Travel Tips for the Time Poor

Time poor – such a loaded phrase. But the fact is, with a full time job,  many of us only have so many days off per year to spend travelling (I’m referring to BC (Before Corona) days, of course). So I try and make the most of my time when I am travelling, and these are few tips I have picked up over the years, to improve the travelling experience. 

Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

The number one rule for making the most of your time when on trip is to do the research beforehand. You don’t have to plan everything down to the last second, but having a rough plan of what you are doing each day will help make the most of your time. Of course, one of the many joys of travel is discovering the unexpected, so keep some “free” days in your itinerary as well.  

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My itinerary for a 12 day trip in Europe in September 2018

Book Online Tickets

For any popular/must-see attractions you are planning to visit, pre-book tickets online.  Standing in a queue is not the best way to spend your time in a new place. And, by pre-booking, you won’t be disappointed by not being able to get tickets on the day. More and more attractions now insist on pre-booking tickets anyway, so this is a good habit to get into.  

You don’t have to pre-book everything before you set off on your trip. You can do this whilst travelling, using the mobile apps. Booking even the night before can save you hours in a queue. I did 12 day Europe trip covering Amsterdam, Paris, Switzerland, Rome and pre-booked most places we visited: Anne Frank house, Van Gogh Museum, Eiffel tower, Louvre museum, Versailles, Junagfrau and Vatican museums. 

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Don’t waste your time in a queue – pre-book tickets

Plan Your Itinerary

If you are visiting more than one location, consider  flying in and out of different airports. Fares may be more expensive, but you will save half a day to a day travelling back to your starting point.  You can even do this if you are  doing a road trip – many car hire companies allow to pick up a car in one location and drop off in another. And usually there is no extra charge if you pick up and drop the car at an airport. 

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Our Canada Trip in 2016 – flew into Vancouver, few out of Calgary

Packing and unpacking, and checking in and out of hotels takes time and is tiring. So if you are planning to visit a lot of different places, having one or two strategically chosen base locations and day tripping the rest could work quite well.  

Where to Stay

The location of your accommodation is also key to making the the most of your time. Pick somewhere central to the things you want to visit. If you are visiting a city, try and pick somewhere near the subway/or tram stop.

Few years ago, we spent 6 days in New York, and booked a great apartment in Brooklyn, for a very good price.  But to get to Manhattan from the apartment it took nearly 2 hours one way (20 minutes walking, a bus and then the subway). We spent 4 hours a day travelling and lost so much time. Also the buses didn’t run after 10 p.m.,  so we missed out being able to stay out late and the New York night life.

Central locations are more expensive, but in my opinion, fewer days in a central location is better than many days in a remote location.

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One of my favourites: Grand Hotel Pupp, very well located for everything Karlovy Vary has to offer

Arrive Early, Leave Late

Another great time saver trick is to arrive early in a city (red eye flight or sleeper train)  and on your last day, leave late. You will save a cost of a night’s accommodation in a hotel and have more time to sight see.  

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Just arriving to Beijing Airport at 5am – gave me the rest of the day to sight see

Sleep and Travel at the Same Time

When looking to make the most of your time, what better way than to travel and sleep at the same time? I have been on sleeper trains in Russia, Europe and China and it is great. Go to bed in one city, let the train rock you gently to sleep, wake up in another city, get breakfast in bed. 

With sleeper trains, you save a night’s accommodation and save day time to sight see. Downside is toilet facilities; most trains have shared facilities in each carriage. But some of the newer trains have private facilities for each cabin.

You can also check with you destination hotel to see if they can let you do an early check-in to refresh and leave your luggage. (If they can’t let you into your room, ask them to let you use the spa/gym facility to refresh). 

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Beijing to Xian Sleeper Train – November 2017

Make Use of City Tours

Some people might see it as a tourist trap, but city tours are are actually good way to orient yourself around a new city. I usually do a city bus tour on the day of arrival, when I am tired and/or jet lagged from travelling. Get on the tour bus and let it take you around. Then once you have your bearings, you can plan how to get around on your own steam.

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Vienna City Tour – December 2018. It was so cold outside, but the bus was very cosy and warm

Make the Most of Your Day

Use day light hours for outside attractions and evenings for inside attractions. Many museums, galleries open late into the night a couple of times a week, so you can visit these in the evening – perhaps even after an early dinner. Leave the days and the good weather to see everything outside. 

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The Acropolis Museum in Athens – Open till 9 pm a couple of nights a week

Ask Locals for Advice

Discovery is fun, but takes time. It is pleasing to discover that great restaurant or quirky pub yourself, but frankly, I find it better to ask the locals on where to eat and drink. Ask your tour guide, or the hotel concierge. They know the best places and where to avoid. 

So, there you go. These are some tips and tricks I have picked up along the way improve travelling. If you have got any tips and tricks to do more in less time, I’d love you hear about them. Leave a comment below and let me know!

3 comments

  1. All great ideas, and I especially agree about getting a centrally-located hotel. Worth the extra cost every time. The one thing I would caution about (because I’ve been burned myself) is picking up a car rental in Europe and dropping it off in a different country in Europe. VERY expensive fee (think $700) for the privilege. I realize you were talking about different cities in the same country, which is much less expensive.

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