travel bloggers tell all | exploring cities

Travel Bloggers Tells All: Traveling on a Budget
Today I have a few bloggers discussing the most important part of travel — exploring cities! From booking tours to must-have items when walking around, these ladies have you covered. Feel free to leave them questions in the comments section, and enjoy!

Casey from We Took the Road Less Traveled

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1. When you’re traveling to a new city, what resources do you use to find tours and other activities?
Living in Europe and being surrounded by like-minded traveling friends, I often pick their brains first for ideas about things we should do and see. There’s nothing like getting heartfelt trip recommendations straight from the people who’ve already experienced where we’re heading next. My second stop while travel planning for “must-see” attractions and sight-seeing is TripAdvisor. I love their attraction ranking system and the honest reviews from previous travelers. Their site is a great jumping off point for making my “must-see” lists. I’m also a big fan of travel guide books. After I’ve decided on a travel destination, I usually run to the bookstore and grab a Rick Steves’ or Eyewitness travel book and flip through it for attraction, tour, and restaurant recommendations. Guidebooks are great for suggesting hidden gems and tips for unique travel experiences that I probably wouldn’t think of otherwise. Truth be told, my husband and I don’t normally do tours within many of the cities we visit on our own, but if we’re visiting ports of call while cruising, we often take advantage of a licensed private tour guide…especially if the port is far from the heart of the city or if a visa is required to visit that particular country. For cruising and finding tours, I ADORE Cruise Critic. It’s the end all, be all of cruise and shore excursion planning. I’ve also booked a city tour or two through Viator and had excellent experiences.

2. Do you prefer visiting tourist attractions or walking around like a local?
I enjoy a good mix of both. I think it’s important to hit the big tourist sights (like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Acropolis in Athens, Buckingham Palace in London, etc.) because they’re such iconic and historical pieces of those cities. Major sights light that absolutely shouldn’t be missed. But on the other hand, it’s nice to go off the beaten path a bit. Straying from the touristy areas is often where you get in with locals and snag some of those unique experiences every traveler covets. You find those cafes with amazing views and out-of-this-world lattes, that street performer who was so unbelievable that you sat for hours watching his craft, or that tiny craft brewery in an alleyway where you spent the afternoon chatting up the owner and sipping the best brews you’ve ever tasted. While you must see the main attractions, those unique travel experiences are what you’ll be talking about for years to come. Don’t be afraid to throw out that agenda, get out of your comfort zone, and let the wind blow you where it may.

3. What are a few of your must-have items when exploring?
While I strive to be a minimalistic traveler, I must have my camera, my iPhone (for quick photo taking, GPS, and internet searching), my travel notebook (full of all my travel notes and attraction/restaurant recommendations and addresses), chap stick, Ibuprofen & Band-aids (for the random travelers aches, pains, and bleeding feet), mini hairbrush & mirror (for quick touch-ups), an umbrella (if rain is forecasted), and a scarf to keep off the chill (if it’s scarf wearing season). I usually carry all of that in my spacious Kelly Moore cross-body camera bag. Whatever can’t fit in there, I don’t bring it. You don’t want a lot of crap weighing you down while exploring.

Belinda from Found Love. Now What?

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1. When you’re traveling to a new city, what resources do you use to find tours and other activities?

Oh, I am a big researcher online for tips, tricks and advice from blogs to online city guides. One thing that I always look for is a attraction pass, that allows access to multiple attractions for one price. When we visited Paris earlier this year, we purchased the Paris Museum Pass and that allowed us access to the Louvre, Saint Chapelle, Versailles, Rodin Museum and more. It was easily the best decision we made for that trip. Now whenever we travel somewhere new, I look for passes similar to the one in Paris for top attractions. I am also obsessed with DK Guides, as they have beautiful illustrations to describe interiors of churches, museums and more. I will typically travel with one of those guide books in hand, perfection.

2. Do you prefer visiting tourist attractions or walking around like a local?
When we went to Paris, the museum passes allowed us to visit so many places but maybe too many. We zipped around town seeing all the sights we could, but it was exhausting…mentally and physically. Too much of a good thing you know? One of my favorite days in Paris was when we people watched in Jardin de Luxembourg while eating macaroons. Doesn’t that sound just divine? It was my friends. It was pure French bliss. Now, when we travel try to balance our visit between typical tourist spots and enjoying the sights. Striking that balance takes practice, but worth it!

3. What are a few of your must-have items when exploring?
I wish I could say that I was more fun or out of the box when it comes to must have items, but I am pretty practical. Things like light layers and comfy closed toed shoes are always a good idea when exploring castles or ruins. For city visits, I try to make sure my iPhone has international data allowing me to use Google Maps or Twitter or Instagram. Beyond that, I think it is even more important to have an open mind when exploring a new place. Trying new foods, public transport system or attempting the local language will make the travel experience more authentic and memorable!

Sara in Le Petit Village

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1. When you’re traveling to a new city, what resources do you use to find tours and other activities?
When I travel to a new city, it’s usually for a quick two to three day mini-break so I try to cram as much in as possible and I have a set plan of what I want to see and do before I arrive. I’m a longtime fan of Lonely Planet and Luxe City Guides. I scour their websites (or books if I have them) for must-sees as well as the city’s own web page. The city’s own web page is generally more up to date with seasonal activities. Also, I’ll contact any local bloggers I may know in the area. Bloggers are a fantastic source for finding out all of the cool and quirky off the beaten path places that I love to explore.

2. Do you prefer visiting tourist attractions or walking around like a local?
My approach to each city and how I visit it varies. Certain places like Rome and Paris, beg to have the ‘normal’ tourist sites explored. It’s kind of insane to visit Rome and not see the Colosseum or the Spanish Steps, or Paris and not have your photo snapped in front of the Eiffel Tower, but I’ve found that with lots of other cities, like Lisbon and Madrid, I’ll take a hop-on-hop-off bus, get off if something catches my eye, but other than that, I’ll just wander about soaking in my surroundings.

3. What are a few of your must-have items when exploring?
When it comes to exploring a city, I’m pretty low maintenance, all I need are some comfy shoes, non-bulky layers that are easy to shed and carry around, including one with a hood (nothing worse than having to carry an umbrella while trying to tour a city), a cross body satchel so my hands are free, my camera, a bottle of water, and a little stash of snacks because you never know when hunger may strike and I find it near impossible to focus on anything if I’m hungry.


Filed Under: Travel, Travel Bloggers Tell All, Travel Essentials13 Comments
  • themovetoamerica

    Love all these bloggers and the tips provided. I am soaking it all up as I approach my big move – I am so glad I stumbled into blogging and managed to connect with so many people who have done the big moves before so I can get instant advice! Yay!

    Molly xo

  • Danielle E. Alvarez

    So many like-minded ladies in one post! Thanks for putting this together. I'm like Casey in that I seek advice from friends–there's nothing quite like hole-in-the-wall places that only insiders know of–and like Sara in that I pack simply but always have a snack nearby. Then again, getting hungry while exploring is a great excuse to find the best snacks that a particular place has to offer :)

  • Amanda

    If you do a bit of research ahead of time you can stumble across some great money saving deals, such as the free days at the Louvre, etc!xx

  • http:/ Megan C. Stroup

    I’ve found doing a free tour on the first day in a new city helps me see what I want to go back and see more of, and what touristy things I should skip. Plus, you pay what you think the guides deserve, so it’s really cost-effective! (Even though I found out about halfway through my recent backpacking trip to Europe that I was apparently tipping way too much. Most people only give 5 euros or so per person. Oh well – my guides were awesome and I thought they deserved more!)

  • Kym

    I second Trip Advisor!! It’s always my go-to.

    Love the new look here! Very pretty :)

  • Jessica | Independent Travel Cats

    Love that everyone here is still using guidebooks, I love them and get so excited to start paging through them once I have decided on a place to go.

    @Belinda, yes, I think the Paris Museum Pass is such a great deal, but you are so right about it being easy to get sucked into non-stop attraction seeing. We opted not to do the pass during our last trip to Paris and things were a bit more relaxed, but for a first time visit I think it’s a must-have.

  • Sara Louise

    Thanks for having me Rachel! I’m chuffed to have been grouped with such cool ladies :)

  • Louisa @ My Family & Abruzzo

    I agree that certain historic and iconic buildings/sights must be seen, but I am another one for asking friends and/or locals what they have done, or would do. When in Rome and all that!

  • jackie

    great tips! i agree that it’s important to find a balance of seeing all of the typical sites but also finding some not so popular areas as well. and love the new design – you’re making me want to switch to wordpress too eeek!
    — jackie @ jade and oak

  • Lisette

    I also recommend TripAdvisor. And I also recommend traveling light. I packed 5 weeks’ worth of clothes on our honeymoon. My poor husband!

  • Vanessa Morgan

    Your new blog design is GREAT. Very classy.

  • Paul (@luxury__travel)

    Some great responses, although I must say I’m not a fan of using cruise excursions as a way of visiting cities. I don’t think it gives you enough time. I’d sooner spend a few days in a city or a week or more and really get to know it, than just hop on/off a ship and have a quick tour.

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