How To Make The Best Of A Short Trip

   I´m pretty much an expert on squeezing in lots of the good stuff into the shortest trips. A couple of weeks back I was at a hoopdance convention in an insanely beautiful city. Workshops, jams, more workshops... I only had 2-3 hour windows to sneak out to enjoy the city, but I totally got the best out of it ! Nobody believed me I´d managed to eat the most delicious food, seen a live band play, walk over the bridge by night, see most of the gorgeous streets in the old city and eat Dampfnudels at the most awesome little place. And then I knew exactly when the return buses were leaving, I had a map with everything important on it, and I helped several other people too !

   My secret is very simple: I streamlined and organised everything beforehand. A few hours invested before I leave makes everything way easier.
I´ve perfected the art of doing this. And I enjoy it a lot. Thanks to this little trick: 
* I don´t fumble around with maps and guidebooks on the spot.
* I don´t look like a lost tourist.
* I get an idea which of the "must-see" attractions are actually worth seeing for me.
* I don´t get surprised by opening times, prices or distances.
* I´ve been known to find interesting things that even the locals were not aware off, just because some crazy backpacker found it and wrote about in on a forum.
   The fun part is researching what I´ll actually enjoy. Typical guidebooks recommending everything equally, and in the end you feel unable to choose. The internet tells you what is overrated and what is underrated. Thanks to it I skipped the huge imposing cathedral in the town square and checked out the gorgeous Celtic churched tucked away in the corner.

My sources: 

Lonely Planet (a must, you can buy individual chapters online or copy them from your library), Lonely Planet Forums, Reviews on Google Maps (a vastly underrated resource),VirtualtouristTripadvisorCity Chic (for thrift shopping). Also, I just Google ("best restaurant in Zaragoza" "thrift shopping in Munich"). 

Organising the information

Do you have a web-enabled mobile phone ?
If yes, I recommend collecting the info as Bookmarks on Google Maps.
If not, use a Word page. Additionally I bookmark everything on Google Maps and print out the map with the little markers. I like to have a Google Map printout with just the stuff that interests me: it gives me a simple overview of locations & distances. Also, I hate searching for some obscure street on a gigantic map of a foreign city.
If using a Word document, I group the info by category (food, shopping, where to stay). If on Google Maps, you can add little descriptive icons.

How to choose

What kind of things you´re interested in ? What is your style ? When I search for restaurants I look for vegetarian-friendly and affordable options, and they have to be either atmospheric, or have really good food. Anything alternative and quirky is always good for me.

What info do you need ?

I always include: street addressdirections (nearby bus stop or important monument, bus or metro lines that go there), opening times (very important !), price rangeshort description (tiny French style cafe), and tips (the carrot cake is to die for, avoid the soups, and check out the strange knockers on the doors). All this info is usually listed on the sources I´ve mentioned or on Google maps, so its not hard to find. 

Also: make your first day easier
I always research the easiest way to get to the place where I´ll be staying, and how to get out of it (meaning how to get to the city center). If you don´t usually take taxis, you might be familiar with deciphering bus lines with a heavy backpack on your back. Well, now you can impress your travelling partner by smoothly getting it to the right buy and knowing where you have to get out.

   This might sound like a lot of work, but it´s no fun to have to find all this out on the spot. Comparing bus maps with city maps, arriving at a place only to see closed doors... a bit of pre-planning will help you to avoid most of this.
    After reading all this you might think that I´ve left no place for spontaneity, adventure and exploration. Actually the opposite is true. I don´t have to stick to whatever´s on my little paper, it just gives me an almost fail-safe fall back plan ! Like when I know I´ll be eating at this awesome place later, I don´t have to think or worry about that part anymore and then I feel free to explore ! Then when I´m starving and I don´t have the time to search for the perfect place to eat (but I also don´t want to go to the first place around the corner), I can just dash to one of the several interesting suggestions on my little paper.
   Also, my pre-planning helped me to have more time, notice the details and appreciate the whole trip much more !

I´ve shared my nerdy little secret with you guys. Do you have any tips I could use ? Any secret travel info sources ?

Check these out: