Do you sometimes want to leave everything behind and go to some remote and forgotten place, like the Bieszczady Mountains in Poland? I do, but now I know that you don’t need to run away from your everyday and give up on everything. Each time you change your surroundings you break your everyday routine. My best way to relax is to go on a short trip to another city – the so-called city break. How to arrange such a trip on your own? You will find some insider tips below.
(This article was prepared by Agnieszka Guźniczak-Beim, author of the blog citybreak.me)
From one city to another
Short (3-5 days) trips to popular cities are becoming more and more popular form of travelling. I have come to like this way of travelling because of access to cheap flights and problems with taking leave at my work. This was also the case with my ‘flying’ friends. It is enough to take one day off, Monday or Friday, to drink your morning coffee in a café in Prague or Vienna instead of drinking it at your desk. These are also cities, but changing your surroundings may give you a new lease of life. Apart from that, staying in another place makes us more motivated and active. You try to check as many ‘menu items’ of a given place as possible. The selection is great – ‘menus’ happen to be quite extensive. I started my adventure with city breaks in London, then I went to many other cities: Rome, Paris, Prague, Milan, Barcelona… Of course – the more you have, the more you want.
Before you buy tickets
I recommend you to arrange such trips on your own. A trip is much cheaper and better suited to your needs, although it requires from you some time and skilfulness – but it is a pure pleasure! It is best to track prices of plane tickets at Skyscanner (it is the best if you have in mind certain destinations). It is also worth visiting Fly4free or Loter.pl, where you may find really cheap tickets. Before you start your hunting, prepare your ‘wish list’, which includes a few cities you are willing to visit. Define your city break profile. Decide whether you prefer big cities or small towns, classic destinations, such as Paris, or less typical destinations, such as Bucharest (if you are looking for inspiration, check the list of favourite European destinations at TripAdvisor). Are you going with your children or friends? Do you prefer 4-star hotels to budget hotels or the other way round? You need to determine your budget. How much do you want to spend on your trip? Numbeo will come in handy – you may check there average prices in shops and restaurants in a given city.
What should you pay attention to?
As I have mentioned above, arrangement of such trips requires some skilfulness. With time, you will become more skilled, but in the beginning you will need some insider tips:
- Date and prices
Each destination has its peak season. Because of high demand, rates are higher and sightseeing is less convenient. There are some days in each year when lots of people think ‘maybe we should go somewhere for a day or two’. For example, if you want to go to Prague at the long May weekend, keep in mind that lots of other tourist will come up with the same idea. There are two options: either you pay more, but, on the other hand, make more friends, or you choose less popular time for your holiday.
- Hotel and its surroundings
A view from your window is less important than the proximity of the city centre and main sights or access to public transport. It is worth paying more for a hotel if it is a better starting point for exploring the city, if it will allow you to rest comfortably after a day-long sightseeing and if it is located in an area where you will not be scared of walking at night. You will find more information how to move around the city at, for example, a special forum for travellers at Fly4free.
- Opinions and recommendations
Prepare yourself for your trip by using different sources of information. Ask your friends who have already visited this place – ask them what they recommend and where you shouldn’t bother to go. The review sites (e.g. TripAdvisor, Yelp) are quite objective, but some of the reviews are paid for. It is worth reading blogs, but do not limit yourself to reading only one blog.
- Just like the locals
If it is possible, try to get in touch with someone who lives or used to live in a given city. Tips from the locals are the most valuable ones. My trip to Belgrade wouldn’t have been so special if it hadn’t been for a professor we knew who showed us around the city and provided us with a wider context. If you don’t know such persons, look for them at blogs and forums. Eventually, you may always look around and observe the locals. Where do they eat? What do they order? (The more occupied restaurant, the better food;) Where do they go for a walk? What about a logo on their shopping bags? Ask a friendly barman or a woman working at the hotel’s reception. Nobody knows how this will end. You will be really surprised 🙂
- Flavours and colours
The tastiest part of your preparations. Try to find out what a particular region is most famous for. What do they eat and drink? How to buy products of best quality? Where to buy them? Where can you find the best marketplace? If you learn about such things, you will not be surprised when ordering your meal in a restaurant. If names of dishes are hard to remember, as it is in the case of the Georgian cuisine, prepare a ‘glossary’ (such as this one). You’ll know what you want to try. Feel your ‘food comfort zone’ and break your habits. Be open to new experiences in terms of food.
Flow with the current and… rest
Proper arrangements are important to make your trip free of any problems. Make use of the information you have, but don’t stick to your plan at any cost. Your plan will change anyway, but this is one of the best things about travelling! Trust your intuition. See everything that seems interesting and try everything you haven’t tried before. Find your own ways to explore the city. Keep everything you see in your memory or in a memory card of your camera. Be attentive and focus on details.
About the author:
A Polish blogger. She explores the world from one city to another by going on city breaks or, from time to time, on longer trips. Agnieszka likes to discover – in terms of travelling and cuisine – and to create: cook, bake, write, draw and invent. Since 2013 she has been writing about her passion for travel at her blog at citybreak.me.