderness, beloved inland lakes, or a trip to the “big city,” Michigan offers a variety of experiences sure to please. If you’re dreaming of a getaway or planning your next trip to Michigan, here’s a few things to consider:

When to go.

At the time of writing this, we’re currently in the midst of winter, with a forecast of 12″ of fresh powder ahead. Now I’ve been told that not everyone loves winter, but if you do, you’ll love the winter playground that is Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. With ski resorts and miles upon miles of ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile trails, along with cozy cabins and dreamy places to watch the snow fall, a midwinter Michigan vacation might be perfect for you.

Of course, Michigan’s beaches are stunning in the summer, with white sands and turquoise waters capable of rivaling your typical southern destinations–plus, shark and salt free! And if you’re looking to travel in Spring or Fall, let nature be your guide. Whether it’s colorful tulips and fragrant cherry blossoms or vistas of firework foliage, there’s a destination in Michigan all year round that you could fit into your calendar.

Where to go.

In Michigan, it’s like getting two states for the price of one! Separated by the straits of Mackinac and connected by the marvelous Mackinac Bridge, the Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula offer wildly diverse experiences. Personally, as a troll-turned-yooper (someone from the lower peninsula who now lives in the upper peninsula), and as a lifelong Michigander, who’s lived, visited, and vacationed across most of the state, I can assure you that your options are as plentiful as they are different.

Each coastline boasts impressive views: from Lake Huron sunrises to Lake Michigan sunsets, to the rocky and painted shores of Lake Superior, looking for a shoreline (or island!) town would make a wonderful vacation. Or, perhaps you want to venture inland, to a quiet lake town, woodland camp, or a colorful, energetic city, choosing where to go depends largely on number three:

What you want to experience.

When I lived in Ann Arbor and frequently met people from out of state, many believed that “nothing” existed up north but farm country and trees. When I talked about growing up along the beach, they couldn’t picture what that looked like, and sadly, few believed or wanted to see the rest of the state. As a Michigan enthusiast, I can’t let that happen to you!

One of the main things I think you should consider when planning a Michigan vacation is what you want to experience, as that may largely determine both when and where you go. So what do you want to do? What do you want to see? How do you want to vacation?

Maybe you want to relax on a sunny beach, experience an exciting summer festival, and enjoy a variety of dining opportunities–maybe you’ll want to visit Traverse City, or Holland, or Charlevoix? If you’re seeking history, culture, and opportunities to connect and learn, maybe a weekend to Detroit, Mackinaw & Mackinac, or Sault Ste. Marie? Or maybe you want to get away from it all, soak in nature, hike, bike, or camp, perhaps a trip to Boyne, Marquette, or Copper Harbor? Luckily for you, whether you want to experience a relaxing getaway or an epic adventure, there’s a time and place for you somewhere in Michigan!

Getting there and getting around.

There are plenty of logistics to consider when traveling, traveling itself being an  important factor. If you’re flying in, say to Grand Rapids, or Detroit, or Traverse City, you’ll have a bit more flexibility if you’re looking to rent a car or use public transportation. But if you’re flying into Escanaba, Marquette, or Pellston, your options are significantly more limited. You can’t (yet) call for an Uber or Lyft in Marquette, or indeed anywhere else across the U.P. and most of Northern Lower Michigan either, so considering how you want to get around is pretty important.

If you’re already traveling by car, then another thing you’ll want to consider is how much time you want to spend in the car. Do you want to get to your destination and stay there? Or do you want to spend your vacation traveling around, seeing just how much you can cram into your trip or taking advantage of additional places nearby? Michigan’s a pretty big state, if you’re traveling end to end, or even one point of interest to another, you may be in the car for a while. For example, did you know that it’s over 600 miles to travel from Detroit to Ironwood, Michigan and Detroit to Copper Harbor, Michigan? That’s essentially end-to-end, ten or so hours of driving! Upper Peninsula treks can be especially distance-oriented, with places to fuel up on gas or food few and far between, so spend some time considering how you’ll be getting around during your Michigan vacation.


In my top five things to consider when planning a Michigan vacation, you’d might expect I’d talk about budget. Surprise! I’m talking about weather. Yes, planning how much you want to spend is important, but whether you’re looking for affordable getaways or luxury vacations, there are seemingly endless opportunities to find a formula that meets your needs. But weather, weather in Michigan is a different story.

The adage, three seasons in one day, or all four in one week, is entirely appropriate. Recently, Michigan had temperature swings varying over 70 degrees (as in, say -10 degrees on Monday, 60 degrees on Friday), in early January. The weather can change drastically, which is probably why us Michiganders are constantly talking about weather–not as small talk, but as a genuine interest and point of consideration. This time of year, you may be stepping out into the frozen tundra of Hoth, or maybe you’ll get gorgeous bluebird winter days. In the summer, you might experience a shift from the 80s to 50s, so layers are important no matter when you’re visiting. And that’s not even to mention the storms that can whip up crossing Lake Michigan or other generous Lake Effect precipitation. In short, mind the weather and bring a warmer layer than you think you’ll need!

Are you planning a vacation in Michigan? What are your favorite destinations or things to do? Let me know in the comments below and continue the discussion over @thebiglakemi.

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