For our first American Christmas together, Monkey requested we extend our travels beyond Massachusetts, so we journeyed through Washington, DC and New York, seeing friends and sites along the way. By the time this post is published, we’ll be on our winter holiday in Paris, our essential out-of-Scotland February break. So as I compile itineraries for myself, I have also compiled my tips on making those itineraries for you!
Find a global guide you can trust.
Start by doing your own research. I swear by the Wallpaper* city guides and 36 Hours guides, and tried them out on my hometowns first to ensure they aligned with my preferences. The 36 Hours guide to Oxford was about a 90% match, so I knew their tips on other cities would be a safe bet. At first I avoided Wallpaper* because I didn’t recognise their picks in the Boston guide, but I realised it’s because they tend to skip the obvious and cite more hidden gems – this often means forgoing the tourist traps as well. Wallpaper* tends to feature major cities, while 36 Hours has more extensive geographic coverage, so between the two I’m sorted!
Get recommendations from friends, keeping in mind your common interests.
Often people will list places to their taste, which is fine, as long as you take note of what you have in common. One of my favourite traditions is getting my friends to fill in their own recommendations in the extra pages of my compact Wallpaper* guides. I get a range of suggestions based on my range of friends and their unique interests!
Ask with a purpose: Narrow down your requests for travel recommendations.
Know what you’re looking for. For cuisine I like to sample a bit of everything, but prefer healthier, lighter dishes with vegetarian options that aren’t too cheesy.
When I went to Prague for the first time, a friend of mine told me I “had to try the svickova!” For some reason I thought it was a pastry, and got really strange looks when I would ask for it at bakeries. I finally found out that it’s sirloin, available at pubs. She must have forgotten that I don’t eat meat!
When getting restaurant recs, here are some ways to narrow down your request:
- A few types of cuisine you’d like to try
- What you don’t want to try – when I lived in Boston, New York’s array of European cuisine was appealing, but from the UK, we’d rather not have what’s more readily available on our doorstep
- dietary restrictions/preferences
- atmosphere: cosy, funky design, formal, theme/experience
- features of the experience important to you. Do you love wine? Cocktails? Or would you skip the drinks menu but never dessert?
Ask yourself, what do you want to get out of a dining experience?
- Sample haute cuisine?
- Try and amazing cocktail?
- Discover a new favourite beer?
- Grab something quick but authentic en route to your next adventure?
- Try something quintessentially location-specific?
Define what you enjoy most about travel.
I love finding favourite restaurants and local designer boutiques around the world, seeing theatre and art, and also exploring bookstores and coffeeshops. So I will specifically request these kinds of suggestions. “Somewhere we can sit down and read books and sip tea”.
What I enjoy doing in new cities seems obvious and unoriginal to me, but I have to remind myself that everyone travels differently. I’d prefer to avoid bus tours, and have very specific shopping interests based on what I’m looking for at the moment. I am always up for live jazz, but never night clubs. I adore visiting my faraway friend’s favourite local coffeeshop, even though to that friend it may seem utterly normal.
Every moment of travel is about learning what it’s like to live in someone else’s world.
I want to get everyday glimpses into people’s lives, whether through seeing local haunts or attending exhibits that tell me stories about how people live or lived in the world.
I travel to gain perspective on how others live. What is obvious to me becomes questioned in a different culture, and heightens my awareness of my own habits. I love discovering new things exclusive to certain places – I keep a list. I love collecting exclusives, my favourite jelly from Wellesley, Massachusetts, tea from San Francisco, facial spray from France. One of my favourite moments from Gossip Girl is when Chuck jets around the world, collecting Blair’s favourite things from different countries.
Plan your day, but don’t over-plan your day.
Centre your day around one main event, and allow plenty of time to wander and explore. I aim to collect one Wallpaper* adventure per day, which tends to take me down streets I never would have found, stumbling along other spontaneous treats along the way.
I’d love to hear your travel tips and wanderlust wish lists. We share them weekly in the Heroines in Training Facebook group – care to join?
P.S. Going somewhere? See if I have a guide for your destination and step into the footsteps of other heroines in my fit for a heroine travel series.