Friday 26 April 2019

How I plan my city breaks

I've done a few blog posts about planning holidays and city breaks, and this one is a bit different - it's about planning things to do and where to eat etc, rather than the nitty gritty of spending 6 hours on Skyscanner looking for flights or choosing the perfect Airbnb (get some money off if you sign up through my link, too). So without further ado, here's how I plan my city breaks...

Getting around on a city break

Once I've got my flights and accommodation booked, my next step is usually working out how to get from the airport to where I'm staying. A transfer is most people's obvious go-to, but they can be SO expensive so it's definitely worth looking around. If you google, for example, 'Gdansk Airport to *address of where you're staying*' you'll get directions via car, public transport and walking or cycling. I've used the Hard Rock Cafe as an example as it's pretty central, but obviously just type in exactly where you're staying and see what the best option is. When I went to Mallorca I was staying in the middle of nowhere, and I used this method to work out which bus stop at the airport I needed to go to, which bus to get on, and where I could get off the bus closest to my apartment. There are coaches available too which you tend to have to book in advance - for example when I travelled to Brussels I booked a Flibco coach to get me from the airport to the city.

screenshot of google directions function
You can also get a local taxi, of course, which I definitely recommend if you're travelling at night. But make sure you check online which is the most reputable to company to use (Trip Advisor can often be a good source for this) and how much you should be expecting to pay. Most airports have a taxi rank, or more than one, but sometimes you might need to order an Uber or a local taxi - a lot of them have apps now, so it's really easy to do. Keep a portable charger on you so you've definitely got enough battery life to order said taxi!

flibco bus at brussels airport under a blue sky

Getting around for the rest of your trip is up to you - I tend to mostly walk, because the cities I visit aren't huge and you get to see some cool things you might not have otherwise seen if you're just walking from A to B. Using taxis the whole time isn't the best idea, we're trying to save the planet here, but if it's late and you don't feel safe then it can be a good idea. Public transport is probably best, though, and you can use the Google search above to work out what bus or train or tram you need to get, from where and what time. If you go onto the app store, too, you can type in 'Paris public transport' for example and there's plenty of apps dedicated to getting you around each city.

Deciding what to do on a city break

Most cities have such a variety of things to do - just type in 'things to do in Warsaw' on Google for example and you'll be met with lists galore on blogs and travel guide websites. It can be overwhelming when there's SO MANY options for how to spend your time during a city break, so it's worth writing down everything you want to see and do then working out which ones are a must for you. For example, I know when visiting Kraków most people would consider visiting Auschwitz as a must, and if you're in Rome then the Trevi Fountain is probably high on your list. If there's a few of you going, make sure everyone picks one thing they really want to do during the trip; that way, nobody's disappointed and you get to do a range of activities.

brussels atomium in the sun with green trees in the forefront

If you're looking for something a bit different, try Atlas Obscura for recommendations of things to do and see that are a little bit strange and often not overrun by tourists. I also, of course, check out whether other bloggers have been to and/or written about trips to various cities - for example if I wanted some recommendations for visiting Wroclaw, I'd look on Kirsty's blog because she's been there loads. But I also head to twitter and type in the name of the city I'm going to followed by #travelbloggers to see the blog posts people have promoted. The same goes for YouTube and Pinterest, of course! Word of mouth is good, too, if you've got friends or family who've been to the city you're planning on visiting.

Finding the best places to eat on a city break

When it comes to eating and drinking when I'm abroad, I mostly rely on bloggers and word of mouth - this is why I always do a 'where we ate in...' style post whenever I return from a city break or holiday where food has been a big focus: Lublin, Prague and Warsaw. So when I'm planning my next city break I'll type into Google something like where to eat in Gdansk and hopefully find a blog post full of recommendations. This often also leads to Trip Advisor, which I like because they separate it into different price points, but I find blog posts easier to read in all honesty. Word of mouth is good for finding restaurants too, and honestly quite often you'll just stumble upon one that looks good - or hop onto Google again and type in 'restaurants near me' and the map feature will again show you a list of eateries nearby that you can then search for reviews for.

flatlay style image of pizza chips and gnocchi on a wooden table

If there's a group of you and you're struggling to decide where to eat because you all want something different, consider splitting up occasionally or letting a different person decide each day. Make sure you take into consideration your vegan pals or those in the group with certain intolerances and allergies, though! When I used to go away with uni (check out this really old blog post about when I went to Berlin with my course) my friend who I was always with had to follow a gluten-free diet, so we always made sure we went somewhere with a comprehensive gluten-free menu because while we would definitely be able to eat there, there was a chance she would have to miss out if we went somewhere that didn't cater to a gluten-free diet. Does that even make sense? I hope so!

Other parts of planning a city break

There's not much else to it, but when it comes to money you need to consider your options. I have a WeSwap card (get a tenner on yours if you sign up through my link - CLICK HERE) which I use if I know I'm going to be somewhere that accepts cards or has ATMs. There are plenty of similar travel cards on the market, so it's worth checking which one has the best deal when you're looking to sign up for one. But when I went to Mallorca, I knew I was staying somewhere pretty remote (the nearest shop was around a half-hour walk away) and I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to use my card; so I got some euros out in cash before I went. Just something to think about.

Another thing is the weather, because it affects what you're going to pack - always have a look at the average weather for that time of year, and keep an eye on the forecast. Equally have a look on Instagram to see what the locals are wearing/doing/saying and it'll give you an idea of whether or not to leave your knitwear at home!

So that's it, really - when it comes to planning city breaks, search engines are your friend but so are bloggers and travel writers. It's kind of why we do it, really. If someone's been to your upcoming destination, find out what they have to say and I can guarantee they'll have some information for you to help with planning a city break. And enjoy...

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