There’s no such thing as a perfect getaway, but there is still a pressure that accompanies your vacation. While planning your next escape, keep these things in mind. You will arrive prepared and ready for whatever your idea of “perfect” is!

1. Decide what kind of trip you want

What are you looking for? Do you need to relax? Do you want to culture yourself? Are you there just to eat, eat, eat? The expectations you have for the trip will determine the activities you plan, the area in which you stay, and even the clothes that you pack.

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Genova-Sedimentality

Lost in the streets of a big city like Genova . . . or wandering the vineyards of Tuscany? You decide.

2. Learn the layout of the city

Location, location, location. Knowing what type of vacation you want will determine where you stay. Are you looking for nightlife? Consider the young, hip areas. Do you need some downtime? Stay far away from said young, hip areas. Are you planning on visiting a lot of cultural sites and museums? Place yourself close to the main ones.

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A country stay? Awesome . . . unless you have a long list of “must-sees” that are in the city center.

3. Consider a walking tour (yeah, really)

A walking tour on your first morning in a city is an excellent way to learn the lay of a place (and a little history). True, guides can get kickbacks for sending you to certain restaurants, etc., but so can the hotel concierge or even the owner of the apartment you rent on Air B n B. Offer to take the guide out to lunch or for a drink and he or she will probably recommend a place that they personally love.

First day in Spain? Our guide took us to a place that served snails that were DELICIOUS. Would we have tried them otherwise? Maybe. But they were tasty from this corner bar.

First day in Spain? Our guide took us to a place that served snails that were DELICIOUS. Would we have tried them otherwise? Maybe. But they were tasty from this corner bar.

4. Account for transport expenses (and time)

Getting around a city can be expensive. When planning your trip, take this into account! If you are planning on saving some money by using public transport, it’s not a bad idea to learn the city’s metro and/or bus systems before you arrive. And by “learn,” I mean “download a few pics to your iPhone” of the routes near your neighborhood.

Bella is happy with the public transport in Europe . . . but navigating the rules for pets in each country was tough at first.

Bella gives the European transport system two paws up.

5. Work around the “must-sees”

The museums you must see, the places you simply must eat . . . these will nearly all operate on a certain time schedule or be closed on certain days. Know this ahead of time. You don’t want to miss seeing something because of poor planning!

That being said, get to know neighborhoods, not attractions. (See #8).

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The charming neighborhoods of Buenos Aires were more memorable than any tourist attraction we saw.

6. Factor in wait time

Remember that a trip to any major tourist attraction is exhausting: even just getting there can be daunting, and if it’s a popular attraction, there WILL be a wait. Factor this in, my friends.

Are you buying your tickets online? Awesome. But keep in mind that even the pre-purchased ticket line can be a looooong wait. See #Paris #MuseeDorsay.

Venice

If you’re traveling to a place like Italy or Spain, where the mid-day nap is sacred, factor this in to your planning. Most of the shops will be closed during this time anyway!

7. Pencil in down time

We have the best of intentions when jam-packing our activities into the short time we have in a city, but be realistic. You need your rest! Don’t be a cranky tourist.

8. Leave room for exploring

A schedule packed from sun-up to sun-down with activities? That’s alright . . . for a day or two. But what about the side streets? The adorable boutiques? The street vendor whose goods you simply must sample? These are the things that make a trip memorable. Leave room for them! Go explore. Get lost. Get really, really lost.

Otranto

“I have no idea where we are going, but I want to go there with you.”

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Lost in Tuscany? A horrible idea, I know.

9. Leave room (in your suitcase) for shopping

Speaking of leaving room . . . leave room in your suitcase for all those trinkets you’ll pick up. And when considering trinkets and souvenirs, think outside of the box: you might not use that bag that has LONDON LONDON LONDON written all over it, but you will wear that scarf you bought, or that small bottom of perfume, or those earrings . . .

10. Come with no expectations

Expectation is the root of all disappointment. Come to a new place with an open mind. Be yourself. Be ready to learn, not to judge. And enjoy this time in your life and this new place.

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Beautiful Oporto after the rain.