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blog travel tips

How to Be a Tourist In Your Own City

Assuming you don’t live out in the absolute middle of nowhere, you don’t have to go far to go on vacation! Read on for some ideas of how to see your city from a new angle and be a tourist in your own city.

STAY DOWNTOWN

Book a stay downtown at a hotel or AirBnb, and enjoy exploring your own backyard. Now that you’re close to all the action, start planning a weekend packed with activities!

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BOOK SOME TICKETS

Find out what’s happening that weekend and get some tickets! Whether it be for the theater, a concert, ball game, a trip to your local museum or a comedy show- get out there!

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ENJOY AN EVENING OF FINE DINING

Take your staycation up a notch with a reservation at one of the best restaurants in town. Dining out can be expensive, but you’re paying a premium because the chef’s know how to prepare foods in ways you don’t, they have access to premium ingredients, and they take the time to slow roast that pork for multiple days.

This also goes for a craft cocktail! It is woooorth it to spend money on a good drink. I can bet you that you aren’t going to want to drop a couple hundred bucks on quality obscure cocktail ingredients that you then are going to barely utilize at home- in fact some of the ingredients may even be hard to come by in your local liquor store.

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GO TO THE PARK

Ok- this activity isn’t as lame as it sounds. Think about Central Park and how touristy it is. There is so much going on there! If you live in a major metropolitan area with a similar type of outdoor gathering area- go! You’ll have food vendors, buskers, and you can do loooots of people watching. Grab a picnic blanket and basket and plop yourself down for an afternoon of relaxing in the sun.

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HAVE A FRIEND SHOW YOU AROUND

The way you explore a city and the places you go within it may be vastly different than that of your friends! Have one of them show you their top spots. You might be in for a surprise!

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HOP ON, HOP OFF

One of the most touristy things you can do anywhere are those “hop on, hop off” tour buses. But don’t hop off: sit and stay for a while, and watch the city pass you by.

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blog travel tips

Hotels vs Hostels

You might be the kind of person that prefers hotels, or you might prefer hostels. Maybe, you’re in between the two. There are pros and cons to staying in both of these types of establishments. Yep- there are cons to staying in a 5-star luxurious hotel.

HOTELS

When you stay in a hotel- you know what you’re getting. You get a crisp bed set tucked in so tight you have to untuck it to get in. You have six pillows too many. A large flatscreen tv that turns on to the local hotel channel. A mini fridge with a coffee and tea setup above it. A bathroom with a small hotel-spa branded kit. What you get, is predictability.

I love hotels for that very reason of predictability. I love that it is a familiar experience and I can fully relax and enjoy my vacation with a slew of amenities right at my fingertips. Especially if you’re at a resort, it is its own little world. And, the nicer the hotel, the nicer the stay.

Image from Travel for Senses

Now here is the con- hotels are isolating. Chances are you don’t leave the resort grounds during your stay because everything you need is at your fingertips, so you might not see any reason for leaving. Of course this is exactly what some people are looking for but if you’re trying to really experience a new city, culture, and country, staying in a hotel might not be the best place to ensure you get the experience you’re looking for.

HOSTELS

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before- what are you doing?! Sure, it’s not going to be as pristine as a five star hotel, it won’t have an in-house spa, or pillowy duvets… or… a lot of things. What it will have though, is a whole lotta character and a whole lotta characters.

The con I mentioned about staying in a hotel doesn’t apply to hostels. Staying in a hostel is going to keep you on your toes and you’ll be surrounded by activity. Hostels have all the deets on the best places to visit, best tours, and local secrets. Like a hotel concierge, the front desk at a hostel can help steer you in the right direction of an activity both interests you and fits your needs. Because hostels are also so budget friendly- it can be a cost effective way to travel.

Hostels also have the most interesting people. Sure- there are interesting people staying at a hotel, but they’re likely not going to be mingling with with the masses. Everyone is friends with everyone in a hostel, and you might even be lucky enough to gain a host the next time you go abroad- you meet people from all over the world. Some people are passing through and others have been camped out for some time, but everyone has the same intention: have fun, and have an adventure.

The con to staying in a hostel is it’s pro- that it is so lively and communal. But if you’re trying to hit the hay early for an early departure, you might have trouble doing that, especially on a weekend night. With communal rooms, you could have some hostel go-ers coming and going, so if you’re a light sleeper bring those earplugs. Because there is a lack of privacy, you also need to be wary of your items. If you’re going to cry over an item getting stolen- probably don’t bring it with you! However some hostels will have secure lockers, or you could leave items at the front desk/in the luggage room while you’re out during the day.

Image from Hostel World

Because hostels aren’t as cut-and-dry as hotels, here are a few tips when you’re looking to book a hostel:

  1. Read reviews! Make sure you are choosing a reputable hostel that has a solid amount of reviews. Because these aren’t big names like the Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental, you won’t automatically know if they have a good reputation or not.
  2. Choose a hostel close to a city center. The last thing you want is to be too far from the main event- unless you’re on a trek or something and you’re supposed to be in the middle of nowhere. Part of the reason many people book a hostel in the first place is to save on costs while traveling. If you’re too far out from the city center, you might end up spending too much money getting places when you could have just walked or biked instead.
  3. Research the neighborhood. Make sure you have an idea of where your hostel is located and what surrounds it. Tourists get taken advantage of left and right, and you don’t want to put yourself deeper into that position by staying in a bad area.
  4. Know what living situation you are about to book. Hostels can have a variety of living corridors set up. There are private rooms, doubles, dormitory-style with upwards of 20 people, single-sex dormitories, and co-ed dormitories. If you aren’t comfortable staying in a co-ed dorm, know that if you still were to book it, you might not be able to switch to a single-sex dorm if the hostel has no vacancy!
  5. Be aware of how the hostel takes payment and handles cancellations and extensions. Beyond your deposit, make sure you know if paying by card upon arrival is the preferred method or if you will need to have the local currency on hand and pay in cash. Also be aware of their cancellation and extension policy- you never know what is going to happen when you’re at a hostel!

Hostelworld.com is a great place to start your hostel search! You’ll learn that there are a wide variety of hostels, with some that are old and worn, and others that look modern and even a little hotel-like.

SO, HOTEL OR HOSTEL?

Neither one is better or worse. It just depends on the kind of trip you are looking for!

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blog travel tips

10 Must-Have Travel Accessories

There are some things you just can’t leave without when you’re going on a trip- big or small. Below are ten key items you should bring along on your next trip.

  1. A camera
    Whether it be your smartphone, a point and shoot, mirrorless, or DSLR- bring a camera! Yes, do be in the moment during your trip, but be in the moment and snap some photographic memories or videos that you can look back and smile on. Don’t forget to bring more than one memory card!
  2. Comfy shoes
    They might look good, but you’re not going to have fun walking around a city in uncomfortable shoes or heels. There are a ton of stylish sneakers these days, or you can opt for a strappy flat sandal that won’t fall off your feet.
  3. Mini Power Bank
    Don’t end up lost in a new city because your phone ran out of battery. Bring along a mini power bank and make sure it is fully charged before your trip, and of course don’t forget to bring its charging accessories for multiple uses.
  4. Headphones
    How long will you have to be cancelling out a screaming child on a flight? Invest in some comfortable and good-quality noise cancelling headphones so you can crank on some tunes and block out little Bobby’s wails.
  5. Dopp Kit/Toiletry Bag
    Have you ever gotten to your hotel and realized you forgot your toothbrush, or some other toiletry? Have a Dopp kit or toiletry bag ready to grab and go, filled with the basics.
  6. Mini Compressed Towels
    Don’t try and eat these- they aren’t mints! Get yourself a pack of mini compressed towels and pop some in your travel bags. They take up almost zero space and are very handy to have on you.
  7. Outlet Adapter
    If you’re going between countries an outlet adapter is a must. Gotta get that phone charge in on your international layover!
  8. City Mapper
    Ok so this isn’t really an accessory…. but it is an app you should have on your phone! City Mapper is a must have for public transportation if you’re exploring a new city. They’ve made it easy to get from point A to point B- with directions on what subway, rail, or bus lines you need to take.
  9. Packing Cubes
    Make packing your bags easy with packing cubes! It might seem dumb to pack things in a cube and then pack the cube… but trust me- it is so helpful. You’ll be able to pack smarter, and keep everything organized.
  10. Packing List
    You might be thinking to yourself, “why do I need to bring a packing list”? The answer to that, my friend, is because all too often you realize you left an item behind when you start unpacking back at home. Have two packing lists, one for going on your trip and one for coming back home.a