We’ve all been there before. You’ve booked your travels, perhaps even arrived in your destination, but aren’t sure what the best things to do are. Asking the hotel or hostel reception for tips will usually get you to the top touristy places, but experiencing more than that requires a bit of planning and research. This can seem like a time-consuming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are my top tips on how to plan amazing things to do in any city.
Step 1: Pinterest is Your Friend
Yes, you read that right. Pinterest has more benefits than just photos of cute puppies and awesome recipes. Over the last few years their search function has dramatically improved and their content pool has grown. Type ‘things to do in’ followed by your destination of choice and you’ll see hundreds of pins. Many of those pins link to lists of things to do in any city you search for. Either save these pins to a board or pick your favorites and proceed to step 2. For a head start on this step, check out our Pinterest page to see our saved activities.
Step 2: Make A Foursquare Account
I never understood the use or purpose of Foursquare until I started traveling. Now, it’s a website and app that I use every week. Foursquare allows you to make lists of any kind, so make a list of whatever destination you’re heading to. Then, type in all those fun activities you found on Pinterest and save them to your list. Foursquare will place everything on a convenient map that will be used in step 4. Foursquare also has its own database of things to do in any city that you search for, though I find Pinterest’s variety to be larger.
Step 3: Use Google Search
Just to make sure that you have all of your options on the table, do one last search on Google for ‘top things to do in’ followed by your destination city. Not all travelers use social platforms like Pinterest Foursquare, or tripadvisor.com, and there have been several times that I’ve found some great hidden gems from travel posts by searching on Google. This is also a great time to check out the tourism website for your destination, as they often have deals on activities. Add any of your findings to the Foursquare list and proceed to step 4.
Step 4: Use Your Calendar
Time is the most precious asset you have during a trip, and too many people waste it carting back and forth between attractions. Head over to Foursquare and take a look at your completed map of your destination list. There should be dropped pins of all the things you’d like to see during your trip. Zoom in to a particular area and add items that are close together to your calendar on a specific day. Repeat this process until all of the pins are in your calendar, with three to six items per calendar day, depending on how long they take.
There are several benefits to doing this last step. The first is the obvious; it saves time. If all of your attractions are in one area of a city, you have more time to spend at each of them and less of a commute. The other advantage is that this approach will save you money on transportation. By doing activities that are physically close together, you may not even need to buy metro or bus tickets outside of getting to the first stop that day.
For budget travelers, this could stretch to the point of getting cheaper accommodation outside of the city center since you’d save money on daily transport while you’re out exploring.
Step 5: Explore
While having a plan ensures that you see everything you can during your trip, don’t be afraid to get lost and do things off the beaten path. Some of our favorite memories are from unexpected moments, so remember to relax and leave time to just wander.
The whole planning process should only take 30 minutes to an hour to complete, and will save you so much more time than that over the course of your trip. With the tools above, you’ll be well on your way to easily finding the top things to do in any city. For even more things to do, check out our Destinations page. What are your favorite trip planning tips?