We all want to travel, right? Who in the history of the world has ever said they hate holidays, they don't like relaxing, or absolutely can't stand discovering something new?! However, the niggly bits can irk us; booking cabs, finding your EHIC, packing the right plug adapter... when do we find the time for that?!
We can sometimes make the mistake of over-planning and, in turn, feel like we've had a shit holiday because we haven't ticked every last thing off the list. I, myself, was guilty of this for years; sacrificing the very few lay-ins we get during our working years to make sure everything was seen, heard and tasted. It took a while, but I'm slowly letting loose.
If, like me, you are one of these people, here are a few hacks to strike the balance between getting your holidays worth out of a country, but without stress-planning and skipping out on the actual relaxing bit of a holiday.
Incorporate bank holidays into your trips away; it's a free extra day of holiday to use as you wish. Although most bank holidays fall in a school holiday, meaning potentially higher fares, if you book far enough in advance, you can totally minimise it. May Day is one of those rogue ones though, so book off the rest of that week to get nine days off in a row, using just four days of annual leave, or perhaps just head off on a long weekend instead. A lot of publications (for example, Stylist) post guides on how to maximise your annual leave allowance each year, so defo check that out.
Fly early or late
If you can't get time off work, Friday evening flights are your best buddy. You can head to work, then head off to the airport straight from the office without losing any annual leave - or using it to just sit in the airport, or on the plane #winning. Alternatively, if you've managed to bag a Friday off, opt for the early morning flights, particularly for short-haul. Yes, it's a ball-ache to drag yourself out of bed at a time you'd usually be hurling your drunk arse IN, but like with the evening flights, you minimise wasting actual sociable/sightseeing/eating/drinking hours in transit.
Have your must-sees
These are the non-negotiables; a list of sights, restaurants, or activities that you would be gutted to tell people you'd missed once you're back at home. Big or small - Paris' Eiffel Tower, Rome's Colosseum, Prague's castle district - it's up to you, and don't let your travel buddies make you deviate from them. You can buy tickets online, so you're not wasting time in long queues, or you can set a day, or two, aside and just hit your list in one go (then head to the hotel spa to soak them weary feet!)
But, at the same time, go with the flow
One of my most chilled out holidays was an impromptu one to Milan. There are a couple of things I would have prepped differently had I had more time, but we saw the Duomo, had the best gelato in town (judging by the huge arse queue we waited in) and loved our time away. We actually ended up seeing more sights than we thought we would, and have funnier memories, such as not seeing the proper Last Supper painting, but instead a smaller, reprinted version in a cafe across the road from the Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Live like a local
Wanna hit the best bits, but don't have the time to actually find out what they are? Get other people to do it for you! I'm joking... kinda. Getting advice from local people on the best things to do, the must-visit places to eat and where to find the best deals will ensure you get a fully authentic experience in a city. Granted, different people have different views on what's affordable, or what constitutes as a good time, but you'll find some real gems that you might not have otherwise come across. Before you head off, ask people in travel groups on Facebook, or even just chat to locals while you're out and about. Everything is researchable these days - even opinions of people on the other side of the world. And, if you really don't have time, just put the question out into the interweb before you fly and Google Maps each one from your hotel once you've arrived, finding the closest ones. Simples.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab that credit card and get booking! The August bank holiday is a-coming...