When visiting a foreign city for the week-end, there’s always an overwhelming desire to see and do it all. I don’t know about you, but whenever I plan a long-list of activities or sites to visit on a short break, I’m lucky if I even manage a third of what I initially envisaged. Nowadays, after having learnt my lesson about a dozen or so times, I’m a lot more realistic of how much I can accomplish in just three days in a city.
I now know that I need to account for time getting to and from places and I also keep my energy and interest levels in check. No matter how much I may want to museum-hop aaaalllll day, I know I get bored after about three hours. So I keep it real. My enjoyment of getting jostled in big crowds is also time limited to about four hours, so I also no longer plan a full day outing to a major shopping street or busy commercial area.
Here are some tips on how to maximise your time, and minimize your stress!
Make an itinerary
Making a detailed itinerary does not mean you must stick to it at all costs, but it does mean that if you spend a couple of hours deciding what you want to see and do, above all else, you’ll waste no time doing any kind of research once at your destination. This will also mean that you won’t ‘forget’ to do something you deemed imperative, just because time has gotten away from you. I also like listing activities and points of interest in order of importance, so it keeps my priorities at the forefront of my mind. Be selective with your choices and don’t forget to be brutally honest with yourself! You simply can’t visit every museum or hip new bar in a city in just a single week-end, so deciding on your top two preferences will help you combat your FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out’.
I’m not an inherent planner by nature, yet I’ve found that making ‘plans’ for the week-end has also eradicated time-wastage at home. If you’ve uttered the phrase ‘the week-end just slipped away from me’, you may want to try this out too.
Book a half-day walking tour
Call me a tourist...but I love walking tours! A swift 3-4 hour tour of a foreign city, lead by a knowledgeable English-speaking local guide, can teach you more about a place than hours spent hovering over Lonely Planets. I usually book this for first thing in the morning on day one. Normally, I’d be tempted to sleep in a little and enjoy a lazy breakfast; yet if I know that I need to join a tour at 9am this gets me out of the shower and the hotel door in a jiffy. I find this ignites my energy and my interest for the whole day. These tours are also an invaluable way to get your bearings around a city’s centre and give you a good idea of what you’d like to return to at leisure.
Combine and conquer
The ‘divide and conquer’ credo may work effectively in battle, yet the opposite is true when it comes to a week-end away. Rather than spend two hours of my day touring a stunning theatre or opera house, and a whole evening doing something else, I now prefer to do both in one swift move. Booking tickets to a show or concert in a prominent theatre has become my absolute favourite thing to do when travelling. Not only do I get to see some of Europe’s architectural gems at their very best, I also enjoy a spot of cultural entertainment to boot.
Make it a little bit ‘you’
I’m a runner. Not only that, I’m an early morning runner. If there’s one thing which can upset my mood or disrupt my energy levels, it’s being forced to forgo my daily jog; this holds true whether I am at home or on a week-end away somewhere. My most revered ritual is discovering a new city at day-break whilst indulging in my beloved hobby. I find the eerie sleepiness and raw solitude of jogging at first light, when cities are lazily waking form their slumber, an absolutely splendid way to get a feel of a new place.
You may not be into jogging, but perhaps you enjoy reading, power walking, doing Sudoku or listening to music. Whatever it is, incorporating your most beloved past-time in a week-end away somewhere, by heading to a park or a lake, and indulging in your interest, can have an incredibly relaxing effect. Moreover it will also not make you feel like all you’re doing is running around like a headless chook trying to get your list ticked-off.
Remember that while you may not want to ‘waste’ any of your week-end away time, it is important to recognize that doing sweet nothing in splendid and new surroundings can revitalize and nourish your soul more than a thousand museum visits ever could.