Sometimes travel can be more opportunistic than anything else. For a vacation, we know to plan so many days. For international travel, you plan for at least a week because two days are dedicated to getting there and back. Besides, what's the point on spending thousands of dollars to be in Rome for a weekend? These are the larger trips that are well thought out, budgeted and organized. Then you have the opportunistic trips. These happen when we have a wedding or when a friend decides to ask us on a last-minute road trip. Sure, a few days away sounds great but how do you get anything into those few short days? Easy. Prioritize and don't spend hours in your hotel room.
Last year was kind of a learning experience for me where travel was concerned. For starters, I mastered the art of buying plane tickets at low costs. I also learned that just because a place isn't what you'd expect doesn't mean that it's not worth giving a chance. I learned that you can plan for as many things as you want to squeeze into a day but realistically, you don't have as much time (or room in your stomach) as you'll think you have. However, if you prioritize what's most important to you during your visit, you will get it all in, or at least most of it.
Yesterday I shared some tips on prioritizing your to-do lists. A lot of that also applies to planning a short trip. The first thing you want to do is research and write down all of the things you'd like to do in the city you'll be visiting. This includes any museums, restaurants, outdoor activities like hiking, monuments you want to visit, shopping, etc. Get it all written down listed under the appropriate categories (restaurants/food, shopping, outdoor recreation, culture, nightlife, etc). This will be different for every trip and every person. Now create columns for the amount of days you have. If it's only Saturday and Sunday, you can still make it work.
Now it's time to weed out what you can always come back to. Food and restaurants are the easiest. You can only eat so many meals in a day. Rank the restaurants in order of importance and place them in the breakfast, lunch or dinner time slot. Next, put a star or some kind of symbol next to all of the things you absolutely cannot leave without doing or seeing. Start fitting them into your day. Account for travel time, waiting in lines or any other variables. This will give you a more realistic itinerary.
Another way to organize your time is by grouping everything by location. This is how I personally like to do things. By keeping a day or at least half of a day's activities in the same area, you reduce travel time which gives you more time to explore! I did this in Dallas and San Francisco last year and it worked out pretty well. It gives you the opportunity to cover more ground. So I like to do all my research before leaving by neighborhood. If there are specific things I am dying to see, I'll work around them or add them in between neighborhoods or at the beginning/end of the day.
Finally, do not waste time in the hotel room. I made this mistake in San Francisco by being completely consumed with work and culture shock. I feel that I could have gotten a whole day's worth of more experiences in if I had just left my room. This is something I like to call travel fear regret. Even if you only have two or three days to visit, it is possible to get in a great experience that's also well-rounded. Don't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone but don't be afraid to stay in it either. Walk around as much as you can because you can't really discover things in a car. Most importantly, just enjoy the experience. Stressing out about the time limit will only ruin it for you. Embrace the time you have and make the most of every moment.
What kind of tips do you have for short trips?