Tips on Bagging that Perfect Weekend Break
I absolutely adore the concept of the ‘weekend break’.
While these few days away can be relaxing in just about any continent on earth, there is just something about a weekend break when you live in Europe.
I mean, with just a little hop, skip and jump on a plane you can find yourself sipping coffee at a corner shop in Vienna, soaking up the sun in any of Greece’s Cyclades islands, or gliding down the Canal Grande on a gondola in Venice, gelato in hand.
French people love to vacation. Come July and August, the offices are practically empty. Add to this a 36 hour work week (with compensated time off), numerous public holidays (and forced office closures when those public holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday), and voilà! You have the perfect excuse to take those long weekend breaks in just about any European city your heart desires.
I may not be French, but I have adopted their love for weekend traveling.
I’m going to share my best tips on booking that dream weekend break at the best price. Ready? Here we go.
The first and most important thing is flexibility. Ok, so your office is closed from Thursday until Monday for Ascension/Spring/ Bastille/ Assumption Day. But that trip to Rome has a great deal on a package departing Friday and returning Tuesday. If your budget (and most importantly, your boss) will allow, why not take the Tuesday off and grab that deal. You won’t be sorry when you toss your wish coin into the Fontana di Trevi knowing that by doing so, legend has it you will one day return to magical Rome.
Be flexible also on when you will travel. The Easter weekend is typically a no-no if you’re budget conscious, as prices skyrocket no matter how long in advance you book. Similarly, trying to book a weekend in just about any major city for New Year’s Eve celebrations can be daunting.
Go back. And again.
Most cities, especially those in Europe, are just so full of enticing history and culture. A weekend will get you acquainted, but I doubt you’ll become best friends in that first meeting. Surely you couldn’t discover, in depth, the hidden treasures of Barcelona or understand fully the complexities of Prague in just one weekend.
If you have the opportunity, go back. Again and again if you so wish. Peel back the layers of the city like an onion, and discover its depth on every subsequent visit.
It’s like my love affair with London. I’ve been back numerous times over the years, for a quick weekend dash, or longer ‘weekends’, or what some may call a weekend, minus the end.
On some of these breaks, London’s flashy and loud. On others, she’s grey, secretive and cultural. And then there are those days when she surprises you with you a new off the wall restaurant, or a tiny bookshop you never thought to enter, but is actually full of little gems. London never fails to deliver. “No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. Samuel Johnson got it right.
If you’re everything I’m not (which is an annoyingly anal control frEak!) you could be happy with the cést la vie attitude to vacation planning. I have always admired those free spirits who could just put together a camping bag at the last minute and hit the road. But since I’ve never been the camping type (and don’t even get me started on ‘glamping’), I like to plan every last detail before I even click ‘buy’ on the airline tickets.
But there is something to be said about last minute deals. I’ve found fantastic savings on everything from luxury resorts to boutique hotels simply by making a late purchase. In fact one of my most memorable visits to Santorini was booked a mere 3 days before depature. Sure, I had to scramble to get my vacation approved, and ensure that dress I ordered from Asos arrived by express delivery, but it was all worth it when I lay on the beach, mojito in hand, knowing I saved 50% more than those suckers in the loungers next to me. 😉
Places you never dreamed off.
London, Paris, Madrid and Rome all receive their fair share of fame in the weekend city break category. But there are several lesser known cities that have been overlooked by travellers in terms of their touristic potential, just waiting to be discovered.
The key here is to be open-minded, instead of going for the sake of going. It’s all about thinking out of the box. A weekend in Kiev? Avid opera enthusiasts can find dirt cheap tickets and a lovely stroll through the city brings to view its famous cathedral, Saint Sophia (Unesco World Heritage site).
Got a couple of days to spare? Why not explore Ljubljana? Don’t let the tongue twister of a name scare you away – I found the Slovenian capital to be oddly charming. The little winding streets of the old town are best explored on foot and a visit to the medieval castle high up on the hill overlooking the city is a must.
Other underrated cities include Bratislava, Saint Petersburg, Dubrovnik, Valencia and Brussels to name a few.
To promote tourism to these cities, one may, by chance stumble across wonderfully priced weekend packages on some private sale vacation sites, if you’re on the lookout.
Which brings me to my final tip: Register on private sale vacation sites.
I’ve personally used Voyage Privé numerous times when booking vacations. I recently found a particularly lovely boutique hotel in Dubrovnik for the fraction of the cost on their site, which included access to the hotel spa. I love that they incorporate mostly luxury branded hotels in their vacation packages, and the fact that some of these vacations are up to 70% off the regular price doesn’t hurt either.
Their customer service (on the French site anyways) leaves a little something to be desired, but again, the huge discounts offered on top notch hotels helps me sometimes overlook that.
These private, invite-only vacation sales are becoming increasingly popular, and I won’t mention them here as a quick Google search can get you all the most updated info.
I just think it’s worth registering your email, and browsing through their latest offers when you’re ready to book. Or in my case, during every lunch break at work.
Seriously, Mr Wolf calls these online brochures my “porn”. I just call them “my preeeeccciousss”.