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Updated by phelan-edward2 on Nov 20, 2019
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How to Plan a City Break Without Using TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is one of the cornerstones for travel planning. Hotels, restaurants, attractions – it has it all, right? Why look elsewhere?

Except that, over time, what was a blessing has become a curse. Top-rated places don’t always reflect the best, just the most reviewed. Read enough about any place and people will say it’s the best, the worst and everything in between. It ceases to be useful and makes it harder to just enjoy a little pre-wanderlust planning.

Here’s how to get the magic back!

Pinterest

I used to think Pinterest was for just for bored homemakers to plan their dream furniture purchases. I was wrong. Pinterest is crowded with great photos, ideas and links for every city under the sun. Search broadly by city or get specific. Browse through, save the pins you like to your own boards (private or otherwise) and build your inspiration visually.

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“Free Walking Tours…”

“Free Walking Tours…”

Most guidebooks or travel blogs all recommend the same key sites in any city – and most cities with some kind of tourism will have walking tours available. Save yourself the job of compiling lots of overlapping research by looking for a free walking tour in your destination city. Even if you don’t go on the tour, their itinerary could be work perfectly for your first self-guided day.

I always try to take a free tour on my first day now as it’s a great way of ticking off many of the must-sees and gives you a chance to ask a local for more specific advice and tips.

Two bonus tips:
1) These “free walking tours” are never actually free; tips are expected so factor that in
2) In large cities, a hop-on-hop-off bus might be a better way to cover the basics.

Bimble Your Favourite Places. Share & Get Place Recommendations

If you don’t want to wait until you get to your city to ask a local, try Bimble. Like Pinterest but just for places, the site is for everyone who wants to get off the beaten track and find the places the locals love in their neighbourhood. Check out their latest placelists for broad inspiration or browse across the site. As well as browsing, you can quickly build your own placelist to save places you’d like to go – or record where you’ve been once you’re back.

Bonus tip: if you’re coming to Brighton and like a tipple, let me recommend my own placelist of the best cocktails in Brighton.

Airbnb Neighbourhoods - Your Local Travel Guide

Another great way to get the local scoop is from Airbnb hosts who have contributed to their guides. These cover a small selection of cities but the hyperlocal view on the neighbourhoods and activities is really useful and a great way to discover new experiences.

Instagram

A risky choice, as you can easily fall into a mass of samey, vanity laden selfies from wannabe influencers. However, search carefully and be prepared to scroll down a bit and you can soon be reminded of what made Instagram such an attractive platform in the first place – great photos from real people sharing real experiences.

Bonus tip: keep your hashtag searches to just the city name and try to use the local language where possible to get pictures from locals as well visitors more interested in sharing the sights than being discovered.

Atlas Obscura - Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations

The go-to site for all things strange around the world, Atlas Obscura can take you to weird, cool and unusual sights, shops and experiences around the world.