So you've booked your airfare (hopefully saving a little money in the process) and now you're ready to head to your destination. The anticipation builds. What to see? How much should I plan?
Lets be honest, a new city can be really overwhelming. Plethora of guidebooks, Yelp recommendations and that one place your great-Aunt said you just have to try. How can you fit it all in? To help, here's our travel-tested Journey & Play tips for exploring a new destination without all the stress.
1. Use Public Transportation
If you're headed to a city like New York, Paris, London or Rome, taking advantage of the available public transportation can really help give you an insight into the city. In most cases it's the cheapest option for getting around and you'll feel more like a local using it.
Avoid during rush hour times between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. to cut down travel time and cost for a smooth trip. Remember, if you run into a fun busker in the tunnels playing violin, guitar or some homemade instrument, tip them when the performance is over, but don't fall for scams from buskers on actual trains.
2. Take A Walk
There's no better way to experience a new place than by walking. Not only are you going to earn that decadent lunch and dessert, you'll probably run across a few hidden places that you'll love. One of my favorite memories in a new city was walking around Pike Place Market in Seattle with my friend Katie and then just continuing along the waterfront. We ran across a ton of brilliant photo spots that I never would have found without moving my feet.
3. Pick a Starting Spot, Then Explore
My wife and I are coffee lovers so every time we're in a new town, we find a fun little coffeeshop to start our day and then explore the area around it. We started this in New York City by hitting up Stumptown Coffee at The Ace Hotel and then exploring Midtown and the Garment District.
By picking a single starting location, whether that's around coffee, food or shopping, we kept ourselves in a smaller area so we wouldn't get tired of walking around. After all, it is a vacation.
4. Don't Plan Too Much
A new destination can be overwhelming and overloading your schedule can quickly turn your vacation into working tourism. The idea is to slow down, enjoy your surroundings and make memories. Leave some breathing room in your schedule to reflect and react. Not only will you feel more relaxed and enjoy the trip more, you'll probably remember it better because you gave yourself time to savor the newness of it.
Remember, there's nothing wrong with taking a random gelato break in Venice to watch tourists queue to go into St. Mark's Basilica. Take the time to be silly and enjoy yourself. That's when memories are made.
5. Keep Track Of What You Find
Our last trip to Paris was punctuated by walking around the 15th Arrondissement looking for a pizza place my parents and I had visited years earlier. Why? Because I had failed to write down the name of the restaurant. A travel journal is an invaluable tool for logging those off the wall places you find on your first visit when everything is new and fresh.
There's lots of ways to document your experiences. If you'r not a pen and paper person, try using Notes on your phone or starting a Google Map for the destination. It'll make recommending spots to your friends much easier and make you look even more in the know.