What should you do when you travel to a destination and you’re short on time, but you still want to get as much out of the visit as possible? Here are the top 5 things you should do:
1. Join a local tour.
Some people are adventurers and prefer to discover things on their own. Others don’t mind it if someone can help lead the way. If you’re short on time, a travel tour can take you to see some of the area’s highlights in a short amount of time. There had been instances where a tour took me to places I probably wouldn’t have made it on my own.
That said, you still need to do your due diligence and research on the tours. I read tons of reviews and tend to be extremely selective about which tours to pick. Generally, I am not a fan of multi-day tours or any tours where you need to be up at the crack of dawn. If you are interested in learning more about travel tours, you can check out “Everything You Need to Know about Travel Tours” series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
2. Book a hotel near the key attractions you want to visit.
It seemed like a no-brainer to book a hotel nearest the attractions you want to visit, but that can be a very expensive option. So you do the next best thing. You book a hotel a little further out to try to save some money (savvy and economical). The only problem? The opportunity cost.
When you book further away, you end up wasting valuable time shuttling back and forth, not to mention the transit fares can add up quickly. I learned this the hard way in Paris when most of the attractions we wanted to visit were near the touristy areas, but our apartment rental was out in the La Defense business district area. Sure, we got a good deal, but the commute got tiring very quickly. There is a reason people are willing to pay a premium for prime locations. If I am short on time, I will research for the best deals around the area even if it cost a bit more.
3. Consider renting a car or taking a taxi.
When you’re short on time, your goal is to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. If the public transportation option requires a lot of stops or transfers, consider getting a taxi or renting a car.
Taxis tend to be more expensive and you may have to worry about finding a parking spot or getting insurance with rental cars. However, these options can make more sense than trying to embark on some long-winded journey if the attraction isn’t easily accessible. For example, if you are staying at the touristy Waikiki Beach area in Hawaii and planning to visit Oahu’s famed North Shore, it makes sense for most people to rent a car.
4. Try the local cuisine.
Whenever I travel abroad, I always try to check out the local cuisine: get a taste of the local flavors, experience the service, and talk with the locals. Even if you’re short on time, you still need to eat — so you may as well take advantage of the opportunity to immerse yourself in a local dining experience.
5. Stop and smell the roses.
If you still find yourself feeling like you don’t have enough time, stop. Take a walk at the local park and smell the roses. Look at your list of to-do and narrow the list down to 2-3 top attractions.
In my early travel years, my dear sister planned our first international trip to London and she had an ambitious plan to check out dozens of recommended attractions. “Ambitious” was perhaps an understatement. While we saw a lot, the trip was also hectic and even tense at times. We also didn’t account for getting lost or making mistakes, either. Let’s just say we passed by the Tower Bridge via the river cruise one too many times.
I learned a lot from that trip. I can understand my sister’s desires to check out as many attractions as possible. She was a newly minted college grad and had worked hard to save for the trip across the pond. My travel budget was tight as I was still working part time to pay for college. The trip was a big deal at the time, and we didn’t know then if we will have the chance to visit London again (we did). Whatever the reason, it was probably not the best idea to jam-pack our schedule from dawn to dusk the way we did. I’ve never planned for a trip in that same way again.
Sometimes, less is more. Enjoy the moments and don’t cram your schedule, even if you are short on time. If you happen to fall in love with a place and want to explore more, you can always come back for another visit. It will still be there, just waiting for your next adventure.