Five tips to plan the perfect city break

Holidaying in the country where you live is something that more people are considering at the moment, as international travel is restricted due to the ongoing pandemic. Having just returned to London from a wonderful weekend in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, I’ve been reflecting on what made it so great and thought I’d share some tips based on my own planning. I went for four days – including a day trip to Dundee – and my planning definitely paid off. It was the perfect blend of socialising and alone time, exploring and relaxing, plus… museums and cocktails! Here’s what I did to make sure it was a refreshing rather than exhausting trip.

Focus on doing what you enjoy
This one seems like a no-brainer, but how many times have you visited attractions in a city purely because everyone else says you should see them? If someone suggests an art gallery when you’re more of an ‘outdoor dining and people watching’ kind of person, you don’t have to go and look at the paintings. Think about the things you enjoy the most and search for those in your destination city. For my perfect city break I knew I’d need a blend of socialising and alone time, so I planned to meet friends for food/drink and also made time for museum visits and exploring.

Ask locals for suggestions
Even if you don’t personally know anyone who lives where you’re visiting, ask for suggestions on social media. I had lots of recommendations of wonderful places to eat and drink, and beautiful areas to spend time, from people who live in Edinburgh and also from people who have visited in the past and loved it. When I went on my day trip, a friend replied to my Instagram stories to suggest I pop into a local bakery and 10 minutes later I was scoffing an extremely tasty fudge doughnut whilst en route to a museum recommended by a colleague. Personal recommendations are so much better than generic ones.

Familiarise yourself with the city in advance
I spent a little bit of time before my trip looking up all of the recommendations on Google Maps and seeing how far away they were from my hotel and each other. If street view is available in your destination city, you can even have a look at what your walk would look like. Even if it isn’t, looking for a few photos online beforehand will help you know what to expect when you get there. It’s also important to check opening times and whether advance booking is required. To help prevent you feeling overwhelmed with options, start to make a rough plan of what you’re doing on each day, so that you can look for other things to do that are nearby. Any that are too far away from your ‘essentials’ can be put on a ‘maybe’ list.

Leave time to explore
Try not to plan every single hour of every day and make sure you leave a bit of time for wandering or spontaneity. Even in these Covid-times of advance booking and venue check-ins, some spontaneous stuff is still possible. I managed to pop into a vintage shop, grab a fancy coffee, and explore some beautiful tourist areas on the spur of the moment, which was a perfect way to relax in between all the stuff I did need to pre-book. If I hadn’t left time to explore, I wouldn’t have got beautiful photos of Edinburgh after the rain! It is definitely worth making a note of anywhere that doesn’t need to be booked in advance so that you can pop in if you get time.

Don’t try to do everything
Remember that packing too much into a short city break will leave you exhausted and probably in need of another holiday! Cities are full of wonderful things to do, but you don’t have to do all of them. Having a packed itinerary can seem like the best way to ‘make the most’ of your time away, but always remember that relaxing is an important part of any holiday too. If you really love the city by the end of your visit, you know you can always go back, right?

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