This year, my holidays have been very city break oriented.
No big trip to exotic destinations for me, but many (long) weekend getaways to closer, yet just as exciting/interesting/beautiful destinations.
And to be honest, I rather like it that way. Not having to spend hours in a plane means my legs don’t get swollen, and having less days to plan for makes it both easier and much less stressful.
Or does it? The only issue with short city breaks is that, well, they’re short, and giving that old Fear Of Missing Out friend many opportunities to take over.
Is it really the ultimate way to make the most of my time there? Should we visit this or that? Could we really not do both? Is having 5 meals a day the only way to try it all? …You know how it goes!
But I have a few tried, tested & approved tricks to use when you plan a city break to keep FOMO and travel stress at bay.
1. Do your research:
Now, I know this one might seem obvious, but researching your destination will save you tonnes of time (no more pondering your options every morning or wondering what to do next!) & ultimately allow you to pack more into each day.
If it’s your first time in a city, you might want to include some of the ‘obvious’ sights in your itinerary. I find Google & the city’s tourism board website to be the most useful source of information as they’ll give you the full must-see run down.
For additional research (especially for lesser known sights or food recommendations), I usually run a few Pinterest searches. Not only is it an especially attractive search engine for visual people like me, but it’s also a fantastic way to easily find detailed reviews of local places that might not be on the map of the big industry players. Oh, and you can also save all your research right there (I tend to create a secret board that I share with my travel companions), and even get a rough map of each pin’s location, which is really quite handy as well.
2. Plan ahead:
Once you’ve done your research, it’s important to sort through the (hopefully many) ideas to optimise your (limited) time.
My strategy consists of putting all my potential ideas onto a Google Map, and then group them by location according to which ones are close together to limit transport time.
I then use my absolute favourite travel app, Sygic Travel, to create custom itineraries for each day of the city break.
This app truly is a technology god-send: it tells you roughly how long to schedule for each visit, optimises the order of the different things you pin to reduce travelling time, keeps all useful information (including opening hours, ticket prices…) in one place and provides you with an OFFLINE ACCESSIBLE map and directions to go form one sight to the next.
Absolute Travel Grail as far as I’m concerned (as long as you manage to keep your phone charged, that is!)
Evelyn’s Café, Manchester
3. Be flexible:
No matter how ready you are, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes, things just don’t work out the way they should.
Sometimes the weather’s just not playing along with your master plan. Sometimes, the queues are so long they’ll ruin your chances to see anything else that day should you decide to go ahead with your original plan.
And it’s okay. It’s life.
Just make sure you know which sights you absolutely want to see (and if possible, book them ahead as it’ll save you from having to queue up for tickets), and which ones you won’t regret missing out on.
If some visits are strongly weather related, it might also be worth considering switching things up a bit even if it under-optimises your plans a touch.
Worse come to worse, just look for a nice café/restaurant/coffee house nearby and make new plans for the day over a glass/plate/cup of something nice. Or simply explore the little streets nearby. Some of my best travel memories came with spending hours getting lost in such places.
Last but not least, don’t over-plan and try to pack too much in one day/weekend. There’s no point doing things just for the sake of ticking them off your bucket list if you’re too tired to enjoy them. Please take that advice from the girl you one thought it was a good idea to go to the Louvres and the Invalides museum on the same day (it wasn’t).
4. Location, location, location:
Accommodation is cheaper when you’re away from the city centre. True. But that also mean you’ll spend a lot more time and money in transport.
And when time is limited, that’s a trade off that’s not really worth it.
5. Pack light:
Leave all the ‘just in case’ items behind. You and I both know you’re going to be wearing the same things all the time anyway.
Having to register a suitcase will cost you both time and money (not even mentioning the lost/broken luggage-related stress).
Plus the more you carry, the least room you’ll have to bring awesome souvenirs back home!!
What’s your top tip to plan a city break? Any brilliant resource I need to have on my radar? Any part you especially struggle with?
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5 thoughts on “5 tips to plan a city break”
I’ve not heard of Sygic Travel before but it sounds v useful – a step up from my usual Word docs. I’ll definitely look into it for my next trip, thanks for the advice.
I absolutely love it: having access to your maps offline is a lifesaver as far as I’m concerned!
I’ve always done big trips to exotic destinations, but I’m thinking of doing a city break next year so this is all very useful advice! The only thing I’d add is for accommodation try and find a sociable hostel- this can make your trip so much more fun particularly if you’re going on your own!
Very true Alice (even though I must admit I rarely travel alone myself…). Whereabouts are you thinking of going?
[…] forward a couple of years and I’m now the kind of person writing entire blog posts on how to best plan your city getaways. Crazy the difference a little time (and money) can make, […]