On my recent whirlwind trip of Canada, I had only three days in Toronto and although my trip was fleeting, I actually managed to squeeze in quite a bit (which is lucky because Toronto has quite a bit to offer). I am now in the midst of planning two more short trips – a long weekend in New York in mid October and another long weekend in Austin towards the end of October (if anyone has been to either place, I’d love your insights) and so below I’m sharing my top tips on how to make the most of a quick visit – it’s really a very fine balance between being prepared and remaining flexible.
Do your research
Before arriving, make a list of the places that you want to visit including sights, museums, shops, areas etc. Make sure to take note of the opening hours and think about how much time you might want to spend in each place. I think that it’s also particularly important to make a list of the restaurants that you would like to go to – ask friends who have visited before for recommendations or look for restaurants serving the local cuisine or a cuisine that you particularly enjoy.
Mark the places that you would like to go to (including your restaurant choices) on a map and then plan your days around certain areas. This does not necessarily mean that you have to plan every minute but if there is a museum and a restaurant in close proximity then at least you can commit to doing those and then be a little more flexible the rest of the day. Planning your days by area also means that you will limit the amount of time spent travelling, giving you more time to explore. Having a plan however doesn’t mean that you have to stick to it, it just gives you some ideas – it’s important to remain flexible!
Make sure to tell people about your upcoming trips – it’s possible that they have been before or know someone who lives there and can offer some advice. Also, after you arrive, make sure to keep your ears open and take advice from locals – most of the best places to see and things to do are NOT listed in the “Top 10”. Ask the waiter at dinner about his/her favorite bar and head there later in the evening or ask the barista at the local coffee shop about their favorite thing to do in the city and if it appeals to you, head there for the day. Locals always have the inside scoop and will usually know the best restaurants and happenings around town!
By planning your day by the proximity of sights/activities/restaurants, it should be pretty easy to walk between them. Walking is a wonderful way to get the feel of a place and take in the sights and sounds and you may even stumble across a few hidden gems along the way.
Get up early
There is no excuse to be lazy on vacation – set an alarm and get your day started early. Of course, be reasonable, there is no point getting up at 6:00 and then crashing at 20:00 especially if your breakfast restaurant of choice or first activity of the day only opens at 9:00 but don’t snooze until 11:00 either.
Eyes up, phones down
I understand that phones are particularly useful for helping one navigate a new place but if you’ve planned your day and have some idea of where you’re headed then I see no reason to be looking at your phone. So my advice, instead of staring down at your phone, look around you and instead of worrying about what is happening on your phone, be curious about your new surroundings – pop into a little shop that looks interesting, stop and listen to a busker, walk up a sweet little alleyway, have a drink at a local spot and people watch and maybe even get a little lost!