A trip to a city is a very different experience than a relaxing, easy, breezy, all-inclusive resort. The options are endless and sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. How do you find things to do? Then, how do you choose? If you like to plan things in advance, it may be helpful to check out the tools below before creating your itinerary.
Tool #4 Google Maps
Google Maps has some amazing features that can greatly assist you if you are planning a trip to a city. By using the “Nearby” feature, you can look up a location where you know you will be, like your hotel, and then search “restaurants,” or “things to do,” or “museums” that are close in proximity. See if it has good reviews. See how many reviews it has. If you are debating between a 4 star pizzeria and a 4.2 star pizzeria but the 4 star pizzeria has 500 reviews and the 4.2 star pizzeria has 50, take that into account. Do you want to try the popular place or do you want to try the lesser known place? It is up to you! You can also visit their website or view their menu right from Google. Then, you can “navigate” to that place and weigh your transportation options. Renting a car can be a great way to get around some cities, but in many cities traffic and parking can be less than ideal. Google Maps can navigate for you the exact bus or subway route to take, tell you the estimated pickup times, and tell you how many stops to wait once on board. Not sure how much it will cost? Use Citymapper.
Tool #3 Citymapper
Citymapper, although not available in all cities, is essentially Google Maps for public transportation 6.0. It weighs all of your public transportation options in one place including subway, bus, bike share, Uber, Lyft, and walking. Citymapper also tells you the estimated cost and if there are any delays, service changes, or maintenance. It tells you the best entrance to use if your station has more than one, plus it tells you the best section of the train to board. You can also turn on step-by-step directions so that it tracks your location and guides you along the way, just like a regular GPS. If you will be traveling to a city sometime soon, download the Citymapper app to see if it is on their list!
Tool #2 YouTube
Google Maps may help you find good restaurants or spots you wish to visit, but how do you know what it will really be like? See it on video. Type into YouTube’s search bar the name of the spot you may wish to visit plus the word “vlog” and you will mostly likely find countless travelers and residents of the area sharing their opinions and taking you along with them as they visit. Still looking for things to do? Try searching “best things to do in…” and find things to do that way. Looking for a specific type of food? Search “best gluten free spots in…” On a budget? Try “cheap souvenirs in…” or “free museums in…” Travel vlogs on YouTube are an amazing way to familiarize yourself with a destination before you visit because you are actually seeing it. Then, use Google Maps and Citymapper to see their location and how easy they are to get to before determining the best spot for them on your agenda. If you study up on YouTube before your next trip you may surprise yourself with how many times you say something like “oh I saw that on YouTube” or have an idea of a nearby place to go when your family or group has some free time to fill.
Tool #1 Your Travel Agent
At the end of the day, your travel agent is the best tool you have. They can help you put all of the pieces together. Maybe they suggest one hotel over another because it includes free breakfast and an airport shuttle. Perhaps it would be better for your plans to get an unlimited subway card instead of paying per ride. It is possible that the restaurant you were so excited to go to is closed on Sundays and you have to rearrange your schedule to fit it in. Your travel agent is the one who will think of these things and help you put together a perfect itinerary for the experience you want.
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Written by Carol Gabbert, Van Zile Travel