Ideal for a successful city break
Us Brits just love a city break. In fact, in research published by Statista in March of last year, the humble city break was named as the most popular type of trip taken by UK holidaymakers. Nearly half of all respondents took such a holiday in 2019.
That said, the appeal of such a holiday may have been somewhat tainted by the two intervening years and their global pandemic, with city breaks in 2022 looking very different to those that were enjoyed in pre-COVID times.
Where once we could simply decide on a whim to hop on the Eurostar to Paris or take a flight to Barcelona in under two hours, now there are several obstacles to such spontaneity, with travel restrictions, bureaucracy and unexpected closures all having to be considered before you click that ‘book’ button.
Still, if you’re considering such a trip and want things to run smoothly, we’re here for you, with these top tips to consider if you’re planning a city break in 2022.
We’re sorry to bring up the C-word again, but we can’t discuss travel tips for city breaks without referring to COVID-19’s continued omnipresence. The easing of travel restrictions hasn’t simply returned everything to normal and many cities across the continent and beyond have divergent restrictions and requirements on entry and exit.
It’s worth checking the UK government’s guidance on travelling abroad before booking a holiday anywhere. You’d also be wise to do some research on your destination of choice to see what the regulations are like over there, too.
Moreover, once you’re inside the country, be aware that they might have requirements for wearing masks in public, taking periodic tests, signing health forms and all manner of other restrictions that don’t align with those currently in play here in the UK.
Before you decide on booking your break, do check the guidelines on museums, galleries, restaurants and bars, in particular; you might find that restrictions in some destinations make the idea of a smooth, simple city break less tenable.
Whether you are booking the travel and accommodation for your trip yourself or you’re opting for a package holiday, be sure to check the cancellation policies and, above all, read the small print.
Generally, it’s better to book holidays on a credit card, if possible. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you’re given some protection on purchases over £100. It’s also recommended that you book your holiday through a travel agency, rather than putting together your trip on Airbnb and through Skyscanner. Again, you’ll be afforded more cancellation protection.
Speaking of peace of mind, don’t forget travel insurance. Forbes, who have rounded up some of 2022’s Best Covid-19 Travel Insurance, warn that when it comes to insurance, “As ever, terms and conditions apply, so read the policy documents carefully before making your choice”.
NEIGHBOURHOOD KNOW HOW
Phew, that’s the fine print out the way, let’s get to it. One of the most important elements of an efficiently organised city break is to base yourself in an area or neighbourhood that is as close to the action or near to the attractions you’re interested in as possible.
While you may save some money by staying in accommodation a little out of town, the time and money spent on travelling into the city may not be worth it, especially if you’re only on a weekend city break.
As such, you should ideally focus the planning of your trip around one neighbourhood, to ensure you’re spending your time strolling the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and seeing the sights, rather than wasting it traversing an unfamiliar Metro system or getting stuck in rush hour traffic.
GET TICKETS IN ADVANCE
City breaks are traditionally short, compact affairs squeezed into a long weekend and spent in something of a rush. With many of Europe’s top sites, from museums to art galleries, cathedrals and stadiums operating at severely reduced capacity, booking popular tourist attractions well in advance has never been more important.
Though this can be tough to arrange from afar, you’ll find plenty of ticket brokers available online who offer deals on group bookings, the opportunity to buy tickets in advance of general release to the public, and discounts on tickets for those willing to visit during less popular time slots. There are some great travel activity options with Hellotickets available, for example, across a whole range of major European cities.
Search for ‘London’ on the platform, for instance, and you’ll be given access to an overview of West End show tickets, day trips to Stonehenge, and even opportunities to skip the queue for the London Eye. Wow!
WATCH SOME CITY SPECIFIC TRAVEL PROGRAMS BEFOREHAND
We all know that time is of the essence on a city break, and precision planning is essential.
And since roaming charges have returned for UK mobile phone users, you can’t simply plonk yourself in the centre of a city and plot your next move on the hoof anymore. The last thing you want to be doing is sitting in the hotel lobby, googling what to do next when you could be out there exploring. As such, it’s crucial to draw up something of an itinerary before you leave to help you structure your trip.
Make the most out of every moment. While of course reading travel guides is always a good idea (we’re fans of Wallpaper city guides, which are beautifully executed), watching travel programs before you go is a great way to narrow down what you want and don’t want to do.
Particularly useful, there are plenty of great travel shows on TV and streaming services which see celebrity cooks journey to cities across the world in search of good food and things to do.
We’re fans of Rick Stein’s Long Weekends, where he embarks on a series of culinary tours of a city’s markets, restaurants, wineries, cafes and bars; a marvellous insight into city breaks done right, we think.
Then there’s the late, great Antony Bourdain, who has certainly been around the block a few times and shed light on all sorts of cities along the way… Might he be able to share some travel tips on your next destination?
And while not a chef, check out Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil and Amazon Prime’s I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, which features deep dives into several major cities across the world and their unqiue food scenes.
EATING OUT: TO BOOK OR NOT?
Snagging a reservation at one of the city’s top restaurants can be a nightmare, even at the best of times. And we’re sure we don’t need to remind you that these certainly aren’t the best of times.
Due to the pandemic and its effect on hospitality, many restaurants across Europe are running at reduced capacity, under shortened opening hours, or have completely closed, and it can be harder than ever to land an elusive table.
If one of the reasons you’re visiting a city is to eat in its restaurants, then consider checking if they have any availability before you book your flights and accommodation. Or at the very least, make a reservation as soon as you have booked the other elements of your trip.
When looking for somewhere to eat out (other than the pages of IDEAL of course) one fairly failsafe website for fine dining is the Michelin Guide. Particularly pertinent in times of increased restaurant closures, the guide’s (and accompanying app’s) listings are regularly updated with opening hours.
Ideal Tip: If you can’t get a seat at the city’s hottest restaurant, many high flying restaurants have younger sister versions which tend to be more affordable, easier to get into, and (whisper it) both less pretentious and more delicious.
Many restaurants release cancellations first thing in the morning, too – it’s always worth ringing and checking, even if they don’t have any availability on their website.
Looking for more city break advice? Head over to our article on 6 IDEAL hacks for getting the most out of a city break.