Planning Your European City Break

Last year Paddy and I went on three three-day mini breaks in Europe: Venice, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. Here are our top travel tips for planning your mini-break to any city destination, whether inside our outside of Europe.

Which flights?

When planning we always make sure the flights give us as much time in the city as possible. We always try and get a 6am flight and head home on a 9pm flight. This means you’re not too exhausted but have whole days in your chosen city- otherwise a 3 day break can end up only giving you one whole day resulting in no relaxation and no time to explore.

We have the luxury in London that we can make it to the airport by public transport, but always take the extra cost of transfers into consideration when planning your break, as a cheap and cheerful weekend away may end up a lot more expensive than first realised.

Another positive factor of getting there early and leaving late is that the flights are often cheaper as they are less convenient to the masses.

Affordable or affluent?

When booking accommodation for a mini city break, cheapest is often the best. You are only there for a few days and if you’re anything like us you will want to be out and about exploring as much as possible (with your trusty map of course). The hotel/hostel room doesn’t really matter as you’re only using it as somewhere to rest your head.

On the flip side, you want to make sure you are centrally located, which could be more expensive. With only a few days to explore you don’t want to be spending ages getting to and from the hot sightseeing spots or trendy bars.

In Venice we found an affordable boutique hotel just minutes from St. Mark’s Square, however in Amsterdam we stayed outside the city, a train ride away. Click here to find out why.

Itinerary or Spontaneity

Finally, research is key. You don’t want to spend time on the ground deciding what to do. You want to already know so you can spend your time doing and enjoying. We use lots of different sources online as well as asking friends. If you know the places you want to see, or at least areas of the city you want to spend time in, you can relax and experience them.

The first thing I do when I get to a new travel destination is buy a map. Yes it’s old fashioned, but it makes me excited and enthusiastic about exploring a new city. I like to head to a bar, lay it out flat on the table and decide how I’m going to spend my time. 

Sarah's MapMaps are good to get a sense of your surroundings and to settle you into your new destination.

Always go for a map that you can fold up differently and have enough area space so you don’t need to keep refolding. You also don’t want to end up with a map without enough detail…never good for when you get lost and you can’t find where you are.

Using a map allows you to explore areas of the city that you might not have known about, outside the regular tourist hotspots.

We do, however, take our time when deciding on where to eat. This is harder to research before you get there and you want to feel comfortable with the ambience, something you can’t work out from a website. With only a few nights away you don’t want to go to the first place you come across and leave disappointed.


Here’s a round-up of our city break top tips!

  1. Choose flights which give you the most time in your destination city

  2. Don’t forget transfer costs when budgeting for your mini break

  3. Choosing a less central hotel will save you money, but it may cost you time

  4. For short trips, deciding what you want to see and do in advance ensures you make the most of your break

We hope you find these tips useful… enjoy your city break!

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Sarah has a thing for maps, so one of her favourite holiday pass-times is exploring a new city. Give her food and beer (and a map) and she'll be happy.

Random Acts of Kindness While On the Road

4 thoughts on “Planning Your European City Break

  1. Great idea to get a less expensive hotel if you’re only staying in the city a few days. We usually do this for smaller weekend trips – and save our $$$ for when we do longer tropical getaways and want an amazing ocean view! :)

    1. Great minds :)

      Only worth it for short breaks if you are going on a spa weekend or luxury romantic get away. No point if you are going to be exploring a beautiful city!

      Thanks for reading guys!

  2. I know that planning ahead and do plenty of research can definitely save you money especially in Europe where it’s not always easy to find cheap deals at the last minute, but I still prefer being spontaneous and go with the flow :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Franca.

      I used to feel exactly the same way, but when you’ve got limited time in a city I feel like it’s too easy to miss things if you don’t plan your trip (just a little bit). Thank god for Sarah’s maps :)

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