When it come’s to travel planning I’ve had to learn a hard lesson: You can’t see everything.
It sounds like pessimism, and being the sampler that I am it was a tough lesson to learn. But as it turns out, coming to this realization is incredibly freeing. A lot of people tend to approach a new city/country with a list of must-sees/a checklist from friends/family/pop culture/guide books/blog posts. But running around trying to check off each item is a recipe for disappointment and is almost guaranteed to keep you from some of the most unique and memorable experiences.
What’s important to you?
What inspires you? Music? Food? Art? Nature? Then make that your priority. This might change depending on your location, but if you can take or leave something, don’t make yourself do it just to check off a self-imposed tourist scavenger hunt.
All that said, a good plan can make the most of time you do have.
If you want to get the most you can out of your vacation, having a game plan is essential, and there are plenty of tricks that can maximize your time
- Book open-jaw tickets instead of round trip. An open jaw ticket is a ticket that flies to one city and out of another. For example, I could fly out of DC to London, then, at the end of my trip fly from Edinburgh back home to DC. This means you can cover more ground without having to backtrack.
- Go in the off season. I often travel to Europe during November, and the difference in crowds and wait times adds saves so much time (and frustration). It doesn’t hurt either that lodging, tours, and airfare is far cheaper.
- Plan your vacation around days off. If your company offers you days off for certain national/bank holidays, make as much use of it as possible. I’ve often used the Thanksgiving holiday when I had two days off of work. I only needed to take 3 extra days off to complete the workweek – with the two weekends bookending that week, I could plan a 9-day vacation that only used 3 of my vacation days 🙂 Labor Day, Presidents Day, etc, could all give you an extra day that you don’t have to take from your precious pool of vacation days.
- Take a free city tour. The “free” (you DO want to tip) city tours that many large cities offer can be a great resource. It helps you orient yourself in a new city and provides a few quick highlights which may help you to decide to go more in-depth or skip an attraction. These guides also usually have great tips for off the beaten track places that you may not normally find. Hit up Tripadvisor to see what others say about different companies – some are certainly better than others.
Finally… plan some time… for no plans.
It’s easy to over schedule yourself – make sure you have some time to just wander and discover a city. Getting lost has provided me with some of my favorite experiences!