How to Travel a City

City travel, especially for those who do not come from big cities, can be both exciting and slightly daunting. Where do you stay? How do you get around? Is it safe? While it?s tough to guarantee a perfect location or a seamless vacation, there are certain steps that you can take in planning your city travel to feel more comfortable.

1. Think about hotel location ? do you want to be in the center or near a particular attraction? It may be more convenient but it might also be noisy, especially in the evening, and will almost certainly be more expensive. Which of these factors is more important? What type of neighborhood do you want to stay in ? downtown, something more artsy, the neighborhood with lots of bars and restaurants? These are all important aspects to consider.

2. Check out the transportation system before you go. It?s important when packing to know how much walking you?ll be doing. While walking is a great way to see a city (see tip #9), learning the transportation system let?s you see sections that may be too far to visit on foot. This can also help with tip #1 ? if you?re further out from the center of town, you may want a hotel near local transportation.

3. All cities are not created equal. Just because it?s a city doesn?t mean it?s fast-paced or that there are a lot of ?attractions?. Make sure you?re choosing a city that?s right for you, not just because it?s popular or someone else told you to go. Examine what features, activities, atmosphere, whether, cultural preferences you?re looking for and then carefully select a city to match.

4. Keeping tip #3 in mind, it is ok to get out of your comfort zone or try something different. Often it helps to take into consideration the surrounding area as well as the city itself. If you?re curious about a city but not ready to spend a full vacation there, place it in an itinerary with other locations that you feel more comfortable with. Destinations will often surprise you.

5. Lose the map. Once you have the lay of the land, don?t consult your map or guidebook for everything. Often the most memorable experiences, especially in a city, are ones that you stumble upon when traveling like a local. Feel free to carry the map in your purse/pocket (discreetly, not sticking way out of you back pocket, which screams ?I?m a tourist?) in case you do truly get lost in an area you don?t want to be in, but don?t consult it every five minutes. Explore a new city like you would if you were showing someone your own. Would you send them to all of the cheesy tourist traps or would you give them the inside scoop?

6. Don?t? carry much on you. Leave your passport, some credit cards, anything of extreme value in the hotel safe. The safest cities in the world still have some crime, and why invite it when you can do your best to avoid it? Better safe (no pun intended) than sorry. Besides, walking around with half of your possessions in a purse or bag will only slow you down.

7. Explore the city at night. I?ll admit, there might be some cities that you?d rather not walk around by yourself at night, so use your head. Generally, though, cities have two sides ? their ?day side? and their ?night side?. A laid back coastal city could become a bustling hotspot when the sun goes down, and a hectic city by day might look magical when the nights go on at night.

8. Ask the locals where to eat, find the best activities and enjoy nature. Guidebooks might help and concierges can be of use, but who knows a city better than the people that breathe, eat and live it day in and day out? Ask a variety of locals to see what suggestions come up most frequently.

9. Explore on foot. With a few exceptions, you see places when walking a city that you never would if you took a taxi from point A to point B. Be sensible about distances and neighborhoods, but don?t be afraid to wander. Keep a business card from your hotel on you so that if you do really drift off track and don?t know how to get back, you can easily communicate to a taxi driver where you need to go without knowing the language.

10. Travel with an open mind. If I had to choose one tip to share when traveling, not just in cities, this would be it. Just because the food isn?t what you?re used to, the toilets look different, a city isn?t as pristine as you want it to be and the people don?t act as you?d expect doesn?t mean you can?t enjoy and learn from a travel experience. Travel a city as if you?re starting from a clean slate ? no expectations either of the city or the culture. Those aspects that you may be so leery of at first may be the same things that you miss most when you return home.


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