Lisbon

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I’ve just returned from a few sunny days in Lisbon, a city that I’d previously made the mistake of overlooking. Portugal just wasn’t on my radar – not part of my European canon of long-cherished dream travel experiences. I’m happy to admit that I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Lisbon is white-hot at the moment and buzzing like crazy. As I write, they are hosting Eurovision and the city is reaching fever pitch with passionate fans of the annual song contest descending in droves. The food in Lisbon is fantastic, the people are friendly, and the prices are reasonable – for example, we made their excellent transit system our bitch for 3 days and it cost less than 15 euros each, including our trip to the airport.

I’d tell you to go, but the secret is already out – it seems like half the people I know are already planning to visit, or are wandering around those crazy cobblestone streets right now.

Armchair Travel

I love sharing other people’s wonderful media and photography and no matter how much I fill my phone with snaps, I appreciate the next level photography I find online:

Richard Ayoade just slays me – his Travel Man series may veer off into silly an awful lot, but you still get a good sense of the city:

Also,

15 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Lisbon – Condé Nast Traveler 

and

These 18 Pictures Will Convince You That Lisbon Is the Most Beautiful City in Europe – Culture Trip

Food and Drink

We really lucked out on this trip for eating well. I did a little bit of research and ‘starred’ a few noteworthy places (something I talk about here), but we also threw a few random walks down random streets into the mix and were handsomely rewarded for our adventurous spirit.

Honorato Hamburgueres Artesanais – totally random pick, saw it across the street while walking in our AirBnB’s neighborhood, knew we were on to something awesome before we even crossed the threshold. They have a simple menu of burgers, and they endeared me to them further by offering mini versions at smaller price points. Wash your burger down with a fishbowl-sized gin & tonic – flip through their impressive cocktail menu, or order their cocktail of the day.

 

Time Out Market – all I can say is WOW! This place! Bring your appetite, bring your patience, suppress your aversion to crowds, because this place is absolutely amazing. I’ll let Time Out explain it in their own words:

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Have a look at their Instagram page here to get a sense of the size and scale of the market. Our group opted to sit outside – it was such a lovely, sunny day and a bit more peaceful to sit and get table service at Balcão da Esquina. My pork sandwich seemed like a quick choice while scanning the menu but it was damn tasty, on some of the best bread I’ve eaten in ages. While wandering around the market after lunch, I could see myself coming back to Lisbon on a longer trip, simply to have more opportunities to eat at all the other excellent restaurants.

 

And a huge thanks to this Guardian city guide for tipping me off to Palácio Chiado, a palatial (#sorrynotsorry) set of five restaurants under one roof. The best part?  You can order off all five menus no matter where you are seated. This meant we could start with Spanish acorn-fed 100% Ibérico ham, olives and bread, move on to a Hawaiian poke bowl filled with bite-sized chunks of sushi-grade raw salmon and Japanese flavours, while the husband could go another healthy direction – grilled tuna covered in chimichurri sauce on a bed of millet and sweet potatoes. Then I veered over into Italy for some gelato, and Jeff finished things off with a nice glass of port. A great restaurant if you and your group aren’t quite sure what you’re in the mood for, but you know you want great food in beautiful surroundings. Sounds like me, all the time.

Fun

You don’t go to a city dubbed ‘The City of Seven Hills’ without craving a few lookout points. A few of my favourites:

Miradouro de Santa Luzia – calling it an observation deck just seems so clinical. Resplendent with red roses, a pergola, and sweeping views of the city and the Tagus River.

Castelo de S. Jorge – a Moorish castle from the 11th century. Of course, there’s much more to explore than just the view.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos – take the elevator to the top of this monument for stunning views of the Tagus River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, and a beautiful suspension bridge called Ponte 25 de Abril.

I’m a big enthusiast of simply wandering, especially in such a sunny, warm city – stroll through ancient squares, have a glass of Vinho Verde on a sidewalk while watching the world go by, do a bit of shopping, and enjoy your city break. But if you need ideas….

The best things to do in Lisbon – Time Out

Top things to do in Lisbon – Lonely Planet

21 things to see on a weekend trip to Lisbon – lastminute.com

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Paris, encore

Paris in winter.jpgExcept this time, I didn’t have jet lag.

This won’t be a super long post. If you plan to visit Paris, you already know what you want to see. There are enough amazing resources out there, and your imagination has already been captivated by films, books and tv shows. Just go with it. And don’t forget to wander.

Instead, let me tell you about some favourite little experiences that made this trip sing. It will soon be clear that we stayed in the Marais district.

  • Bonjour Vietnam: Reader, I am not ashamed to say I actually shed a happy tear upon tasting their pho. That delicate broth had perfectly balanced flavours, better even than anything in Toronto. I thought I’d been eating pho in Leeds, but I was wrong. It’s a tiny spot. We lucked out by arriving at 6:59 pm on a Monday evening in January, but make a reservation. 5th arrondissement
  • La Chaise Et Le Vin: A lovely wine merchant with lots of space to relax with a glass or two, steps from Place des Vosges. Incredibly knowledgeable proprietor will steer you to a great glass or bottle. Le Marais
  • America and Paris have strong emotional and historical ties, and this extends to their food as well. We didn’t bother with bistros for the most part, especially the overpriced ones that appear on almost every corner. (Make Yelp your friend to avoid the worst). Being a bit homesick for North America led us to Breakfast in America and Schwartz’s (no affiliation with the venerable institution of smoked meat in Montréal). Both great spots for unpretentious, belly-busting meals, perfect for long walks in chilly weather. Le Marais
  • There is one bistro we bothered with – Vin des Pyrénées – based on this rave review from TimeOut, and I’m very glad we did. I’m still thinking about those fondant leeks. We went back the following night to their beautiful, über cool cocktail bar upstairs. Le Marais

We went ever-so-slightly off the beaten track with our art gallery and ancient cathedral choices, choosing Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée d’Orsay over the Louvre, and Sainte Chapelle instead of Notre Dame. Sainte Chapelle.jpg

 

Bristol and Bath

The Circus, Bath

Bristol and Bath; Bath and Bristol.

I honestly can’t separate the two cities in my mind, kind of like when you’re compelled to say someone’s entire name, first and last, out loud due to some pleasing rhythm or alliteration.

I’ve found these city pairings throughout the UK – a small beauty queen of a city near a larger, more Miss Congeniality-type metropolis. Think York and Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and now Bath and Bristol.

Base yourself in the larger for cheaper hotels and more food options, and nip over on the train to the beauty queens on day trips. What you’ll miss in tourism trappings you’ll gain in seeing real UK cities just going about their business. Both types have a fond place in my heart, the beauty queens for all the work that goes into maintaining so many layers of history, and the larger cities, not being quite as shackled to the past, have opportunities to grow and evolve, and yes, plenty of their own beauty spots as well. In this creaking metaphor, they did still make it to the pageant, after all!

This was my first visit to southern England that didn’t involve being sucked into the vortex also known as London. Bristol and Bath are in the southwest, Bristol is the last major English city before you hit Wales, while Bath is a short train ride southeast of Bristol.

Bristol

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My first Banksy

Armchair Travel

I was too busy catching up with friends on this trip to take loads of photos, but why sweat it when there tons of great photographers out there? Get started with 39 stunning photos of Bristol and 10 amazing photos of Bristol. And when doesn’t BuzzFeed have an opinion on something? Living in Bristol ruins you for life.

Food, drink and kitties 

While scrolling through TripAdvisor I noticed that Bristol pretty much has any type of food you could be craving. The usual suspects are all here, plus a few places I’m happy to pull over for whenever I see them, like Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I’m just going to pretend that the server didn’t hear me yelp in happiness as I bit into The Taxi Driver. But she totally heard me.

If you’re not sure what’s next, and you miss Yorkshire beer prices, deliberate over a pint at the King William Ale House. Cosy and just what you need, especially if it just started to drizzle. It’s on King Street, and you’ll want to walk over to Welsh Back for pretty river views and lots more dinner and drink options.

And if it’s getting late and you all just can’t decide what to eat, stop talking and just start walking to Catch22, where you will be in the opposite of a paradox because all the solutions to any possible craving are on their menu. As they say themselves, ‘100% the best place to go if you’re hungry’. Fish (obviously), burgers, salads, hot dogs, pies from PieMinister, ice cream, booze. You’re good. Just go.

Because I am going to tell you to go check out Clifton Suspension Bridge, I also need to tell you about Boston Tea Party. It’s one of those cafes that just solves all of your problems. Coffee, tea, bottled water, snacks, sandwiches, a loo, and if you grab a spot at the counter upstairs, the window overlooks the busiest t-intersection of Clifton Village for people watching, and you can even keep an eye on the buses that head back to the city centre from there. Super friendly staff too.

And finally, if you like cats and beer, has Bristol got a pub for you. Bag of Nails is at the very bottom of Brandon Hill Park, and well, just go. Yes, I was the kind of imbecile who arrived the second they opened one fine Saturday noon. Worth it for the peaceful pint and cat watching.IMG_4990.jpg

Fun

Climb up into Brandon Hill Park (you’ll see what I mean when you get there) and enjoy the gardens and another climb up Cabot Tower for even more impressive views of the city. Bonus points if you bring peanuts to feed to the squirrels.

The Last Bookshop – all books are under £3, just try to walk out without a new book.

Clifton Suspension Bridge – mebbe not quite as spectacular as the Brooklyn Bridge, but nonetheless it’s always great to see some excellent Victorian engineering up close and Bristol’s icon and calling card is no exception. Take a look down into the steep gorge the Avon River flows through, and a gander through Clifton village while you’re over that way.

Bath

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Armchair Travel

I can honestly say that Bath swept me away not just with its beauty, but with how consistent that beauty is – in my eyes it’s up there with Paris and Venice. No false moves, no ‘who the fuck thought that 1960s monstrosity would look good there?’ moments. Just pure Georgian glory, with a little bit of Roman interest kept around for history. I love Unesco World Heritage Sites. In fact the only thing that marred the day was that we weren’t swanning around in Regency gowns and having British soldiers dance attendance on us. Some stunning shots here

Food and Drink

We just tootled in for a day trip but still managed to hit a couple of tearooms. The famous Pump Room connected to The Roman Baths turned us away at lunchtime after determining (by outright asking us at the door) that we didn’t plan to fork out £26 each for a full afternoon tea, and told us to come back after 2:30 pm. Ah, the cheekiness and confidence of a place that knows the dining room will be filled, so why not with punters willing to fork out the big bucks?

We shook the brief disappointment off quickly and found another tea room that was a little less haughty – Hands Georgian Tearoom. Their menu happened to have lots of delicious things for lunch, and all three of us ended up with their substantial Ploughman’s Lunch. Hey – touring beautiful cities is hungry work!

We did end up having a cream tea at The Pump Room later on that afternoon, and damn their eyes, it was splendid!

Fun

Top of your list should be The Roman Baths. Then go for a walk over to Pulteney Bridge, up to the Circus, and over to The Royal Crescent.

My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

Edi Portobello Beach

Portobello Beach, Edinburgh. Yes, Edinburgh.

Relax.

Are you relaxed?

Good.

 

First, I’m going to lay down some truth. You’re not going to have fun 100% of the time.

Sometimes you’re going to be bored. Sometimes you’re going to be tired. Sometimes you’re going to have a headache. Sometimes you’re going to have a hangover. Sometimes things will go wrong. Sometimes you might disagree or argue with your travel mates. Sometimes, no matter how carefully you’ve picked good restaurants and cafes, you’re going to end up ‘hangry’ and eating at a fast food chain.

You might even have a bit of a meltdown. Mine were related to my anxiety issues and tended to be closely tied to the magnitude of what we were doing: how long I was planning the trip, how much it cost, how much I’d been looking forward to it, and whether I thought I’d ever make it back to that place again.

I don’t have them anymore since we’ve shifted our lives to England, and one reason was to make short, breezy trips much easier to take. But you’d better believe I had the mother of all meltdowns about 10 days after we moved here from Canada. ‘What did we just do?!?’

If you struggle to relax while travelling, I’ve got a few tips for that too.

My list of absolutions

  • It’s ok if you don’t like or want to taste that country’s must-try food or drink.
  • It’s ok to go off the beaten track. That’s how we once ended up at a chill pub overlooking Portobello Beach on a sunny day in Edinburgh instead of joining the crowds walking up the Royal Mile.
  • It’s ok to sleep in if you want.
  • It’s ok if you don’t see everything. Our first time in Paris coincided with a city-wide museum and gallery workers’ strike. It was a blessing in disguise – the weather was great, we wandered the streets, explored the parks and cathedrals and felt way less pressure.
  • It’s ok to set foot in McDonald’s. They have toilets, wifi, coffee and bottled water. I’ll pretend not to notice if you end up getting a Big Mac too.
  • It’s ok to ride a hop-on-hop-off bus. I can’t think of an easier way to cover a lot of territory in a short time, get tons of interesting facts and find out which neighborhoods seem the coolest. They are great in huge cities. Not really necessary in smaller, more compact ones, obviously.

So worth it

  • Hire a professional tour guide, especially if you have a special interest.
  • Take the tours on offer at museums, galleries and cathedrals.
  • Take taxis.
  • Take public transit.
  • Ask for a quiet room.
  • If you’re heading straight to your hotel to store your luggage ahead of check-in, ask nicely if you can check in early. Might be possible on a slower day.
  • Ask locals for restaurant recommendations.
  • Duck into stores for toiletries and groceries – make your errands fascinating.
  • See what’s around that corner and get a little lost.
  • Use your hotel’s concierge if it has one, or
  • Ask the front desk for help with general stuff or quick recommendations.

It’s all about the timing

  • Find out when restaurants are actually serving food. Many places close their kitchens, if not shut down and lock up, between lunch and dinner.
  • Relatedly, do some research on what time most people eat dinner in that part of the world. It might be later than you’re used to in North America.
  • In Spain and Italy, many businesses observe siesta or riposo. Not much, if anything, will be open during that time in smaller towns. Best to stay poolside or take a nap yourself. It’s hot out.
  • Find out when attractions aren’t as busy – usually first thing in the morning or right before they close.

And that’s it! Be safe and have a wonderful holiday.

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?
My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream
My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff
My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit

#myguidetobosstravel

 

My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit

Flying

Flying over the Alps

Finally! The big day has arrived! 

  • Give yourself lots of time to get to – and be at – the airport. Most of the time you won’t need it, but there will be that one time that you’ll be glad you did. That chunk of hurry up and wait, do-nothing time is why books and airport shops exist.
  • Cutting it close is a great way to create drama and possibly even ruin your trip before it’s begun. 
  • Take advantage of online check-in.
  • When checking in online, find out if you need to print anything out. Some airlines flying within Europe have fiddly rules, like RyanAir and Jet2, and require travellers with NON-EU ID to have your PRINTED boarding pass stamped after an airline staff member inspects your travel documents and passport. It’s confusing and the rules keep changing, best to just confirm with a member of that airline’s staff when you first arrive at the airport, even if you’ve checked in online in advance. Don’t find out the hard way at the gate right before you board that you should have done that. They will not let you on the flight and you will be shit out of luck. I’ve read forum threads, people.
  • Remember to make sure liquids either comply with carry-on standards or are safely stowed in your checked bag before you go through security.
  • Relax when you’re going through security. Wear unfussy shoes or boots in case you have to take them off, and don’t pin your hair up with a metal clip – that is an easy thing for everyone to overlook, including security, and will slow you down. Ask me how I know.
  • Even if you’re flying within Europe you’ll probably have to go through passport control after security. Always best to assume that it’s necessary and make time for it.
  • Bring a pen on your flight and fill out the landing card handed to you by a flight attendant (when necessary) while you’re in the air. It will give you something to do for a few minutes. Have the address of where you will be staying handy, as well as your passport number. You can google images of landing cards for the country you’re visiting so you can see what information they’ll be asking for. Completing it ahead of time means you can breeze past all the dummies who didn’t bother when it comes time to queue for passport control.
  • And if ever this travel nugget was ever more worth mentioning – never pass a toilet without using it, especially if you’re part of the tiny bladder club like me.
  • Bring a travel scarf – with airlines cutting down on perks like pillows and blankets, a large, thin scarf can serve as either.
  • Those donut-shaped pillows are cumbersome, but they do work. I had the best airport nap of my life using an inflatable one – sat down at an empty gate, put my feet up on my suitcase, and the donut pillow kept my head from lolling.
  • This awesome post just showed up in my world this week : 10 Things I Do To Survive Airplane Travel. I have a feeling that Joy and I would get along well on a flight. We’d exchange pleasantries and then just get down to the business of ignoring each other unless one of us needed to get out of our row.
  • Before you’re all jet-lagged and bleary, figure out how you’re going to get into town from the airport. It might be as simple as getting into a taxi and telling the driver the address (write it down if that’s easier), but consider finding out the best way locals use, whether it’s a rail line or bus combined with un peu voyage à pied. If you’re heading somewhere remote, ask your contact person for specific driving directions.

 

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?
My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream
My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff

Upcoming posts in this series – published on Fridays 
My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

#myguidetobosstravel

My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff

Leela

She saw the suitcases emerge from the cupboard. She knows.

Sorry, this one might be a bit of a slog, but these are the details that can keep you up at night if you don’t take care of them.

Packing and luggage

  • Any hotel worth its salt will store your luggage before you check in, and after you check out. No need to picture yourself dragging your suitcase around your first day’s walkabout. Airbnb hosts will have also anticipated this question and will have good recommendations or solutions too.
  • As I mentioned in Step 1, British and European cities usually have some sort of luggage storage, so research options for your specific cities. London’s King Cross has a Left Baggage service right near their silly but fun photo-op, Platform 9¾. Amsterdam Centraal has luggage lockers. And sometimes the best solution can also be a bit unexpected: Ned Kelly’s in Dublin is a 24-hour sports club and casino that also cheerfully handles bag storage for reasonable prices. It’s right next to a popular O’Connell Street stop for coaches going to and from Dublin Airport.
  • Check the climate and weather overview before you pack. Layers are always the answer in Europe. Pack something cooler than you think you’ll need, as well as something warmer. Something waterproof for misty, drizzly days. And a swimsuit, just in case you come across a beach, pool, hot springs or spa. Remember you can always buy something if you need it.
  • Consider travelling light with a carry-on suitcase. It can be done. And you’ll thank me when you’re sprinting through an airport someday.
  • Rehearse what you’re going to pack. Try it all on, choose stuff that doesn’t wrinkle. Ladies, jersey material is your friend. There are many resources online for packing tips, techniques and wardrobe planning. How to wear all of your holiday suitcase is a recent fave.
  • Dig into the specific etiquette of your destination. For example, you need to be garbed respectfully in religious buildings like the Vatican. More specifics, especially outside of Europe, in this fab post: How to Dress for Conservative Countries: Modest Clothing Essentials.
  • Find out the baggage guidelines for each flight you are taking. Your trans-Atlantic flight will probably be more lenient than your wee hop between European countries, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to fly or take trains within Europe. No point bringing a huge bag overseas only to have a low-cost European airline charge you a tidy sum to check it.
  • If you aren’t checking any luggage for your flights, remember to look into all your airline and airport rules for carry-on bag dimensions, maximum volumes for liquids and the size of the clear ziploc bag they need to be kept in.

Money

  • Xe.com for currency conversions.
  • Euro (EUR) €: This one should be straightforward, but isn’t. Most EU countries, including the Republic of Ireland, use the Euro. However not all of them do, and some countries that aren’t in the EU do use it. Have a look at this detailed map from 2016 but it’s probably not a bad idea to check each country you’re visiting to confirm.
  • British Pound Sterling (GBP) £: in the UK, including Scotland. Here’s where it gets a bit confusing. Scottish banks print their own notes of GBP, but it is still the same currency. I haven’t had any problems using them here in The North (of England), but I’ve heard anecdotes of English establishments further south that don’t recognise them or try to not accept them. So when Robert the Bruce shows up on your £20 note, keep this in mind:

  • Have a 4-digit pin for your bank card. If yours somehow still has six digits, you’ll have to update your pin.
  • Find out if you need to advise your bank and credit card company that you’re travelling, and be prepared to give them specific dates and cities.
  • Rather than stuffing your wallet with a dangerous wad of euros and pounds before you leave, consider getting a modest amount of cash for the first few days and then using ATMs and credit cards as needed. Or, if overseas ATM and credit card fees have you spooked, at very least consider what one of my friends calls a ‘geek wallet’ for safely storing the bulk of it, or take advantage of your hotel room’s safe.

Safety

  • Don’t spend the whole time worrying about pickpockets and thieves, but at the same time, keep alert and aware of your surroundings. When I worked in a downtown Toronto office near one of the most touristy bits, I was gobsmacked every time I went out for lunch by how casually visitors treated their money and property. People with fancy DSLR cameras slung over their shoulders. Men with fat wallets stuck in their back pockets, women with open handbags nearly dragging on the ground, wallets in full sight. Almost lost my mind at a Starbucks once while watching someone pay for a latte from a dripping bundle of bills, loose in a trouser pocket. All good ways to become a target.
  • I’ve only been approached once in Paris by someone operating the ‘Ring Scam’ and I simply ignored him and walked away, but Rick Steves has rounded up the most common Tourist Scams and Rip-Offs.
  • Please use your best judgement, keep your wits about you, and don’t give into fear and panic.

Power

  • We’ve used this particular travel adapter set by Kikkerland for years, but you can get good ones virtually anywhere.
  • Probably best to purchase them in your own country though, as one of my Canadian visitors wasn’t able to find a North America-Europe adapter in the UK. There were all sorts for UK-North America, UK-Europe, and North America-UK, but he had to wait until he arrived in France to get what he needed.
  • And I found this out right before a trip to Dublin – although the Republic of Ireland is in the EU and uses the Euro, their plug type is the same as the UK.
  • Plug, socket & voltage by country

Health

  • See if your workplace benefits include emergency medical coverage abroad, or consider buying short term travel medical insurance.
  • If you have severe food allergies, do what a friend of mine did – he had his list of food allergies translated and printed onto a card that he then had laminated, and simply handed it to everyone he ordered food from.
  • I memorize ‘I can’t eat eggs’ in the language of where I’m going. Ik kan geen eieren eten. Je ne peux pas manger d’oeufs. Non posso mangiare le uova. Nem tudok tojást enni. Ich kann keine eier essen. Jag kan inte äta ägg.

Admin (see? I told you this was boring)

  • Create a folder in your email for everything to do with your trip: hotel reservations, museum tickets, train tickets, boarding passes.
  • Find out when you can check in to your flights, and whether you need to print out boarding passes or if it’s enough to have an electronic version on your phone.
  • Having trouble determining the correct international dialling code prefix? Visit Country Calling Codes and simply choose your ‘from’ and ‘to’ countries from the dropdown menus and click submit. I’ve got this one bookmarked for emergencies.
  • Make a packing checklist. Sounds dumb, but make sure you have your wallet, passport, keys and phone, and anything else unique and difficult to replace – glasses, contact lenses, custom mouthguard, medical prescriptions…
  • Make a photocopy of your passport and pack it in a different bag from the one containing your actual passport.
  • Tripit.com is a great website and app for keeping track of your entire itinerary. Might seem a bit tedious at first, but it’s worth it to have everything available at a glance. And maybe this is just me, but I get a frisson of delight when I see my finalized itinerary come to life.
  • Make note of whether or not the hotel(s) you’ve booked include breakfast in their price. With a multi-city tour it can be easy to forget.
  • Find out if your overseas flights include meals or not.
  • Buy tickets to museums and galleries in advance – sail past the lineup of people buying tickets for a boost of smug satisfaction. And for next-level brilliance, find and ‘star’ restaurants a few blocks away from sites so you’re not stuck in the overpriced onsite cafeteria or tourist traps mere metres from the exit.
  • Consider buying tickets for popular day trip tours in advance as well.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

  • Arrange for housesitters or kennel time for your furry friends.
  • Put some of your lights on timers if nobody will be home.
  • Can a neighbor or friend grab your mail, water your plants, take out your recycling bin?
  • Clear your fridge, cupboards and bins of anything that might go off, and consequently begin to smell terrible, before you leave.

 

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?
My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream

Upcoming posts in this series – published on Fridays 
My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit
My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

#myguidetobosstravel

My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower, York

This is when you can start having a little more fun. Let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding in while you were buying your plane tickets. Let your imagination run riot, like the little girl in the bottom right corner of this photo about to run up that hill.

  • Before you even think about googling your destination or cracking open that city guidebook, close your eyes and think about what you’d like to do. Write everything down – sites, food, drinks, shopping. These are your must-dos. Ask your travel mates to do the same thing. Now you can look at travel guides and round out your list.
  •  ‘Star’ points of interest in Google Maps. You’ll need a Google account for this one, and in my opinion it’s worth it, for this functionality alone. Google Maps is a wondrous thing, but even more so when you take advantage of all its handy features. Directions are provided for driving, transit, walking (and cycling and flights); great for judging distances between two points.
  • But take it one step further and start ‘starring’ everything you want to visit – restaurants, museums, attractions, anything that has an address, really. You’ll get the bird’s eye view on your computer, so even if you don’t have a smartphone it’s worth it to determine where everything is and get a sense of where you’ll be spending your time. But with a smartphone it becomes a truly potent tool for transforming your trip planning. And even if you turn off your data and use only wifi on your trip, the maps can be downloaded into your phone and used offline. You’ll have a bit less functionality – oh how I rely on that live blue dot to tell me where I am – and less information will appear for each item, but it’s still better for navigating than anything else I’ve ever used. ‘Past You’ is the best travel guide and personal assistant that ‘Travel You’ could possibly have.
    York Google Maps

    Desktop version – map of York

     

  • Not a bad idea at this juncture to find out which days different sites and attractions might be closed, especially outdoor markets. Google Maps can help you there too, providing the website address, hours of operation and peer reviews.
  • Grab a calendar – online, paper-based – whatever you’re more comfortable with, and start figuring out the internal itinerary of your trip. Are you travelling from city to city? Or are you going base yourself in one place that’s also handy for day trips? Or a combination of the two?
  • Find a hotel that is convenient to something – the rail station you arrive at, the part of town where you plan to spend the most time, or perhaps something more affordable that’s a bit further out but quieter and near excellent transit. Trawl through TripAdvisor, scan the reviews, and find a good blend of affordable and location. Do this as soon as possible after you’ve booked your flights – this is another area where the early bird truly does get the worm. I’m not trying to make you panic. I use Booking.com most of the time, and start by booking a good place that doesn’t ask for any money up front. That becomes my ‘safety hotel’. It might end up being my final choice too, but at least now I know I’m not homeless on that leg of the trip while I spend more time looking for a great deal. Also, consider Airbnb too, especially if you’re staying in the same place for a few nights.
  • Learn key phrases in the language of your destination. ‘Hello. Please. Thank you. I would like a glass of red wine, please. How much does that cost? Where is the toilet? Can we please have the bill? I will not buy this record, it is scratched.’
  • Bone up on history or fill yourself with anticipation with films, TV or books. Visiting Paris is cool. Visiting Paris is even cooler when you walk past a statue of Henri IV and remember that he’s the well-loved ‘Good King Henry’ who came up with the phrase ‘a chicken in every pot’. Don’t be the guy who didn’t know what Ellis Island was (or represented) when he cruised past it on the Staten Island Ferry.
  • If you don’t already know, find out what will make the best souvenirs, or the best shopping a city is known for – sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason. Think leather goods from Italy, perfume from Paris, whisky from Scotland. More ideas here.
  • Ask people for recommendations. But don’t feel like you have to actually follow their advice. If something sounds good, star the place right away. I usually whisk out my phone on the spot so that I don’t forget and can confirm that I’ve found the right place.
  • Ruthlessly cut anyone out of your life who tries to guilt trip you if you didn’t make it to that nice restaurant they told you about.
  • My favourite resources are a combination of books and websites. I can’t possibly list them all here, but I owe a lot of smooth, happy travel to Rick Steves, The Guardian’s Holiday Guides and Lonely Planet for dreaming and planning. I seek out and watch any travel show with Richard Ayoade or Anthony Bourdain in it.
  • Adjust your trip’s internal itinerary if you haven’t locked down your hotel dates and rail tickets… is Paris taking up more days than Amsterdam? Now’s the time to sort that out.

 

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?

Upcoming posts in this series – published on Fridays 
My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff
My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit
My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

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