2014 shall be known as the year (to few but myself) when I became an escape artist.
I was always a connessieur and ardent admirer of the weekend, in all its forms, and with all of my holiday time this year being saved up for New Zealand in December, by necessity I had to adapt to weekend travels.
This is not something to be taken lightly; one does not simply become a weekend escape artist overnight (nor over two adjadent nights, by default).
An important set of skills must be developed in order to successfully travel-hack your weekend. Aspiring escape artists take note:
While you may enjoy the carefree abandon of following the wind during an open holiday, your weekend is finite and time is precious! Not to mention that the careless, time-strapped traveller can easily end up spending megabucks.
Case-in-point; Prague. I took advantage of the German reunification long weekend earlier this month to explore this Czech beauty with a couple of Frankish buddies and it’s a stunning city, both in gothic aesthetics and in the extent to which tourists have turned the centre into a giant souvenir shop.
We decided to go with only a week’s notice, which of course meant most buses, trains and carshares were booked out by meticulously-planning Germans. For me, this wasn’t an issue as I rather like hitch-hiking, but otherwise I would have had to shell out a lof of cash had I wanted to get there.
The same goes for hotels, hostels etc – the longer you leave it, the more expensive it gets. For the Couchsurfers among you, last-minute couches are a lottery – you could get lucky, or you could be sleeping in a park.
Recommended: GoEuro for checking all modes of public transport, HolidayPirates for great one-off deals, Blablacar or Mitfahrgelegenheit for carsharing, Hostelworld for hotels and hostels, airbnb for apartments and Couchsurfing for staying on couches.
So. You’re there and you’re not going to be sleeping on the streets, congratulations! But the clock is ticking, my friend; you’re going to go to the neo-hype gallery of so-and-so, right? And the mandatory monument, essential museums I, II and III, generic capital shopping street and don’t forget those local specialties you have to devour, before the dancing, can’t forget the dancing. And cafes and… Stop!
I’m normally a let’s-get-lost-in-the-streets kind of guy, and even I concede that weekend trips do require some homework in advance. Unless you’re going somewhere tiny, you’re probably not going to stumble across some of the great things your holiday destination has to offer.
That said, pick two or three main attractions for your weekend and stick to it, otherwise you’re going to be a bundle of stress trying to fit everything in.
My American travel buddy and I were in Dresden last weekend. Saturday was hiking in the Sachsiche Schweiz mountains and Sunday consisted of a bakery crawl from the new city to the old city, using our newfound sugary energy to explore backstreets and climb the Kreuzkirche… to view the FrauenKirche.
As much as we would have loved to visit, fitting in a trip to the German Hygiene Museum would have made the whole thing an ordeal.
3. Not planning.
Having said all that, there is nothing like a spontaneous getaway to titillate the senses of the weekend escape artist. For us, and also for those immutable procrastinators out there, there are also plenty of websites that specialise in last-minute travel deals, flight aggregators such as Skyscanner that allow you to choose your departure airport and set the destination to ‘anywhere’ (hhmm, cheap flights to Turkey tomorrow…) and for those in Germany, airline Germanwings even has a blind booking function that will take care of the decision making for you.
Still no plans? Visit Hitchwiki.com for a crash course in hitch-hiking, stick out a thumb and let the road take you somewhere.
Not planning is hard to pull off for weekend escape artists on a budget (or at least those without a car), and requires the most balls if you have to be back at work of a Monday.
Truth be told, those who don’t plan generally just stay at home, or stick with day trips. Hence why it took me so long to start getting out of Berlin – without a plan so many reasons to enjoy another weekend in the city just crop up like wildfire.
However, since this spring I’ve managed weekends in Wroclaw, Ferropolis, Kostrzyn, Poznan, Rügen, Prague, Dresden and coming up at the start of December, the Franconian city of Nuremberg to devour the sights, smells and delicious delights of its Christmas markets.
So far my weekend escapism has mainly taken the form of overland travel, so perhaps other weekend escape artists out there might have additional advice to add, particularly for flying visits? See you on the other side!