Rewarding Sightseeing

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

– Miriam Beard

You’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time, make it the most rewarding ever!

More often than not, seeing certain sights is exactly why we chose a destination in the first place. Whether it’s the view from hiking up to a vista, enjoying a day at a theme park, partaking in a local festival or event, or going to a museum we’ve always wanted to visit…typically we have a “list” of  what we want to do once we get there.

And, typically we have planned our time (and often our budgets) to include these experiences. So, isn’t it worth a little bit of simple research to insure that your experience will be memorable (for the right reasons!)? My advice: Be informed! A little information can save a LOT of disappointment!

Here are 9 PointerZ that I have found to be quite helpful:

  • Know the Dates, Days, and Hours of Operation.  Again, whether it’s a national park, a theme park or a local museum, they typically have seasonal schedules.  Be sure to check for the dates you want to visit. (For example: Summer hours are usually extended, but many museums are closed on Mondays or stay open late on other days. Knowing this could alter your schedule.)
  • Go to the Source: Major sights have web pages and are typically up-to-date and current. Printed materials are great resources, but information can be out-of-date.  Check, double check, then check again a few weeks before you leave.
  • Admission Fees/Charges: Be sure to check if there are admission fees/charges, what they are, and what forms of payment they accept (sometimes they only accept cash). There may be “FREE” days and usually  there are senior/student discounts. Sometimes AAA offers discounts and often children under a certain age are free. Check for “family” admission bundles, especially for theme parks.

    Sightseeing in Athens

    Seeing the changing of the guard in Athens was on my sightseeing list…

  • Holidays and./or Special Events/Exhibits: If you’re planning on going during a holiday and/or when there is a special event or exhibit, be sure to plan on potential crowds, lines and possibly additional surcharges. Also, local, state, and national boards of tourism have excellent websites with calendars of events, festivals, concerts, etc.
  • Reserve Ahead: I’m a big fan of planning ahead. Popular museums, etc. can be very crowded with long waiting lines. If possible, reserve by purchasing your admission tickets online. I’ve done this for concerts in Italy and for museum special exhibits. I also love city/museum passes (see below).
  • City/Museum Passes:  Virtually every major city in the world has a city/museum pass. I’ve used the city pass in Paris, Florence and Venice and would highly recommend them. Most can be purchased in advance online. Some can be  purchased when you arrive. What they all offer is a wide selection of museums and sights that you can visit with your pass within a specified time period (usually 72 hours). The pass isn’t activated until you go to the first sight. And what makes them so convenient and a great value is (1) you enter through a separate (and invariably MUCH shorter) line; (2) in some cases you can revisit the same site as many times as you like; and (3) you can save $$ . In addition, you often receive discounts on sights not included on the pass. (Although usually not included in passes, I would also recommend that you opt for audio tours of museums/sights whenever possible. The nominal fee is well worth it!)

    Local city tours are fun and informational.

    Local city tours are fun and informational.

  • Transportation Passes: If you are going to use public transportation a lot, you often have the option of getting a public transportation pass along with the city pass. ( For example, in Venice, you can get a vaporetto – public water taxi pass –  and it is well worth it! I’ll be writing more about it on my Venice page).
  • Local Tours/Guides/Excursions: Check into reputable tours/ excursions as well as local licensed tour guides. They can offer an enjoyable overview of the city/area as well historic background and good recommendations and tips on what to see/do during your stay.  Cities may have local trolleys, trams, mini-trains, mini-buses, etc. that offer sight seeing and sometimes you can do well by hiring a taxi (this works out fabulously well on the Greek islands, for example). Whatever you decide to do, always check for credentials  and read reviews and recommendations (e.g., Trip Advisor).
Guided tours are suggested

Arranging a local credentialed guide makes all the difference. From Kusadasi, we enjoyed a fabulous guided tour of Ephesus and other sites thanks to our guide, Serdar.

  • Remember: You’re a tourist, too! I often hear travelers complain about “tourists”…hello? If you’re visiting another city/country, you are a tourist, too! Sure, some destinations are going to be more crowded than others…but if you go to Paris, are you going to skip the Eiffel Tower? If you go to New York for the first time, are you going to skip the Statue of Liberty? And, believe me, if it weren’t for tourists, many places wouldn’t be open, available to see or kept up…so, enjoy being a welcome guest (yes, a tourist) in someone else’s “home”!

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Please share your experiences and suggestions for a more rewarding sightseeing experience !