So you are all set for your next big trip; you’ve chosen a destination, made your reservations, and even did some quick research or asked a couple of friends who have been there for last minute tips and tricks.
But you don’t just want another ordinary trip.
You want to absolutely enjoy it and get the best out of the place you are travelling to.
You want to come back full of stories of things you have seen and done.
Here are 10 simple things you can do:
1- Pick up the brochures/leaflets in the airport (and read them later): most airports in touristic cities will have them. They are a very good source of information, are usually up to date, and cover a variety of needed services for visitors.
2- Chat with the driver picking you up from the airport: if you are taking a private car/cab from the airport to your place of stay, then use the chance and talk to the driver. Most will be interested in a friendly chat. They will want to listen to what you are planning to do and will eagerly add suggestions, will answer your questions and might even teach you a word or two of their local language (that’s how I learned my first Portuguese word Obrigado!).
3- Receptionists are not only for check -in, they are also your free tourist guide: So ask them for advice, what their personal favorites are, and what they would recommend. Go beyond the mini map you get from them at check-in and get them involved in your trip, you will be surprised how useful the tips and local knowledge you can get.
When in Granada, Spain the best pictures I took of Alhambra was from a place on the opposite side called Mirador De San Nicolas; a tip I got from our lovely receptionist and not something I found in a guidebook.
4- Take a walk around your hotel/place of stay: a good way to start familiarizing yourself with your destination is getting to know your neighborhood. Take a walk discovering the place around you, find your nearest metro or bus station, locate the nearest supermarket (essential for your daily drinks and snacks) and if you are lucky you might find an ice cream or coffee shop tucked around the corner that can become your favorite daily retreat after a long day.
5- Walk, walk and walk some more: don’t go for the metro or the bus all the time. It is indeed a very quick way to get to all the must sees, but it takes away one of the best ways to enjoy a city. Create your own walking tour each day by planning visits to places that are close to each other and that are accessible by foot. You surely will come across some hidden spots you didn’t know about and which will truly make a difference.
6- Take day trips : this is an excellent tip if you plan to stay in just one city in your destination. Look for other cities or small towns that are close by and which have a different flavor or are famous for a special activity (e.g. skiing, spa retreat, theme park). They should not be more than 2-3 hours away from your city of stay, this will give you enough time to spend touring the place and to go and come back within the same day.
7- Go to local places/events: if you really want a travel experience that digs in, then get out of your “tourist comfort zone” and do as locals do. Go to a local park and relax in the sun, visit the weekly flea market, attend a street musical event or go for a sports match.
8- Try local cuisine: A visit to a new country is never complete until you have tried a local dish or delicacy. Don’t always go for the safer option of fast food. Be more adventurous here.
9- Take pictures: as many as you can literally. I may be stating the obvious here for camera lovers, but for many others taking a picture or two in each place of interest will do the job. It doesn’t. And they realize that when they have come back. So don’t fall into this trap…. just keep those cameras rolling all the time.
10- Buy souvenirs/trinkets you come across occasionally: to give you a pleasant reminder of your journey during your day. These can include a piece of jewelry, a key chain, a bookmark, and my two personal favorites; fridge magnets and postcards you can hang up to decorate your desk space.
11- And one extra tip: Try Sal’ Trip Planner; and you will get a trip plan fully customized to your enjoyment :):)