This is one that might strike some of you as a bit… odd. I mean, your idea of Fun might be very far from planning the logistics of a holiday and actually indulging in the research involved in making the most out of a short break.
Truth be told, I was at a bit of a loss of what to report on this week, as it’s been… rather uneventful. I mentioned my energy slump last week in the Museletter, that all of July and a little of June – which I had, mostly, attributed to the heatwave here in the UK. It was strange: I knew it wasn’t a depression, I’ve experienced much darker times before; this was just a mild resistance to doing. Which for me, someone with a tendency to be a bit of a workhorse and actually derive joy from that, now that I love what I do, came as a bit of an upset.
I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself, that’s the best way to describe it. But on Monday this week, I finally broke through my fog of apathy, and got my mojo back. I was motivated to work again, I felt like I was making some progress on my book, I rearranged my room and I found my energy last long into the evening, no temptation to vegetate in front of youtube.
Ok so that said, I’ve actually just been a bit of a workhorse this week. And even though that has been fun for me, I doubt it’s going to make for much of a YOF podcast I’m afraid.
Which brings me onto planning a holiday. I have to admit facts: I just love this part of travelling. Sure, getting to see and experience a new place is the best, but I often wonder how much of the fun is simply in planning and anticipating it, for me.
So, for today’s YOF I’m indulging myself in my love of planning , and I invite you a long for the ride. May be it will be of some use to you if you get stuck in planning holidays especially if you’d like to take a solo trip and have some concerns about that, and I can indulge the rest of my fellow trip planning geeks who might just get a kick out of hearing someone else’s approach.
Step 1: Find a great spot to plan.
I selected a rather lovely, quirky cafe/antiques shop out in Portslade. It’s quiet, friendly and has lots of interesting things for me to look at – it kind of makes me feel like I’m already away.
Step 2: Book your transport
I actually booked my transport a while ago, but for me this usually looks like opening up an incognito tab on Chrome (or private browsing mode in whatever browser you use) so that cookies are’t stored and airlines can’t advertise flights to you for the next 6 months. This may be added paranoia, so feel free to ignore that step.
I like using Google flights these days, but Skyscanner or Kayak also do great jobs of scowering the internet for cheapest flights. I like to view flights for a whole month or for a big a time period as possible, so I can nab the cheapest deal, but a lot of this is dependent on your schedule. I find that travelling in the week is cheaper, but it’s also the quietest time to see most places and for a city break, you might consider that if you want a slightly quieter trip.
Step 3: Book accommodation
I’m a big proponent of Airbnb, I’ve never had a bad experience personally, and I’ve been to over a dozen places using their service. For my trip, which is 3 nights in Edinburgh, a new city to me, I had to allow for a slightly higher price than normal because I’m going during the Edinburgh Festival – yeah, the festival.
I was super surprised to find places that looked pretty decent for under £40 a night, which is kind of insane considering the price of hotels at this busy period. Anyway, I read my reviews (that’s my number one tip for Airbnb – make sure you pick places with lots of 5 star reviews, and read a good number of them to get an idea of what to expect) and booked away.
If you have any qs about booking with Airbnb as a solo traveller, feel free to shoot me an email. I’ve also got a promo code for you in the show notes, should you want to save some cash with your booking.
Step 4: The fun begins!
This is my favourite part: deciding what I want to pack into my visit.
Because this is during the Festival, I know I’ll have lots to see that I wouldn’t at another time, but some of the things I consider when picking my tourist activities are:
This is one of my favourite parts of travel, and something I have to indulge in.a bit when I’m away. I think it’s one of the best ways of getting to know a place: through it’s cuisine. I like to try and pick at least one classic traditional place, so for Edinburgh… you know there’ll be some haggis involved.
And I like to pick a few spots which are quite casual: somewhere I can go and not feel too weird that I’m on my own. Dining alone can be a big fear for some people, and while I don’t mind it, I’m not exactly going to book a table for one in a fancy French restaurant only to be surrounded by couples. Or worse, a family restaurant surrounded by screaming brats.
TripAdvisor is usually where I go for ideas on restaurants, but I don’t recommend this for London because I’ve had a look and the top 20 or so are not where I’d recommend people go. I think some cities have learnt to game the system, paying for reviews etc, and London is clearly one of them.
Ok, both consumable so far but hear me out: finding great cafes is a serious speciality of mine, and I’m always blown away by the places I find abroad. Again, it’s lovely to get an understanding of the local culture, while chilling out and doing some reading about the place or just giving your feet a rest.
So I’ll be looking for some of the most hipster looking places, I won’t lie, and a good place to try to find these are actually blogs. So I tend to search google for things like ‘top coffee spots in Edinburgh’ or ‘best cafes in Lisbon’ or wherever you’re going. There’ll be a bunch of travel bloggers who have compiled decent lists with photos and so on.
So one thing I love to do when I’m away, especially if it’s a city break, is to make sure I squeeze in some time in nature. I discovered this love in Japan, when I became mildly obsessed with finding the small but perfectly formed green spots in Tokyo, a city you might think is all concrete and glass. Actually, it has some incredible parks and gardens – some are huge too – and I had some of my best times just exploring in those.
So I’ll be looking for green places, botanical gardens, parks and so on.
4) Places of Worship
Oh how I love a good cathedral! This is likely some subconscious Catholic bias I have, which I haven’t shaken, but I’m open to all sorts of religious structures. I loved the temples in Japan, I loved the synagogue in Budapest, and I loved the strange mosque/cathedral hybrid of Cordoba.
I love to find some real silence in these places, and have a little moment when I’m not thinking about my next meal or where I can charge my phone.
OK, this is something you might wonder why an introvert is putting on their list, especially one who is chasing to travel alone, but I have learnt that tours – yes, group tours – really make a trip into a memorable experience.
I don’t exactly make friends for life on afternoon tours of a city, but I’ve had some great encounters. If you’re planning a longer trip to a more exotic place, then I really recommend a tour group, at least for part of it. I went to South Africa in a group tour, and Japan, and I can’t imagine enjoying the places as much without the people I met.
It’s also a great way to learn about a place. I find my mind doesn’t really take in info from guide books and travel blogs that well, but having a real live person in front of me who I can ask dumb questions to, is amazing.
Now, other than national treasures that you’ve already heard of or somewhere you’ve been recommended, I think leaving the rest of your schedule open to chance is the way to go.
You might note I personally don’t include museums or art galleries, and might think I’m off my rocker given that I’m a self-professed visual creative and lover of art and cultural type things… but… I can do that stuff AT HOME.
There are still places on my doorstep I haven’t explored as much as I’d like, but the idea of walking through a museum just to see a painting of a place in another part of the world, strikes me as a bit disrespectful to the place I’m in.
It may be a strange philosophy, but I feel like museums and galleries are for locals, who ought to expand their knowledge on where they’re currently living, and tourists ought to see the parts of the city that usually only the locals see.
Each to their own, that’s just my approach.
OK That’s a wrap, I’m all planned up now – and I will have an update on what I actually end up doing in Edinburgh in a few weeks time.
For now, take care and I’ll catch you next week!