Downtown and need a pee? Skip Starbucks and head to the nearest 5*/posh hotel (typically located in handy to find spots) and defecate in style. Refresh yourself with some Molton Brown hand cream and congratulate yourself on a job well done. The fancier the hotel, the more likely that staff have been trained not to confront people wandering around. It helps to walk with purpose and head to the bar/restaraunt area; the toilets are likely to be adjacent. Sniff it out, so to speak.
Downpour? A cheeky extension of the above; take the persona of a guest and hang a little while by the exit. The doorman/bellboy will promptly offer you a nice branded Golf umbrella. Give it back afterwards, of course.
Concierge as your guide. Hotel staff are less likely to do you up like a kipper – use them to get ahold of maps, advice and proper recommendations. Asking for their 2nd favourite restaurant might jolt them out of recommending their “preferred” default option.
Pack light, really light. It makes jumping on and off public transport so much easier, security improves, and wondering around in the heat no longer poses a health hazard. I’ve been working on perfecting my packing list for the past year – I’ll post a video on here someday. The general trick is to get yourself a small backpack; thus forcing you to pack little. I’ve got a 28-litre bag, which is a bit extreme – something around 35-litres is just right. Be prepared to rotate through clothes at a rapid rate.
Opt for small, quality gear. Good stuff lasts longer, generally speaking. You can get pretty hi-tech with even your underwear and making the right choices helps keep the size/weight of your backpack under control, plus see you through different environmental conditions. My packing list wouldn’t work in Wintery conditions, but I surprisingly feel that I have too much, rather than too little.
Don’t plan too much, especially if you’re on a budget. Book your first night in a new location in advance, if you must. But you’re usually better off sniffing out things when you arrive by just wondering around and asking people. You’ll get better deals haggling in person too; paying the rack-rate is balmy.
For fancier urban hotels, using the Internet is a must. “Secret Hotels” on Lastminute.com can get you a real bargain, as can Priceline’s “Name Your Price” model. Hotels typically pay some 20% commission to OTAs (online travel agents; Expedia etc) – call up the hotel direct and state the best price you spotted. They’ll typically match the price on their own website anyway, but propose that you book direct (generating more revenue for them) in return for an upgrade, or a free breakfast.
Use airport websites when searching for flights. Kayak is a superb meta search engine with a very comprehensive data set. However, it doesn’t yet have data feeds for every low-cost airline. A smart way to uncover who flies in and out of an airport is to check their live departures/arrivals section on their website.