Travel planning is rarely easy. When you’re going somewhere you haven’t been before, it’s often hard to know how long you’re going to want to stay there – will you run out of time before seeing everything you want to see? Will you get bored?
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself stuck somewhere that isn’t quite as exciting as you expected. Several years ago, I took a day trip out to the southern Swedish town of Ystad. I’m sure it’s a very nice town, but on my way there, it started pouring with rain. To make it worse, it was a particularly cold and windy day too, so it doesn’t take much of an imagination to work out what it was like once I disembarked the train. In short, I didn’t get to see much of the town at all, because even with an umbrella, I was getting soaked. It’s often a good idea to carry a book with you, and find a pub or cafe, to cater for such occasions.
It gets even more difficult when booking accomodation; should you book to stay for several nights? If you do, and you get bored, you might find yourself hanging around just because you don’t want to waste the money you’ve spent, if your hostel doesn’t let you cancel early. On the other hand, if you only book for a couple of nights and want to stay longer, there might not be any beds available when you decide to extend your stay.
My general rule of thumb is at least three nights – often four – for big cities, and generally two for smaller towns. It’s not always enough – I certainly want to see much, much more of Budapest, which is, admittedly, huge – but even in Sarajevo, which is much smaller, I found that I needed more time to get a good feel for the place. On the occasions I find myself starting to get bored with a city that I’ve got a few more nights in, then it’s generally worth just considering it a base from which I can make daytrips to surrounding towns.
It also helps to pick the right time of year to visit. My trip to Sweden was in April, and there just weren’t many other travellers around at that time of year, so the hostels were either empty, or full of school groups; so there weren’t even people around to socialise with. Once I worked that out, I headed south fairly quickly.
How do you determine how long you should stay in a town?