Most travel guides will advise that you give yourself enough time to leisurely see a city. But what happens when all you can
spare is a day or two? Rob Blasko from Vagabond3 offers advice for just those occasions:
It’s a big, big world out there, and I’ve always had a desire to explore as much of it as possible. Worldwide exploration can seem an arduous task with only so much time to soak up the sights, sounds, smells, and culture of a trip to a new place. With the right approach though, you can see the best of the best in cities around the world without having to spend days upon days (and boatloads of cash) trouncing from sight to sight. Here are some tips for making the most of a quick adventure:
- Plan ahead for the sights you want to see— before booking airfare, hotel, or additional transportation for your trip. Two big reasons to do this step first:
- You want to make sure your transportation and accommodations are appropriate for what you’ll be exploring; selecting a hotel in a convenient location, and choosing transport options that best help you get from point A-to-B, will make sure you’re wasting little time.
- If you’re not traveling alone, it’s likely that your travel companion(s) will have different sightseeing priorities than you. This is perfectly acceptable, but you should discuss all this in advance to reduce difficult decision making when you’re actually “on location.”
- Do a “second round” planning session, where you fine-tune your hour-by-hour or day-by-day schedule. So you’ve figured out what you want to see, but now it’s time to create a detailed plan of attack. Think of your adventure from a strategic perspective. Using New York City as an example: when’s the best time of day to visit the Statue of Liberty (based on crowds)? Is the Museum of Natural History closed on certain days? Do you need a reservation for the restaurant you’ve planned as a “must visit”? Ask yourself questions like these to create a detailed itinerary for yourself, keeping in mind that you’ll want to group sights geographically so you’re not jumping all over the city unnecessarily. If you’re not getting the picture yet, seeing a city quickly is best done with some really good planning. For some additional assistance in this step, check out resources such as GoPlanit and Trourist, two of my personal favorites.
- Move like you’re on a mission! Of course you want to properly enjoy the beauty and wonder of a new place, but don’t forget you’re on a timeline. If you only have a short stay in a location, you need to make the decision: see a couple of things at a leisurely pace, or pack in as much as possible as if your life depended on it. When choosing the latter, approach it like a time-sensitive adventure— it will make your trip seem more exciting than rushed.
- Talk to the locals for insider knowledge. You may have done extensive research ahead of time, but local residents are usually the best at giving you vital, location-specific advice. Whether it’s a hotel concierge or a guy on the street, ask around for tips and tricks on local transportation options, what sights might be new and exciting to explore, or where you can find some great local grub.
- Be prepared to completely change your plans. Despite all your detailed planning, it’s quite possible that your trip might need to be completely re-worked when you arrive at your destination. The weather could be horrible, or certain sights might be closed unexpectedly. Regardless of what happens, don’t get discouraged. Looking at the big picture, you still have the opportunity to explore a new place. Take charge, change your schedule, and make the most of it!
Whether you want just a really quick getaway, or you have only a day or two to kill before jaunting to your next destination, proper planning is key! So plan like a pro, pack those bags (as lightly as possible, of course), and start exploring the big, big world outside your door.
Rob Blasko is one-third of Vagabond3, a trio of friends prepping for a RTW adventure kicking off in May 2010. No strangers to quick travel, Vagabond3 explored the entire city of Sydney, Australia in 72 hours as part of the 4320:SYD project.