Posts about fitness and food will always take pride of place on this blog, but now that holiday season is here, I can finally start working on new content to add to my collection of travel posts. I envy those who get to travel often, because working full time in a job with limited annual leave means that hopping on a flight isn’t usually something I get to do. That said, this year we’ve unintentionally pushed the boat out and booked ourselves four trips abroad! One is a long beach holiday, and the other three are all one-to-four day city breaks ― the first of which was our recent visit to Amsterdam. Keeping these city breaks short is the only way that we get to see so many beautiful places, and despite the fact we’ve have only been on a handful of city breaks so far, every one has been done on a serious budget and a tight timescale. Attempting to see a city in a day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for those of you like me who can’t say no to an opportunity to see somewhere new, I figured I’d put together a little “how to” guide, so you can get the most out of even the shortest of trips.
FIND THE CHEAPEST FLIGHTS
This might mean that you have go travel on a week day, book last minute or go from a different airport, but the more you can save on flights, the more money you have to spend in the city itself ― and if like us you like to try the local food and get involved in some sort of experience, then you’re going to need as much spare cash as possible. I once read that Tuesdays are the cheapest day to fly, so if you can book a day off work to be able to explore somewhere new for half the cost, do it. For our recent trip to Amsterdam, Darryl booked the earliest flight of the morning and the latest flight of the evening so we had as long there as possible, and this also brought the cost down to £125 per person. If you’re not already aware of it, check out SkyScanner to find the cheapest flights!
PRIORITISE WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE & DO
Wherever you go there will be an endless list of places you want to visit, but realistically you won’t be able to visit them all in a day. If you work out what your ‘priority places’ are, then if you don’t have time to do everything, you know which stops to leave off the agenda. We prefer to see more of the outdoors as opposed to museums and other indoor attractions, so we always plan our day based on spending as much time outside as possible. Especially if the weather forecast looks good!
PLAN YOUR DAY HOUR BY HOUR
Once you know where you want to go, map it out on Google via My Maps. Darryl did this for Amsterdam and paid £1.99 on O2 for unlimited data so he could follow our route every step of the way, though from the 15th June using data in Europe won’t cost you anything extra. We managed to see about seven different tourist attractions by doing this, which is pretty good considering we were only there for seven hours! Or you could always do it the old fashioned way and take a highlighter to a city map and carry that around with you. Oh, and don’t forget to plan your transport to and from the airport. As soon as we got to Amsterdam we got our return train tickets to the centre and worked out exactly what time we needed to catch the train back so we didn’t miss a single minute.
SCOUT OUT THE BEST FOOD PLACES
One important tip is to plan everything down to your food stops, because if like me you want to try a certain cuisine whilst you’re there, knowing exactly where to go so you don’t waste time walking endlessly in and out of every other restaurant or cafe is wise. You can usually find good places on Instagram by searching hashtags. If I ever go to London and want to eat out for breakfast or brunch, I search ‘#londonbrunch’ and a million options pop up. The power of social media eh?
When you only have a day in a city, you don’t want to be lugging a huge bag around. As long as you have your passport, boarding passes, money, sunglasses, camera, phone and charger, and maybe one or two other little bits like hand sanitiser, sun cream and tissues, you’ll be fine (just make sure you pop your liquids in a zip-lock bag!). I took a huge bag to Copenhagen and it was such an inconvenience, so for Amsterdam I bought a little backpack from New Look so I didn’t even have to carry it on my arm. Another benefit of this is that you don’t have to wait around for your luggage in the arrivals lounge at the airport, so, win win.
PREPARE TO WALK
We find that exploring a city by foot is way better than spending half your day getting on and off buses and trains. Plus it’s free. We walked 27,000 steps in Copenhagen and 30,000 steps in Amsterdam, which is pretty impressive for someone who barely makes it to 4,000 steps on a average working day. You’ll definitely feel it in your legs and feet as the day goes on and you’ll be exhausted by the time you crawl into bed, but it’s completely worth it. There’s no better way to experience a new place then by walking alongside the locals and countless other tourists all day. My advice? Wear something comfy. Trainers are your best bet and dress in layers so you can be prepared for all weathers. Check the weather forecast before you go too so you can narrow your outfit options down a little.
EXPLORE OUTSIDE OF THE CHAOS
The center of a city is usually packed, so Darryl and I often stray away from the hustle and bustle every now and then to explore the back streets. It’s times like this that you discover some of the best, most secluded parts of a city. Doing this in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Bath, Zurich, Schaffhausen and Lucerne helped us to find so many hidden gems that we never would have seen had we stayed within the typical tourist hot spots!
These trips of ours might be short, but we make the absolute most of them every single time and head home with so many incredibly memories. I love a beach holiday, but there’s something about a city break that is so enjoyable. The best bit? They don’t have to be expensive! It is what you make it at the end of the day. I’m already so excited for the other two city trips that we have planned for later this year. Where should we visit in 2018? Recommendations welcome!