I travelled my fair share in my life –for someone that until a month ago wasn’t in possession of a passport, that is. ( Thank you momma Europe). I’ve traveled for different reasons and in different ways, with different types of people. I’ve loved places and felt meh for others, I’ve been disappointed and have been pleasantly surprised. I’ve found the perfect company and some that frankly wanted to kill me in my sleep. But I feel like this all brought me to find a way to actually enjoy myself without needing a holiday from my holiday. On a budget, of course, I’ve got books to buy!
Now, I should first state that my poison of choice is city breaks. I love them, I live for them. I think I will personally go nuts in any other type of holiday. City breaks are often defined by their limited amount of days and way too many landmarks to touch and they can be pretty tiring and overwhelming! If you are anything like me you’ll either end up feeling deflated; feeling like you failed yourself not getting your money’s worth if you didn’t manage to see every single thing, or feel awful about not having deepened the quality of time spent at each landmark, or resting and just soaking in the experience.
So in order of being able to enjoy a four/five-days-holiday with a mix of culture, art, fun, quirkiness and actual local life in a guilty free fairly cheap wrap follow me on this guide!
1) Do your homework!
Whenever you decide on a Place go on Pinterest! You’ll not only get extremely hyped up but you’ll find incredible photos of landmarks, allowing you to narrow down the things you actually want to see! Make a board, have fun! Fill it with museums, monuments, squares, food, local entertainment and whatever makes the place you are visiting special!
This will not only help you pick and give you an insight on the actual time some visit might take ( Pinterest is full of links to “ short breaks guides”) but also give you a place to keep your spare options whether you find yourself having energy and free time to fill!
2) Pick consciously!
Now we have gone a little crazy, our Pinterest board has the size of the Divine Comedy and we only have five days!
Jess, I’m already anxious, hadn’t you promised a FOMO-free guide?
I did, and that’s why you are just going to pick up one place to visit a day, one thing to eat a day and one thing to do in a day.
What? Only one? What about the rest?!?
You are still welcome to do as much as you can, or as much as you feel like! But I find that choosing just one thing it sets the goal pretty low and allow you to just take what comes next with ease and excitement because it’s already “ in plus”! You are on the gain, you are doing more than was expected and you will love it. It will also make you feel guiltless if you feel run down and tired and just want to close yourself in a coffee shop for the rest of the afternoon and read a book! Or indulge in some shopping or in a relaxing lie down in the park ( with a book).
So next time your friend, overwhelmed, asks you to just jump on a Hop on Hop off bus as the last resort to comb through the mass of things that you want to see; you’ll already have a plan to weed through the urban jungle stress-free and seamlessly. You’ll spend all the time you feel right to the one place you picked, stop and get that food you were craving, plan for the evening out at that ( example) quartet classical concert you thought about for weeks and get your money’s worth.
But what if by noon you have already covered your quota for the day and you still have plenty of energy? Then you pick up your Pinterest board and simply look up what you have next! European cities usually have a pretty small historic city center so landmarks won’t be too far from each other and you can enjoy an extra dose of sightseeing!
3) Talk with the locals!
Don’t be English! Ask! What’s actually worth seeing? What’s actually going to give you a nice experience and not make you queue up for an hour under the sun and pay £10 for a house that is frankly quite disappointing. What’s worth eating? Where can I eat actual local food at local prices? Tourist places have two types of restaurants, marketed to locals and the hella pricey, slightly modified to suit the tastes of tourists! You’ll even be able to find carbonara with cream in Italy if you go to a tourist one, you would never in a restaurant targeted to local! And you’ll be paying half the price! Locals are not paid to sway your way! They don’t get commissions and are usually more than happy to show the true nature of their culture and help local activities in the meanwhile!
4) Be clear!
Whether you travel with friends or family or with a group of random strangers, there will always be different ideas of what “ the perfect holiday” looks like. People have different personalities and characters and as such, they enjoy different styles of traveling! The solution? Go on your own!
Ah… don’t feel like it, it’s not a viable possibility? Well, then, be clear! Explain to them your plan for the holiday, what’s on your agenda and how you would like to tackle your bucket list! Listen to their plan too and see whether you can mix things up, compromise or simply decide to divide and conquer so that everyone can have the best of times! Be respectful of other people’s preferences and you won’t have to stay with a grumpy family member who’s mad at you for your entire holiday! For example, on my last holiday with Mother, I knew she was more interested in doing shopping ( she literally brought two empty pieces of luggage with her) than sightseeing! And she isn’t too keen on trying new foods! So we decided to split things! We did my ” one landmark a day” ( sometimes two) and then we went shopping for her. I had to compromise and not eat local food and she had to compromise on sitting through the entire architectural guided tour of the Real Alcázar! And when I really wanted to eat Paella? She just waited for me and later on I waited for her while she had pizza! Once you are clear about your differences you create no expectations and misunderstandings and everyone can have an amazing time!
But– Jess, You said travel cheaply… but where—I was getting there!
5) Book smartly!
Hostels, hotels, and Airbnb, anything goes but the devil is in the details! Sometimes all-included it’s the way, some others it’s just a rip-off or simply doesn’t match with your needs!
Think of your location, the actual time you are going to spend there and the weather you are going to be welcomed by! Is it worth having a slightly further from the center room but with a roof pull if it’s 13 degrees and raining? I don’t think so. Is it worth in Spain in the middle of summer where everything closes around 2 pm and it’s way too hot to be able to survive outside? Hell yes!
When I was booking for Seville my mother moaned and whined about the hotel breakfast, “ I’m the one paying why do you care how much a day is going to cost?” I care because what’s the point in wasting money? £10 each for a ( usually pretty bland) croissant and a cappuccino might seem only slightly overpriced in England but in Spain or Italy is a rip off! With £5 you can easily have a big breakfast in two and even get some change back! We saved £80 just opting out of it!
Also, I gained a very rare “ you were right” From Mother! And four breakfasts with a view of amazing places in Seville!
With small adjustment and maybe stalking booking.com ( not sponsored) for a few days, you’ll be able to maybe give yourself one day more of the holiday! Do you know how else you can carve more time for yourself?
6) Stalk those flights and give yourself two days off!
I check Skyscanner like a typical blogger checks the Zara site. It’s an addiction, it’s a guilty pleasure and it reminds me that I’m poor. Sue me. ( again, not sponsored) but play with Skyscanner. Look at dates from and to. Don’t simply type the days you want and let it rest! Open the monthly display and play with it! Sometimes if you change the date of your departure the prices of your return will change too, some others the bundles are actually not worthy and if you come and go from two different but close airports you will be able to save a lot! I usually have two rules tho:
Depart as early as you can and waste your first day! You will be tired, there is no way around it! Be the flight one hour or 17 you’ll probably be knackered, rumpled and grumpy! Waste a day! Get yourself settled in your hotel and go out for dinner to a random place near your hotel you can use this time to actually talk to local people and find out about what’s actually worthy – like I touched earlier – and find your bearings. Find what’s actually near you and how near is near ( will I be able to walk there? Etc.) so that the next day you can start your day prepared and with all your energy back!
When will you gain your day back? Book the latest possible flight out! But don’t plan anything for this day! This, for me, it’s my favorite part of the journey! The last day for me is a failsafe as well as an opportunity to enjoy things at it’s full. I give myself time to touch my favorite places, eat my favorite foods and maybe go back to that place where I wish I had spent a bit more time. Buy that souvenir you were not sure about but can’t stop thinking of and just say goodbye to a place that from now on will forever be part of my heart. Ten, content, go to the airport with a shit ton of time to spare cause we got anxiety baby and we need to check those bags in!
So yeah, this is my little how to plan a city break. It has been… long! And intense but I find that this method gives me the most joy! What about you? What’s your favorite type of holiday? Would you like to try mine? And, most of all, would you like a mini guide to Seville?