5 Ways to Travel Without Using a Guidebook (& Save Room for Diapers)

20 Jan

Guide books are great if you have extra space in your luggage, but with all the diapers we have to pack, we NEVER have any. So, here are 5 tricks we use to make sure we see all the sights… without packing that trusty guide book.

1. Use Cheat Sheets

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

Most hotels have racks full of tour brochures. We always grab a bunch of them and see where the organized tours are going. Then, we decide what attractions interest us and visit those sights on our own.

While traveling in Austria, we wanted to take a tour visiting the places featured in the movie, The Sound of Music. Unfortunately, it was out of our budget. Instead, we rented a car and drove to all of the sights found on the tour. It was cheaper, and we avoided the tour bus crowds, seeing the sights without wrestling throngs of people jockeying for position with their cameras.

2. Think Like a Back-Packer

Stockholm, Sweden: City Streets

Stockholm, Sweden

I admire back-packers because they know how to travel. They are flexible, talking to other travelers, asking them about the places they’ve visited and how to get there. Then, they plot a course and head out, not knowing exactly what they’ll find, but knowing it will be worthwhile. While this kind of flexibility may seem strange when traveling with kids, it’s really not. What better way to find out if a place is kid-friendly than by asking other travelers who have been there?

In Sweden, we talked to other people and found out that the train system has designated family coaches, with toys for the kids and family-friendly seating. We also learned that most hotels have play rooms with playthings for children. Incredible!

3. Catch a Taxi

Vietnamese Market Near Halong Bay

Vietnamese Market near Halong Bay

Hop in a taxi and ask the driver to take you on a tour. They know every major tourist attraction and some that are off the beaten path.

In Vietnam we asked a taxi driver to take us somewhere only the locals go. He drove us to a market that sold everything from conical hats to live octopuses. We were the only foreigners there and it felt like we hit the jackpot, getting to see the city from a local perspective.

4. Hop-On and Hop-Off a Bus

Grand Mosque Domes: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Big Bus Tour: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Big Bus

Many major cities have a Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour system. These double-decker tour buses allow you to see the sights at your leisure, hopping off the bus when something catches your attention and hopping back on when you’re done. This type of tour offers a little more structure and works well with kids, allowing you to stop for lunch, nap times and even diaper changes. The route is circular, so you always end up where you started.

We took a Big Bus Tour in Abu Dhabi. It took us to all the tourist attractions, including the Grand Mosque.

You can check out these websites for information bigbustours.com and hopon-hopoff.com

5. Download a Walking Tour

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

And finally, there are many walking tours you can download to your mobile device or MP3 player. Corralling two children while attempting to listen to a tour guide is almost impossible, but this type of tour can be turned on and off at your convenience. You may need to download the tour before arriving at your destination, but it is a great way to learn something about the city you are visiting.

Rick Steves offers free audio walking tours of select European cities at ricksteves.com/news/audio-tours.htm For a fee, these two companies offer downloadable walking tours tourcaster.com and pocketvox.com

Traveling without a guide book, tour guide, or even a schedule can be scary. But using these tips, you can find all the great places a city has to offer.

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6 Responses to “5 Ways to Travel Without Using a Guidebook (& Save Room for Diapers)”

  1. Malou Prestado January 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Your picture of this garden in Salzburg is so lovely. We were there in early summer in 2009. Salzburg is lovely but there is just no guarantee when it comes to the weather 😉

  2. Kongo January 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    Great post!

  3. kristaspurr January 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    I don’t carry guidebooks, but I do buy pdf chapers and print them as booklets. They end up positively tiny and can be dumped in the recycling bin on your way to the next city!

  4. redeyefamily January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    Thanks! I’m glad you liked it.

  5. redeyefamily January 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    You’re right about the weather. We’ve been there twice, once with great weather and once with awful weather.

  6. redeyefamily January 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Great idea! We’ll have to try that. Thanks!

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