Things I looked up a few months in advance were where to go and what to do. Google Maps has this great function where you can make maps and add in places to visit. Here is what my map looked like for London.
You can open the map from this link. I coloured the places I had to go (my hostel and the bus station for example) in pink. As you can see, there were so many free places to visit! I had started with this list and Atlas Obscura and taken off all places that weren’t open/too far/not during the time I was visiting. Then I mapped out each day by tracking how long it would take to walk to each place and how long I wanted to stay at each place. A snapshot of my itinerary looked like this:
As you can see, I checked out what I could see in a day, gave addresses for reference, opening hours and I highlighted boxes in green that I absolutely did not want to miss that day. While making the itinerary I had to take off places like Abbey Road, the Leinster Gardens Facade and Imperial War Museum because they didn’t fit in my schedule within the times they were open or were too far away. So my list of 134 items was whittled down to 69. If you want to download the full itinerary you can do it here: Itinerary for Blog.
I was very optimistic with my planning. I slept in by about an hour one day (set my alarm for 6:30 PM instead of 6:30 AM) and rushed through the first couple things I had hoped to see. I could have spent hours at some of the museum where I only gave myself one or two and forgot to add in time for food so during the day I mostly ate the snacks I brought. I also walked so much that by the end of the second and third day I had to stop to take breaks on my way back to the hostel. I do NOT regret fitting in as much as I could and can honestly say I could not have done anymore than I did. I found that because I did so much research on places to go, and very little research on why, I didn’t look forward to many of the items on my list. I caught myself a couple of times thinking of skipping places like the British Library or the Wallace Collection to relax but forced myself to go and I’m glad I did: once I got to where I was going I was blown away! The surprise of not really knowing what to expect was half of that fun. All-in-all, my planning was waaaay worth the effort and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Since this trip, I’ve been walking everyday. I love biking but to prepare my body for another trip like this one, I need to get some walking in! Sometimes I’ll walk to grab groceries instead of drive, or walk to work instead of bike. Fitness-wise, it’s good to mix it up. Travelling-wise, I need to prepare my body better!
I’d also like to give myself more time at places like museums and galleries, and give myself a break to sit down and eat! I think having little breaks during the day would’ve been better for my legs and back.
It’s a learning curve! As I’ve mentioned, I’m an amateur traveller trying to make the most of my days off from work.
What do you think about planning vs. spontaneous travelling? Do you have any tips for my next trip (or other readers)?