Get ready for TripAdvisor to be your new best friend…
I must preface this post by saying that I’m actually pretty shit at planning city breaks and most, if not all, of this advice comes from Mark who is an absolute boss when it comes to travel itineraries. He went interrailing back in the day so not only is he pretty clued up when it comes to European cities, he also knows how to nab a bargain. I’m so bloomin’ lucky that I get to travel with what I do, but more often than not it’s without Mark. So we’ve been saving up his holiday allowance and instead of taking long breaks which are often hard for both of us to schedule in, we’ve been getting on the long-weekend city break bandwagon.
There are so many cities that are on my wishlist and most we can travel to with a plane journey that’s under two hours and a fare that costs less than a train ticket to Scotland. Mad. So we’re trying to tick-off the list and swap the odd weekend here and there from flicking through magazines in our dressing gowns (dream weekend) to exploring new places, eating, drinking and repeating exactly the same the next day (even dreamier weekend). Here are some Mark-advised tips to planning the perfect city break…
SkyScanner is the obvious place to start. There you can compare fares between airlines and see what days and times it’s cheaper to travel. More often than not we find EasyJet to be the cheapest and most flexible, but it’s always good to double check. We like to book flights first because more often than not they’re the things that seem to rocket up in price the longer you leave it, plus that way you can have your exact timings on hand when it comes to booking accommodation.
Once you’re actually out there although the appearance of Uber working on my phone always brings a secret smile to my face, Mark makes me persist with public transport and more often than not it’s one of the fastest ways to see the city and get around the same time. Have a quick google before you go to see what’s the most used way to get around (in Stockholm we ended up using the bikes there a tonne and it was so much fun). Although CityMapper is a fab app to download before you go. It works for a shedload of cities and makes following the metro, buses and trams a breeze, even when everything is in a language you don’t understand.
One thing that Mark’s really good at is working out how to get from the airport to our accommodation before we leave. Although it’s a very boring task, it’s one that makes the process much less stressful because you know where you’re heading when you exit the airport. It usually saves a lot of money and sometimes time too, as trains can be quicker than cabs.
A Place To Stay
This is the part where I start searching on Mr & Mrs Smith and Mark just sits there patiently watching and raising an eyebrow. As lovely as their picks are, for city breaks accommodation sits a little further down the priorities list than usual as you don’t really do much else there aside from sleep and shower. TripAdvisor is a great place to start (I find the function where you can search the reviews for the most-used phrases to be very helpful – if I see ‘noisy’ I’m out). Although friend’s recommendations are often the most helpful – pop up a FaceBook status – and a google of ‘Boutique Hotels in X‘ often comes up with an article from the Guardian, which are always worth a read.
Of course there’s always Airbnb which for me, have always come up trumps. Just be sure to go for a place that has a lot of photos so you can really see what you’re getting before, has plenty of reviews and remember to take a toilet roll in your suitcase.
Whilst You’re There
For food and top tourism attractions, TripAdvisor is again a great place to start, although the first thing that Mark and I do once we’ve settled on what city we want to visit, is purchase a Wallpaper Guide. Not only is like collecting top trumps (plus they look nice on your bookshelf), they house some of the best recommendations for food, culture, hotels, districts and shopping. It’s basically like a mini ‘MAN YOU HAVE TO INSTAGRAM THIS’ guide. They’re small, but perfectly formed so you can throw them in your bag for the day. They also house a section called ’24 hours’ where they pick out their top picks if you’re limited for time in the city. Mark and I always find these places to be the best so make sure that we tick them all off the list during our stay.
Aside from chatting and gathering more recommendations from friends and family who have visited, I also check out What Olivia Did and Wish Wish Wish to see if they have a city guide for where we’re going. They’re bloomin’ fab, so if they’ve done one I always make notes. I also watch back any vlogs from people I follow to see what they did there too – again more notes are added to the list. I’ve done travel vlogs for Stockholm, L.A, Germany and New York if you’re interested. Barcelona – you’re next…
Photos by Me/Edited by Lauren Shipley