Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!
Sitting at my computer over a month before I leave, I feel completely overwhelmed by the number of sights to see and things to do in each place I am going to be visiting. With 3 days (plus two travel days) in Prague, how do I know what's worth it to see and how to I spread this out over three whole days, so that visiting is convenient and efficient? With just 1 day in Milan, what is not important to see? After my Europe trip last year, I'm an expert at squishing everything into one day, but then I could consider the possibility of coming back to Milan during July.
The hardest of all is Florence. It's easy to decide what to see when you have a limited amount of time, but with one whole month, it's easier to decide what not to see! I also have to plan around tourism because waiting in line for certain museums (there are a few I'm willing to go to!) can take hours and there are always huge crowds. Worse off, I need to factor in day trips. How many places do I want to go to? How far away are they? Do I get there by train or by bus? On which days do I go on an excursion, and which days do I stay in Florence?
Research, to me, is the most important part of going on a trip. While some people like to wing it, I would hate to think that I could leave a city without seeing something that I would have really wanted to. Last summer, I did some basic research and came up with a list of landmarks I wanted to see. Since no one else in the group did this, and our tour guides hadn't always been to the cities we visited, I often was able to visit many of the places on my list!
But now I'm going at it alone for the most part, so I get to decide what to see all the time. No tour guides to drag us there based on a map, I've got to do it all myself.
One of the hardest and most time consuming things so far was choosing my hostels. There were so many in Prague, but I wanted to have my own room (not stay in a dorm with other backpackers) and I didn't want to pay for multiple beds (in Europe at a hostel, sometimes rooms have 2+ beds, but because the rooms are private, one person must pay for all of the beds, so it is impractical and extremely expensive to book a 4-bed room for one person!) -- the hard part was that most hostels were already booked. The shitty ones had vacancies, but I don't want to stay in the outskirts or in a hostel with doors that do not lock! It took hours to find a hostel with the proper room and then to find good reviews on it!
Milan was worse, because it's not a backpacker city. It's an expensive, executive city, where even the hostels are geared towards high-powered cliental, not young, energetic backpackers! I gave up on finding a hostel, so I found a low-budget hotel for about the same price as one night in Prague, in a great location.
It's nerve wracking not only to book a foreign hostel or hotel online, but because I am basing my decision on other reviewers and a few small pictures. I don't really know if these places are on small sides streets or if the guests are noisy all the time. It's a crap shoot.
So, all I've got to say is... time to research!