We’ve all probably been on a city break at some point and all made a few obvious silly mistakes. Through a few bad experiences (and some pretty successful ones too, I’d like to add) I’m here to let you know a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Buy the right flights.
Honestly I probably won’t be the first person to say this but even if it means perhaps spending a bit more than you planned, fly from your local airport to the closest airport to your destination. There’s really not much worse than transits of 2-3 hours either side of your flight (not to mention the hidden costs of long bus/taxi/train journeys) and losing such a huge chunk of time that you could be using exploring your chosen city. Almost equally important though is checking your flight time before you press pay. Ideally on a short break you would want to arrive early in the day, as for one, you can maximise time at your destination without the need for extra nights, but also so that you don’t land in an unfamiliar place and have to transit a city late at night and potentially face late check-in fees. As for departing, leaving not too long after the last check out time is the way to go. If your hotel won’t hold your luggage at reception for you after check out, carrying all your bags with you all day waiting for your late flight is just plain tiring and not fun, so a mid-afternoon flight should be perfect if there is one.
2. Research city transport before you go.
If wherever you plan to go has a citywide transport service that offers day passes – some cities offer longer ones aimed specifically at tourists – I would recommend buying the one that’s right for the length of your stay and the places you wish to visit. Sometimes when you’re just looking on a map you really can seriously underestimate the size of a city (one of my ‘oops’ moments on one trip) – planning properly could mean the difference between a cheap 10 minute trip on the metro or a lengthy and expensive hour on a tourist bus getting from, say, your hotel to a famous cathedral. Don’t forget that when you’re not at your destination for that long, as this aspect becomes even more key.
3. Pack efficiently.
If mini-breaking is a regular thing for you, investing in a good, sturdy cabin-sized bag is priceless, ideally one with secure compartments for valuables and ergonomic design to maximise space. Make sure you know your airline’s bag restrictions and be super strict with yourself when packing to avoid your holiday suddenly becoming a whole lot more expensive. You really don’t need five tops for a three night break and anyway, trying to rely on lenient airport staff is a risky business, particularly if you choose a budget airline. If there’s one genius packing solution I have to recommend though, it has to be taking just one travel adapter and an extension lead rather than a ton of those chunky adapters for literally every potential power socket in your room or flat.
4. Choose a place to stay in the right area for you.
Picture yourself on any popular hotel booking site, you enter your chosen holiday dates, you sort price ‘low to high’ for your city and you think you’ve spotted The One. You see a fairly good deal at a four star hotel in the city; it has great sized contemporary rooms, a free mini bar and a rooftop infinity pool. However, when you view the hotel on a map it’s on the outskirts of the dull business district (they’re pretty much all boring and don’t really cater for tourists at all) and almost thirty minutes away from any of the places you want to visit by public transport. This is not the right place to stay or worth the ‘great deal’ unless you specifically want to be in that district or you’re there for a while and so being more central to all the landmarks would be way too expensive. I would definitely opt for a hotel at a similar price point with less cool features, like that pool (that you don’t need as your hotel is only a base for a mini break after all) in a location to suit your trip, on a room only or bed and breakfast basis. For example, choose to stay in the city’s cultural quarter if you plan on visiting famous historical architecture or museums; even if the hotel has a lower star rating, as long as there are good customer reviews you should be good to go.
5. Don’t over-schedule your break.
Spontaneity is good fun wherever you go so as a rule I personally would choose no more than two landmarks to visit or main activities per day. Yes, you’re here to see the best the city has to offer but giving yourself a hectic schedule could ruin your experience – why go on a holiday that will make you wish you were at home? Aside from an element of spontaneity, you need to be aware of how much queueing you’ll inevitably need to do if you want to visit any cities’ major sites, particularly if you plan to visit in peak season, and block out the time for that. Importantly though, a lot of major sites require advanced ticketing – which can include queue cutting – and some that do sell tickets on the day will often run out early in the day and turn you away altogether without one on the busiest days.
Anyway, I hope you found this sort of mini- break mini guide useful and that you enjoyed my first proper post. I’d really appreciate a bit of feedback seeing as this is my first post and you’ll hear from me again very soon.
See you soon,