3 Day Hop: The Ultimate City Guide

Money…Check! Time off work…Check! Itinerary…hmm.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve occasionally felt pressure to make sure you’re “doing (place name here) right.” Obviously, part of that is making sure you spend your time wisely. And because of the high cost of travel nowadays, another part is getting your money’s worth.

But when browsing travel sites for advice you always come across conflicting information. For example, you can only spare a day in a city and you try to find out what the must-see attractions are. You come across someone who says 24 hours isn’t enough! Stay a week! That’s right next to the person who swears that it’s not worth it and you should spend your hard earned vacation time in Place B, C, and D instead.

Before long you feel overwhelmed and your notes are a jumble, a completely different creature than they were when you initially planned your trip.

Hong Kong Skyline
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it seems like there’s so much to see.

I have a template which has worked for me whenever I’ve had limited time to spare in a city. I call it the 3 Day Hop, because with it you’ll be bouncing from city to city like a pro.

In my opinion, with just 3 days you can do a surprising amount. Will you see everything? Not likely, but chances are if you’re visiting a large city you won’t see everything even if you had 3 months. But 3 days is the ideal length because you’ll catch all the must-sees, get your iconic photos, eat and drink your fill, and even have downtime to groove on the city’s vibe.

Ueno Market, Tokyo
Three days is enough to get a respectable sample of the sights and sounds.

Day 1

I recommend going as fast as you can for as long as you can. This is a rare case of something being easier done than said. Your enthusiasm will keep you going right into dinnertime. That morning, or better yet the evening before, study your map. You did get a map, right?

Mark all the places you want to see and then plan a route between them starting from your ho(s)tel. For Day 1 focus on attractions within walking distance if possible. Or at the very least those within the city limits. Leave the really large, possibly time consuming attractions for Day 2. For Day 1 you want to keep moving and checking things off your list.

Day 2

My advice for your second day is to take it a little slower. For one, your body will thank you. And two, you came to experience the city, not just mark things off your to-do list, didn’t you?

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Attractions like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul can easily take a couple hours.

On this day you’ll have more time take it slow and enjoy some of the eateries, talk to locals, and take in some of the really big or non-centrally located attractions. Enduring a lengthy bus ride or waiting in a long line today rather than on Day 1 is going to be a lot easier knowing you knocked out most of the attractions already.

Day 3

Take a trip outside the city if there are any attractions there or explore some non tourist sections. What’s the city known for? Go see, eat, drink, or do it! Let your interests take charge. If you end up with extra time, revisit your favorite places.

Cafe in the City Square
Sometimes: do nothing. Just soak up the atmosphere.

Though this has helped me get the most out of my visits to different cities, it might not be for everyone. There are definite benefits to having some downtime and taking things slowly rather than trying to squeeze in another city. However, if you’re the type who gets fidgety with an open day in the schedule or wants to see as many places as possible, then this template is for you.

In the end this is just a planning technique. Use it to help create your itinerary. I’ve found it has helped me make even the most massive cities manageable.

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