I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to how frequently I get to travel. Unfortunately, most of the time these are either last minute trips or travel on the cheap, which makes packing a nightmare.
I’ll be visiting the historical city of Graz, Austria, this weekend for a concert. After taking a quick trip to Rome last winter, and not preparing well enough to see everything I could have, I’ve learned my lesson. Here’s how I now set out to prepare for a quick trip like this one.
Do your homework
Plan out your route, check where you’ll be staying, what’s nearby and what isn’t. You may want to get to several sights, especially if you’re a fan of art and history, but not everything is as close as it seems. Though we’ll be traveling to Graz by car, from Central Serbia, we only have 24 hours to get there and plenty to see in between.
To pick great spots to visit along the way, check distance points and viable forms of transportation from and to desired locations. Then narrow your list and pick the optimal ones. Picking just a couple of places that won’t disappoint (and don’t require long waits in lines) is crucial, especially if you have little time to prepare for a quick trip.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to double-check how long it might take to get from one point to another. Especially when you’re in a country in which you don’t speak the native language fluently. A friend of mine, living and studying in Hungary at the time, once got on a bus to what he was told is a “nearby town” and later realized that it would take him five hours to get there. As you can imagine, that particular predicament was not fun a he lost way more time than he had planned on it.
Keep in mind additional expenses and research them, such as: bus tickets, taxi fares, museum tickets, et cetera. Read up on the location, find things you consider interesting and worth seeing. Then check whether the locations are currently open to the public, work hours, how to get there, and what you can expect when you do get there. It might seem trivial, but it’s a lot more fun if you have an idea of what you’re actually looking at.
Be realistic, if you want to really prepare for a quick trip
Keep in mind the duration of your stay, there might be 15 things that seem interesting, but you probably won’t have time to see all of them. Experiencing more things at a quicker pace can be overwhelming and often more trouble than it’s worth.
Another friend that I spoke to about this, a personal trainer who travels frequently for work, told me about how she once planned on seeing eight different things in one day. “I ended up seeing only six,” she said, “and feeling disappointed”.
Spending a whole day touring just that one site that you know you really wanted to see leaves you more time to relax and take in the whole experience. Personally, I find it more fun because there is always at least one thing I didn’t plan and end up seeing and enjoying because I left time for surprises. Keeping your schedule less packed gives you more flexibility.
Pack the right clothes
Yes, there’s such a thing as overplanning, which also tends to lead to overpacking. Lugging around a huge backpack or suitcase can be taxing. Try to minimize while packing multiple layers in case of cold weather, which is far easier than carrying a large jacket that you might not even need. Think of your activities and interests (the ‘what ifs’).
Yet another quirky friend of mine once ended up legit mountain climbing in high-heeled sandals. When asked why, in the name of all that is sensible footwear, she would do that, she explained that she hadn’t planned for it and only had the sandals and a pair of flip-flops on her. And she wasn’t about to miss out on the unexpected activity. “It was fun but I really don’t recommend it.”
Take notes – before and after
For this post I called up a couple of close friends to ask them about their experiences and any tips they had. I took notes of places and things I planned on seeing on this short trip and I will probably take more notes at the locations themselves. It’s an interesting way of learning and seeing things from a different perspective. Hopefully, I did my research properly and will be able to tell you more about it all when I get back.