I have taken a few holidays in my time and here are a few things I have learnt!
My advice is take just the essentials in your hand luggage; currency, cosmetics and passport and not much more! My travel pouch is by Jaunt, it is slim and pretty and it means I can slip my passport, money and travel documents in it and they are always close at hand. I find if my bag is too big I am constantly rummaging around to find my travel documents, instead pop them all in a cute pouch so they are close at hand. Once you get to your destination, your pouch becomes an evening clutch bag… handy right?!
I also carry anything I feel might be a little fragile for main luggage, like my Joules sunglasses, Lomo Camera and cosmetics. Make sure you don’t have any perfumes or cosmetics which contain more than 100ml as they will be taken off you. Also, I know it sounds crazy, but I often carry my jewellery in hand luggage too, mainly because it’s fragile, small and light, if my bags were to be opened and anything would be stolen, I know jewellery would be one of the first things to go. Aside from all that, all you really need is headphones, hand cream and iPad!
Take a Backpack
When exploring a new city it is always good to have a backpack to put your camera and shopping in. Admittedly, you need to be careful of pick-pockets, so pick a bag with a good secure fastening and if you are on a train/tube/crowd, make sure you take it off your back and hold it in front of you. Wearing a backpack is a great way to spread the weight of your shopping and have your arms free to shop and hold an ice cream! My leather backpack is by Scaramanga, it is sturdy, cool and secure.
Do your Research
I know it sounds boring, but do a bit of research on the local area before you go away. You don’t have to spend hours and hours reading up, but it is good to have a little knowledge of the area and an idea of a few places you want to go. Look up local restaurants, shops and tourist attractions, it usually pays off! If you hear of a really amazing restaurant that you are intent on going to, try and book a table the week before, most bookings can be done online or via email. Similarly, you can book tickets for sports games, concerts, tourist attractions and galleries online too. Don’t fill your days completely, but maybe have one or two things planned before you go.
Travelling around the City
It can be hard to know the best way to get around a city. For instance, Amsterdam is pretty small and flat, so it’s a good city to walk from place to place. Where as Seattle is so hilly you are exhausted from walking within about 30 minutes. If you don’t get a chance to research the local area before you get to your destination, make sure you ask your hotel concierge upon arrival how best to get around the city. If you are not careful, you can spend a fortune on cabs when the local metro is fast, efficient and cheap. Similarly, if it is not safe to walk at night, you need to know so you can get a cab instead.
Hotel location is so important when you are on holiday, why stay in a super luxe hotel which is miles away from the city, when you could stay in an average hotel in a great location? In my opinion, you want to be able to step out of your hotel and start your day, not spend an hour on a metro to get anywhere decent.
Take Comfortable Footwear
It sounds obvious, but pack your most comfortable shoes. You don’t want to have to cut your day short because you feet ache or you have blisters. I always travel with Dr Martens and/or Converse, because I know I can walk miles in them!
Ask the hotel staff for recommendations. In my experience, hotel staff are local to the area and love their city, they always want to share the best of what the city has to offer, so make sure you ask them for recommendations. Similarly, if you find yourself in a cool vintage shop/record store or cafe, start chatting to the staff and ask for recommendations of other great places. When I was in Dublin, I was recommended a lovely cafe by a girl in Dubarry of Ireland, then the waitress in the cafe recommended an exhibition we should go and see, we wouldn’t have known about either of them if they hadn’t told us!
Most of all, it’s not a military operation! If you don’t see every exhibition, every shop and every show, it’s no big deal, you can always go back another time. Make some plans then relax, have fun and take the day as it comes, as you never know what you might find around the next corner!