Whether it is for vacation, work or just in transit, exploring a new place is always a delight. With my urge to explore as much as I can within a limited time, I thought of drawing out a Travel Checklist – a guide to building an itinerary that would help me experience various aspects of a new place within the time crunch.
Making a Travel Itinerary
While visiting the many cities, I figured out a pattern – of the little things that define a place and make it what it is. Discovering new things can be a never-ending journey. Even in the cities where I have spent years, I still end up finding little gems that surprise me. But I could still figure out the bare minimum I should definitely do to make a claim that I have ‘been there’.
Here are some of the things I try and fit in every time I’m visiting a new place, and I highly recommend making time for these. Chances are, you’d be doing these already, but I realized how being mindful of these activities can help gather new experiences, or simply see our own city from a new perspective.
Note: You might find me using the word ‘city’ often, but I assure you, these tips have worked for me, for exploring places of all sizes alike.
Doing the ‘must-dos’
This might go without saying for most people, but I’d mention it anyways. Sometimes, we are tempted to skip the ‘touristy’ places in order to experience some off-beat things.
I totally understand why we may wish to skip the queues and avoid the crowd, but let’s look at it this way – one of the many reasons why the place is popular (possibly even the reason why we chose to visit it) is because of these touristy places.
Ticking off the ‘must-dos’, even when they did not particularly interest me in the beginning, have changed my perception (of the city and the activity itself) for the better. It’s only after I visited the Vatican Museums that I truly started appreciating art, and only when I went inside the Eiffel Tower did I understand its magnitude and why it’s considered to be an architectural masterpiece.
The tourist attractions attract tourists for a reason! It would be such a shame if we don’t see the very places that draw people from around the world.
Choose your mode of transport wisely
Travelling during vacations in inevitable, and more often than not, it ends up taking a sizeable chunk of my holiday. So I have started making conscious choices for my commute from one place to another.
In my opinion, walking around is one of the best ways to explore a place. The joy of getting lost in the streets and being surprised by unexpected finds is unmatched. Also, some places are only approachable by foot, which might go unexplored if not stumbled upon during a walk around the town.
After travelling a fair bit, I’ve come to a conclusion that setting a target for an average of 10 miles (16 km) of walk in a day is enough for me to get the hang of the city. Keeping up with a target for walk-miles just works for me, but if that seems too much to ask on a holiday, just ignore me here!
There are also some places that may be impractical to cover by foot. For such cases, it may be a good idea to take local transport. I prefer to travel by the buses, trams, ferries, and metros as far as I can. This gives me a chance to experience life as it is for the residents, and an opportunity to peek into their lifestyle.
I choose to take up private hire only if I’m travelling at odd hours, if I’m in a real rush or if my destination isn’t well connected by public transport. This gives me an opportunity to interact one-on-one with a local.
Ultimately, it’s all about making the travel-time a part of the holiday experience.
Indulge the taste buds
Being a vegetarian, I sometimes find myself limited with options. Often, the popular local cuisines don’t fall under the ‘vegetarian’ category. In such cases, I open up to having anything vegetarian, not restricting myself to a particular cuisine. This brings up so many options, and then I find myself spoilt for choices.
It’s amazing how local spices, vegetables, preparation techniques, and even the presentation can add a new dimension to the dining experience. I was surprised by the vegan Thai curry that I tried in Berlin was an unexpected version of the classic Thai curry that I’ve had at many places around the world (including Thailand). I’ve had undoubtedly the best pasta from a takeaway joint during my trip to Venice.
I also make it a point to try out local desserts, which more often than not, are vegetarian. When the local teas and non-alcoholic drinks delight me with their newness, I can be sure that tasting the popular local drinks – wines, beer, and whiskeys (if you’re into these) would be an experience by themselves.
When I, with so many dietary restrictions can relish the variety of tastes, I can say with confidence, that there’s much to experience for those whose definition of consumable food and drinks is more open.
Before you hold me guilty of being a shopaholic, hear me out. When you shop around, especially around the touristy area, you’d find popular items that the place is known for. Back in the day, possibly these were the things that drew traders to the city and made it popular.
I love picking up specialties. Having Dutch cheese, Hungarian paprika, and, Swiss and Belgian chocolates, amongst many others, have been pure delight! Yes, I mostly buy good food, but I’ve also picked up unique pieces of art for their intricate craftsmanship.
Unsurprisingly, the local markets tend to provide more value for money than the souvenir shops at tourist spots. But having said that, I’ve picked some of my best souvenirs from the more expensive shops at the touristy places. Much like everything else, it’s all about striking a balance based on your priorities.
Personally, I love hunting for the ‘perfect’ fridge magnet as a souvenir that would summarize the highlight of my trip. Even if you’re not into shopping, a little souvenir would possibly make a wonderful memoir for your beautiful vacation.
Find time to laze around
After all, the idea of a holiday is to relax and unwind. While doing all of the above, I make sure that I leave enough time to relax. That way, my holiday leaves me rejuvenated, not exhausted!
Strolling through a park, watching street performances, and just sitting in the sun (or the shade) sipping a chilled (or warm) drink are some of the best memories I’ve made during my holidays.
It’s amazing how ‘doing nothing’, at least for some time, can contribute so much to a near-perfect holiday.
Doing it all?
The above list above can seem overwhelming, and sometimes it may not even seem practical to do it all. I don’t stick to this list all the time myself. It all comes down to setting the intention for the vacation.
If it’s a beach holiday, my focus is mostly on soaking in the sun and indulging in delicious food; while for a city break, I like to learn about the history and culture of the city. I leave the rest to get accommodated in the flow.
I’m curious to know, what are your ‘must’dos’ on a vacation? Now that I have listed down a travel checklist, I think it’s a perfect time to plan for yet another holiday.