Five Tips for Making Vacation Side Trips Easier, Flickr: takot

You Can Always Take the Stansted Express!

 

So, you’re thinking of adding a side trip to your next big vacation. This can be a lot of fun, and it’s something I try to do, especially, on trips to Europe. You can get much more value for your money and see unusual, smaller or unique parts of the world that may not be worth full vacations of their own.

If you haven’t done it before, a side trip may seem like a lot of work. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case. Here are five travel tips to make your side trips easier and more fun:

How to book: You have two choices here: either book two separate flights or buy a multicity deal. I’ve done both and don’t think one is inherently better than the other. The best approach depends entirely on how you want to structure your vacation. If you want to put your side trip at the beginning or end of your vacation, go multicity. If you want to take a break in the middle, book two separate flights. I did the former when stopping in Reykjavik en route to Helsinki a few years ago (the first flight I booked on CheapOair, actually). Last summer, I did the latter when dashing off to Amsterdam in the middle of a London trip – and then heading out to Bruges and Luxembourg from Amsterdam.

Getting back to the airport: If you put your side trip in the middle of your vacation, you’ll need an easy way to get to and from the airport. This will depend on the alternatives offered at your destination. In London, for example, I used Stansted express to get to the airport for my flight to Amsterdam, and when I was in Madrid a few years back, I just took the subway to the airport to catch my flight to Marrakech. Side trips in the middle of your vacation work best when transportation to and from the airport is relatively painless.

Where to stash your bags: You don’t want to lug a ton of luggage around with you when you’re dashing off for a two-or three-day side trip. Instead, just take what you need. When I left Madrid for Marrakech, the hotel let me store my bags there. The same happened in London last summer. I’ve never had any problems with this, but you can get an added measure of comfort by contacting the hotel ahead of your trip.

Watch your timing: You might chew up a bit of time on planes and traveling to and from airports. When planning your side trip, make sure you have enough time for transit without taking up too much of your vacation. There’s nothing worse than making your plans before realizing that you’ll spend most of your trip on planes or subways.

Be realistic: Side trips are usually short and easy to pull off. If you get too ambitious, you’ll find yourself constantly short on time. If you’re side trips become too complex, they should probably be separate vacations.

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photo: takot

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