Did you ever visit a city when you only had 24 hours to see the sights? If so, you could have used some tips from Kathleen McLane and Laura Maldonado.

They’re not travel writers. Rather, they’re students on a budget who use linear programming to get the most out of their quick trips.

Maldonado and McLane study math at George Mason University in Virginia and started a blog — America in a Day — where they offer travel tips resulting from their mathematical efforts. They have followed their own advice in Miami, Seattle and Washington and hope to feature Boston, Atlanta, New Orleans and Austin, Texas, on the blog soon.

The two students will tell you what to see (Washington’s Natural History Museum has “awesome interactive games”), but their tips on traveling efficiently are their strength.

Lines connecting numbered points to show route (Courtesy of Kathleen McLane and Laura Maldonado)
Daytrip to Washington: 1) Lincoln Memorial, 2) World War II Memorial, 3) Washington Monument, 4) American History Museum, 5) Natural History Museum, 6) Air & Space Museum, 7) U.S. Capitol, 8) U.S. Supreme Court, 9) U.S. Library of Congress, 10) Thomas Jefferson Memorial, 11) White House, 12) Renwick Gallery and 13) Kennedy Center. (Courtesy photo)

The students create a route that maximizes the time at attractions and minimizes travel between them. “We aim to keep each trip under $250, [but] factoring in flights, food and other items we might need, this gets very tricky,” McLane said.

They use geometry and complex graphs to make their recommendations.

The idea for the project sprang from their desire to travel during a spring break when they had other commitments and little money. “We came up with the idea to just travel for one day,” said McLane. “After that, we just started using our ideas from different math classes to optimize our trip.”

Madonado and McLane hope to adapt the “America in a Day” model to international travel. Their professor is reaching out to South Korean teachers to explore possible “Korea in a Day” projects.

Wherever their travels lead them, McLane said, they hope to “get kids excited about learning mathematics.”

Want to study math — or any other subject — in the United States? Learn about life at U.S. colleges and visit EducationUSA to plan your studies.