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How to Master a Big City Adventure
Make the most of your next urban getaway with advice from Eagle Creek’s own resident travel experts!
Navigating your way through a big city is practically an art: You have to know how to swipe a subway card at just the right speed, walk the streets without getting run over (by crazy drivers or speed-walking pedestrians!) and weave your way from downtown to uptown without getting lost. It can be overwhelming, even for the most adventurous among us. To help you prepare for your next urban adventure, Eagle Creek staffers are sharing vital travel information that will transform you from urban virgin to city slicker in no time. Consider this the roadmap to you need to master the concrete jungle.
Q. What are the “must-have” items a traveler should pack when visiting a big city?
Connie, Marketing: No matter where I travel, I never leave home without PackIt cubes for organizing inside my travel bag. Other than that, the most important item to bring on any journey is a SMILE…it's the universal language!
Julie, Design and Development: For city trips I recommend packing running shoes, preferably in a bright color so you can always be seen. Also some cities can be rainy, so pack a raincoat that breathes and has a hood – it’s so much easier than handling an umbrella.
Q. Tourist traps seem to be lurking at every corner in big cities. How can they be avoided?
Connie: It’s simple: Do your research and actually talk to the locals!
Eric, Key Accounts: This is a tough one when you're visiting a new place. Start by avoiding big chain restaurants and stores. It's also a good idea to take sites like Yelp with a grain of salt because reviews can be biased. If you do decide to use Yelp, be sure to read as many reviews as possible to get all the different perspectives.
The two resources I rely on heavily are local advice and my mobile device. When you find a good spot, strike up a conversation. One of the coolest things about traveling is sharing stories, and locals are usually happy to tell you about all of their favorite places. If using a mobile device (which I recommend), use apps to help you navigate your new surroundings.
When I was in Austin, Texas and looking for a good place to eat (and there are A LOT of them!), I looked for the spots with the longest line. Locals know where to find the best food. If they think it’s worth waiting for, then it's got to be good.
Julie: Forget traveling during holiday weekends and the high season. An amazing place looks ordinary when there are mobs of people. Go where locals go. Avoid the "BIG" attractions and hit the side streets.
Q. It’s easy to take taxis everywhere and stay indoors in a big city. How can visitors turn their urban adventure into an active one?
Eric: Cities are like big playgrounds. Bring your workout clothes and some good running shoes. My go-to organizer for my fitness gear is the 2-Sided Cube, which separates clean from dirty and wet from dry. A big advantage of traveling to a big city is that if you belong to a national gym, they may have a branch in the local area (if they don’t, you could purchase a short-term pass). Gyms are also great when traveling because they often have WiFi and a place to shower between excursions.
Julie: My tip is to walk everywhere, that way you get a little exercise while taking in more of the city. Visiting the city’s parks? Try jogging through them instead of strolling. Or, rent public bicycles.
Q. Which big cities are much more adventurous and outdoorsy than one might think?
Connie: Lots of cities have great outdoor activities. An even if not, all you really need is a good park. I love Central Park in New York and Millennium Park in Chicago.
Julie: Boston has historical walking tours, plus breathtaking waterfront views. Jacksonville, Florida is a city with clean beaches and cool local surf scene. Las Vegas, Nevada offers hiking or climbing in Red Rocks – it's a one-way loop by car to view a 3,000 ft limestone escarpment. It offers crazy vertical hiking and climbing, interesting water features, and camping. Tulsa and Wichita both have wild, windy lakes nearby which are perfect for the summer when the water is warm. Try sailing or windsurfing here for a really unique experience.
Q. What advice do you have about public transportation, and getting around?
Connie: Use subways and buses whenever possible; it gets you interacting with locals and gives you more of the cultural experience. Plus, it’ll save you a ton of cash.
Eric: I rely on mobile apps. On a recent trip to Seattle, I explored the city and attended a music festival. Over the course of four days, we challenged ourselves to only take public transpiration. The first thing I did was download the Amtrak app, which granted us access to train schedules and allowed us to purchase tickets on the spot. It was awesome! I also downloaded the bus schedule, which gave us real-time updates.
Julie: In non-English speaking cities, always have your hotel’s business card on you, just in case you get lost. You can usually show it to a cab driver or a police officer and get where your going!
Q. How can visitors outsmart picket-pockets?
Eric: Always do your research as to the safety of that particular city and be aware of your surroundings. Be smart and be safe. I would recommend any of Eagle Creek's Undercover security products. They are great products designed to keep your personal belongings out of site and secure. They even go a step further and offer styles with RFID-blocking technology to protect against identity theft.
Keep important items like cash, credit cards, room keys, and identification out of your pockets where they're susceptible to theft.
Q. For night owls, which cities have the best nightlife?
Connie: Chicago has some cool clubs, but nothing beats New York (the city that never sleeps) for nightlife!
Eric: The cities with the best nightlife that I've been to are Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle, San Diego, and San Francisco. What I love about these cities is that they have a variety of options when it comes to going out. Each has its own unique personality.
Julia: I love the pubs in Dublin and Limerick.
What advice do you have for visiting big cities? Let us know in the comments below!
Maggie is a NYC-based actress and writer. You can find her writing on MensFitness.com, Viator.com, and Refinery29.com. Follow her on Twitter at Maggie_wp.