No time to waste at your next destination? These top tips will help you build the ideal micro-break
If you haven’t yet heard of the micro-break, then get ready to revolutionise the way you travel. With our busy lives and myriad commitments, it can be hard to make time for a holiday even when we’re most in need of a break.
Yet, just as short ‘brain breaks’ can improve your concentration, creativity and mental health in the workplace, the micro-break trend is the new mini-break, helping holiday-makers escape for a mere weekend – or even just 24-hours – that, done right, can be a totally reinvigorating experience.
So what do you need to make the most of your bite-sized break away?
How to plan your microbreak
Forget the idea of a minute-by-minute schedule; there’s no reason why even with less than 24-hours in a new location you can’t find a window of pure indulgence.
The first element to explore is transport. Search flight and train comparison websites for early-morning flights – if you’re not sure where you’d like to go, comparison site Skyscanner has a London to Everywhere search function that is certain to inspire you. In fact, with a little flexibility, you can reach destinations such as Krakow, Copenhagen, Berlin, Toulouse or Barcelona from around £35 return flights even last minute.
Another benefit is the ability to travel light, breezing through the airports with only a bag or backpack filled with what you’ll need for the day (we whole-heartedly recommend a portable phone-charger, particularly if you use your mobile for snaps).
When you’ve got your transport ticked off, it’s time to start looking at what your destination has to offer. A great place to start is Instagram, where you’ll quickly notice trends in points of interest, picturesque architecture and must-do activities. This can be a low-effort way to start building your time in a new city and help tick off a few touristic boxes straight away.
Alternatively, a search for local hotspots and less-likely ways to see a destination will uncover plenty of interest for visitors who prefer the road less travelled. For example, our recent spotlight on Venice is designed to help you steer clear of the crowds. It might mean you miss out on St Mark’s or Doge Palace completely, but your pictures and experiences will be far more unique.
If you’re a keen foodie, one of my favourite approaches to a short trip is to start with the stomach! Gather a list of the best local cafes or restaurants and plan your rough route through a destination based on how to get between meals. After all, nothing tells you more about a culture than it’s cuisine.
A gastronomic tour of Lisbon might take you from a morning coffee at the Mercado da Ribeira, followed by a meander through the winding market stalls (sampling fresh fruit along the way of course) and stroll along the Tagus River towards Belem. There, enjoy the original pasteis de nata at the infamous Pastéis de Belém before exploring Belem Tower and its stunning gardens. Cross the river for lunch with a view at Ponto Final, before heading back into downtown Lisbon’s Baixa district for an afternoon pick me up with the locals, whether a shot of sweet cherry liqueur ginjinha at Sem Rival, or a coffee and snack at super trendy Heim cafe.
If you still have time, head to dinner in the historic Old Town (where you can also ride the old fashioned trams) and, of course, there’s the midnight mass of cocktail bars, clubs and dancing that is Bairro Alto – well worth a visit if your micro-break extends overnight.
Fly by night
One potential downside to a same-day return micro-break is that all too often, the best European cities only truly come alive at night. One rather more experimental way to make the most of limited time in a city is to specifically seek that out – discover a town by night by arriving in the evening and leaving with the sun.
Inverting the usual daytime adventure may be daunting, and we would certainly not recommend travelling alone by night. But some cities, like Paris and Rome, have a very special, different ambience once the sun goes down. In Paris, the City of Lights comes into its reputation for romance thanks to late entry to the Eiffel Tower and evening cruises along the Seine, while the Louvre’s night tours are a great way to avoid the daytime tourism crowd.
For café and cocktail lovers among us, these speedy visits particularly lend themselves to a travel game perfectly suited for day or night. First, head to a cafe or bar and order your favourite beverage and, when you’re served, ask your barista for their favourite venue – and what they order there. That’s your next destination: simply head there next and repeat the steps. It’s a great way to discover hidden local gems in a new city, as well as a great ice-breaker for solo or shy travellers.
Rewriting the rules
The key to building your perfect micro-break is, quite simply, to indulge yourself. With so little time at your disposal, you must put yourself first – either concentrate on packing in the activities you really want to experience or take a relaxing meander to find out what you can discover.
Micro-breaks are, at their heart, about escaping routine for a short time, so the only rule? Make your own rules.