A friend recently asked me about planning their days in Paris. This then led to questions about London, too. There is so much to see, with so little time.
When you are on vacation, time is money.
In Europe, you also need to remember that most sites close around 5:00 or 6:00pm. There are a few exceptions, and these should be noted in your plan. For example, the Eiffel Tower is open until 11pm or 12pm, depending on the time of year. Certainly, you would want to choose to visit the Tower after other places are closed for the day, if you have that choice.
How do you corral the mass of information?
Read on to discover smart methods for planning your sightseeing.
1. Determine what you want to see.
I realize this is kind of a no-brainer, but some people don't know where to begin. There are different ways to find this information:
- If the city has a Hop On/Hop Off (Ho-Ho) Bus system, use their online map of stops, make a list, and decide which ones appeal to you (further reading on those sites is highly recommended). For Paris, search: 'Paris Hop On and Off Buses'. Here is one example of a Ho-ho online map (dated June 2016): https://d12dkjq56sjcos.cloudfront.net/pub/media/wysiwyg/bbtpdf/Paris%20Map%20June%202016.pdf
- Check if the city offers a 'Pass' for its top sites.
For example, Paris offers several, including the 'Paris Museum Pass' which fast-tracks you to a pre-determined list of places to visit: http://en.parismuseumpass.com/. Check to be sure your 'Must-sees' are included. If you want to increase the convenience factor, you can check out the 'Paris Pass' which includes transport options, and a higher price. (Please read it's inclusions/exclusions carefully): https://www.parispass.com/how-it-works/. ***Please note where & when to buy/pick up this pass.***
- Web search 'Top things to see in [insert city].' Tripadvisor is great for this.
- A great guidebook. I recommend European guidebooks by Rick Steves. (P.S. Money$aver: The library has them!)
2. Narrow your search to 'Must-sees' and 'Maybes'.
3. Web search the open/closing times, noting the days of the week, and holiday closures, if a holiday applies. (Different country = different holidays).
Also note the price of admission or check to see that your special 'Pass' is included.
4. Sort through the information. Cluster together the ones in close proximity to each other, then order them based on preferences, opening/closings, and pricing. This will give you your locations for each day.
5. Determine time frames needed for your visit.
For example, Notre Dame Cathedral may take about an hour to walk through and enjoy. However, you may want more or less time if you pay to climb the Cathedral's tower. This all depends on preferences. Give yourself a range of time, cushioning in a little extra for spontaneous moments.
Voila! Day by day, you can visit that areas' attractions.
Now, back to information about the Hop On/Hop Off Buses.
Using a Hop On/Hop Off (Ho-Ho) system has its pluses and minuses.
Pluses: Double-decker buses give great views and a layout of the city; convenience (no thoughts about which Metro to take and where); some offer a few 'extras', such as a boat ride or free walking tour.
Minuses: Traffic slows down your day (it could take 1-1/2-2 hours + to get through an entire route; a one-day ticket is pricey; crowds in summer; **some Ho-Hos finish service by 5 or 6pm.**
Decide if you want to pay for the Ho-Ho ticket(s), use public transit, or, choose a mix: the first day or two, do the Ho-Ho Bus, then switch to the subway.
Remember: The subway system is typically your fastest option. Ho-Ho Buses are in the midst of traffic all day = slower getting from one place to another. This could really throw off your day's plans, so make this decision carefully. You can always switch to the subway at any time.
Remember, in order to see what you traveled for, you need a plan. This will help corral the options for you.