Whether you’re visiting Barcelona or Boston, there are two things on every traveler’s mind: saving time and money. If you’re independently wealthy and money is no object, then I’m volunteering right now to be your personal tour guide (for a reasonable fee, of course). But even if you’re covered on the cash front, you’ll still want to make the most of your travel time. That’s where these tips come in.
Tip #1: Find a grocery or convenience store close to your hotel/hostel
This one seems like a total “duh,” but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent big money for three square restaurant meals a day. If breakfast isn’t included with your room, head down to the store and grab some bagels and jam to stash in your room (no fridge required). I’d also recommend grabbing some snacks, for those times when you’ve collapsed in your room after a long day and just want to relax, watching dubbed reruns of The Hills. While it can be intimidating to wander the grocery aisles in a country where you can’t read the labels, it’s also a great way to get an inside peek at the day-to-day life of the city (or discover a new favorite; I’m thinking of you, Mezzo Mix, delicious cola-and-orange-flavored soda I discovered in Munich). Plus, how can you expect to get through a day of sightseeing unless you have an apple or a granola bar to munch on?
Tip #2: Get a Good Map
I still don’t have a smart phone (I know, I know…) but my paper maps have never failed me. I usually won’t pull them out in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, but you can always duck into a store or onto a side street to consult your trusty guide. The few times I’ve relied on guidebook maps (which can be ok, but are usually broken up into smaller pieces and never give me a good sense of the city overall), I’ve been frustrated by missing streets and not-enough-detail. So invest in a good, comprehensive map. Because the last thing you want to do is waste precious time walking in circles.
Tip #3: Only pack what you can carry
This was a tough one for me to master, but when you do, it’s so worth it. I haven’t checked a piece of luggage in 10 years, which means I don’t have to worry about losing my bag, paying to check anything, or waiting around a baggage carousel (when all I really want to do is start exploring). Get a good, regulation-size carry-on, and learn to love rolling your clothes. The key is to bring things that all coordinate with each other (so maybe reconsider bringing that hot pink polka-dot jacket if it doesn’t go with anything else). Accessories like scarves and earrings are a great way to add color and interest without weighing down your suitcase. Also, there are laundromats everywhere and hotels usually have laundry service (and if all else fails, you can always find a sink) in case there’s an emergency and you have to wash some clothes. For me, I’m more concerned about the sights in front of me than the clothes on my back.
What are some of your best travel tips?