How to squeeze any city into two days


230 Fifth Rooftop Bar in New York City.

Madison Rexroat

Paris, Barcelona and now New York City have all been checked off of my bucket list thanks to careful planning and the willingness to cram entire cities into two days of activity. As with any large city, it would take a lifetime (or maybe a few solid years) to truly experience all there is to see and do, but since most of us don’t actually live in these places, nor do we have endless amounts of money and no responsibilities back home, we have to prioritize. Keeping in mind that you will probably have to give up some activities, here’s how to make the most of any city:

Do your research. Make a list of all of the things you want to see in your destination and prioritize them based on what you absolutely don’t want to miss and what you could give up. This will help later when you realize you only have, in fact, 48 hours.

Location, location, location. When booking your hotel or Airbnb, choose somewhere that is close to places you’ll be going but still affordable. In New York, we stayed at The Empire Hotel, which is on the lower west corner of Central Park and across the street from the Metropolitan Opera (it’s also the filming location for many of Gossip Girl’s famous scenes). The 10th Arrondissement in Paris is also a great location since it is close to Gare du Nord, the Louvre and the Picasso Museum. Especially in crowded cities, walking is going to be your best (and cheapest) form of transportation, so location is key.

Utilize Google Maps and CityMapper. Every time you plan out itinerary, you should research commute times between places and what the best form of transportation will be. Google Maps will show you where everything is in relation to each other so you can plan out the best strategy for where to go and when. In New York, we were able to walk through Central Park to get to the Metropolitan Museum, killing two birds with one stone. CityMapper is another great app that gives you step-by-step instructions for getting from place to place. Especially if you’re intimidated by public transportation (like the subway), CityMapper is a true lifesaver. 

Buy any tickets beforehand. Research which places require tickets and if lines tend to be long or short. Buying tickets in advance will be more convenient, but some tickets do have a time element, so don’t overbook yourself if the timing is too iffy.

Schedule in advance. Write down a rough plan of where you’ll go and when will be the best time. Do you want to see the NYC cityscape at sunset? Then use that as an anchor to schedule other activities around. Keep in mind how much time you’ll likely spend in each place and be realistic about your schedule. Give yourself more time than you think you need to account for anything unexpected, and don’t treat your schedule as if it’s the Bible. You can plan all day long, but things will inevitably go wrong, so be able to go with the flow.