Upcoming Trip: How to find what to do & eat
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
I realize that this article is not for everyone. And that is because everyone travels differently, and this includes the planning part of traveling. There are different types of travelers (and that could even be a post itself one day... hope I remember). You have:
- The planner (Me): The one who likes to find a list of potential activities/events/locations that include both touristy spots and spots that are more for the local community, and food around these activities & places.
- The Spontaneous: Who will just figure out what is there to do on the morning they wake up at the destination they traveled to.
- Others: Which I will not go into because I realize this could actually be material for another blog post... If I don't remember - please remind me? Thanks.
Today, I want to focus on the planner. And more specifically I am going to tell you what I do to plan trips, because I get asked often how do I find the cool spots I find and the good restaurants (its not THAT often - but does happen I promise).
My short answer is that I spend time before my trips looking online and asking my friends on recommendations. To enjoy a place I must learn about that place, understand its culture, mimic its people, talk their language - and I mean at least be able to say "hello", "beer", "coffee" and "thank you" - it goes a LONG way.
Now the long answer, and this is going to sound like free advertising for MANY different sites but I have yet to receive a single $ from eating or traveling.
The first thing I do when I pick a destination is buy the ticket - for this I often visit kayak.com or skyscanner.com. After deciding the ticket I can get into the details of where I am staying and what I am doing.
First search I often do in the beloved Google is as simple as "Best Neighborhoods in XYZ" or "Where to stay in XYZ". Might seem very simple, but this can be the best thing to search, not only to find a well located Airbnb/Hostal/Hotel but also to see what neighborhoods are residential, which are known for their food, which are at the centre of cultural locations in the city, or which are simple the best. Of course every answer you find online will come from a blog, and just like this one, they will be biased to their own experience - so I recommend you read around before making a decision.
After this, I already have a sense of what's going on in the city - I can already locate a few places on Google Maps from reading about the different neighborhoods, and I start to mentally organize in my mind what kind of this I want to see. To expand and make an exhaustive list (and yes, I do make a list), I then go to these sources:
Culture Trip: My #1 place to go. They have amazing lists of things to do and places to eat around the world and have both typical tourist locations and more casual/local spots.
Google: I search for "What to do in XYZ" or "What do Locals do in XYZ" - which will lead me to different travel blogs that have itineraries where I pick and choose from.
Instagram: I search for hashtags of the city I'm going to, or popular hashtags of the city
TripAdvisor: I search for the city
Atlas Obscura: I search for the city and the site offers odd tourist locations that are sometimes not common.
Lonely Planet: Pretty good resource, and also seems to know I enjoy the "Top 15 FREE things to do in XYZ".
Get Your Guide: Here I can find walking tours which are great, or even more in-depth tours to certain museums or palaces, or more historical spots that are sometimes great to see with someone who can give an explanation. It's also great if you want to go to a place that is a bit far away, and you find a tour that offers transport.
In terms of finding out what and where to eat I often look at:
Thrillist.com: Looking for the Specific City
Timeout Magazine: Sometimes they have a specific magazine if its a big city, or at least an article for smaller destinations.
Google Maps: I often spend my most time here looking at restaurants, reviews and mostly their photos. I might be shooting myself in the foot here but I don't like Yelp, I've just never found it to be as useful to me as Google Maps is - which takes me to my next and final point.
Google Maps has a very dear place in my heart and this is because it becomes my go-to when I am traveling. First thing to do is to download the offline version of the map of where you are headed, in case you have no signal at least you will have a map - here is how to do it. Secondly, I always create a list of the food&drink options I find on my Google Maps, therefore have them always marked and can get my phone out at any time to see if I am near any particular spot, to go grab a bite/drink. Third, Google Maps recommends me things to do on the go, and that is useful for someone who might end up wandering off his scheduled path and end in the middle of nowhere from time to time.
P.S. All these plans don't mean that when I get to a place I won't explore anything different. On the contrary, I might toss my lunch plans away if I am walking and see a restaurant of food-car that looks unbelievable. This goes right most of the times, so my last advice on planning is:
"Be flexible and trust your instincts."