This photo of the Vancouver Harbour was taken from Stanley Park. During a two-day visit, the itinerary, in part, included a Hop On Hop Off Tour that took us through Stanley Park, a visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, dinner and walk through Gastown and a walk along the waterfront at Canada Place.
Say Yes to a Short Trip:
We often think we need a week or more in any one place to make it a worthwhile visit. Having had opportunities for brief stop overs in many destinations with as little as 24 hours, here are my suggestions for having a great trip. First, be realistic. Research and planning is the best way to get the most out of a location, but that doesn't always happen. Cramming too much in may end up leaving you too overwhelmed and tired to enjoy the experience.
A 24-hour layover in Havana meant taking an organized tour to get the most out of the day. The tour was booked right at the hotels tour desk. The bus picked us up and dropped us back at the hotel. The English speaking guide told us a lot about the history of the city. We visited the old and new areas of Havana.
If you have time to research before you go, one of your first internet visits should be to the website of the Visitors and Conventions Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for the area. They will usually mail or email you a travel guide for their area. Many locations, especially large cities, have apps or online travel publications that you can upload. If you are lucky, they may have suggested itineraries based on the number of days you will be there. If not, try Pinterest, there is a wealth of travel information there.
During a two-day trip to Niagara Falls we packed in a lot. We chose a hotel right downtown so that most of the activities were within walking distance. Our itinerary included, Journey Behind the Falls, a boat ride to the see the falls up close on Hornblower Niagara Cruise, a trip up Skylon Tower, as well as an exciting ride on Wildplay’s Mistrider Zipline to the Falls to name a few. Photo courtesy of Hornblower Niagara Cruises.
If possible, try to book your accommodation in a central area. Having no car of your own shouldn't stop you from visiting the area. Other than walking everywhere, which may not be practical if you have a limited number of hours, public transit or taxi's can be quite efficient. One of the many jobs of your hotel concierge, is help you have a great time. Your hotel will not only have a wide variety of suggestions, but they usually have maps, tour booklets and coupons. They are also great resources, along with the visitor’s information center, in letting you know about the free activities in the area. Hotels often have their own tour desk, where you can book a wide variety of tours that will pick you up and drop you off at the hotel. As well, Airbnb or VRBO hosts are usually very happy to give you suggestions.
During our short stay in Paris we asked our Airbnb host for recommendations. She gladly told us where to find her favourite bakery, farmers market and wine store. We chose a place close to the Paris Metro so that we wasted little time getting around Paris. We even made a list of the things that were a must see at The Louvre Museum, so that we didn’t waste time.
Bus tours are a great way to get an overall impression of a place. You can almost always find a half or full day tour that offers an English guide. In general, the itineraries and on board tour guides will give you lots of history about the area. If it's on the tour, it’s likely to be a highlight of the area. If you choose a Hop On, Hop Off tour, of which there are many different companies around the world, riding around the city and listening to the stories can give a wonderful feel for the area. If you are there for a couple of days, this might give you an idea of where you might want to visit the next day. Many Hop On Hop Off tours allow you to use the ticket over two days. At the very least, you may want to put it on your list to come back when you have more time.
Many cities have walking tours both long and short and quite often free. They are generally led by a local, who can turn out to be a great resource. Several cities in North America have programs like CityPass. This gives you discounted tickets to the best attractions, allowing you to save time and money. Often these allow you to bypass lines and give more time to explore and see what the attraction has to offer. There are other companies that have similar types of passes for various cities around the world. The Paris Pass is one of them.
If you are not taking an organized tour, make note of the opening and closing times of the attractions and places you want to visit and plan accordingly. Allow time to pop into that gelato place on the corner with 66 different flavors or that interesting book store in a heritage building that you stumble upon. Sometimes these are the best finds.
Don’t let aimless wandering eat up your precious time. The quality of the experience is much more satisfying than the number of places you were able to visit. Having a basic idea of what you want to see is great but build in some flexibility. This leaves you more time at a favorite attraction, to explore unexpected gems, interact with the locals or to simply relax with a glass of wine!
Lori is a freelance travel writer and travel photographer based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She has had a life-long passion for travel and for learning about other cultures, while travelling on and off the beaten path. Taking detours along the way has enriched her experiences immeasurably. Lori enjoys writing and photography, so it was a natural fit to combine this with her love of travel.
Lori was in education for 30 years. She was able to combine that with 14 years of part-time work as a Tour Director for a travel company that provides motor coach trips across North America. Upon retirement from teaching, she moved into the tour company office as a tour planner. She now spends her time working on other interests. She has kept a travel journal for over 30 years!
Lori has taken online and live travel writing and photography workshops and is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA).