How to Be a Townie

Follow our tips and you'll hit the ground running

Make a Plan

About two months before your trip, after you've reserved your lodgings, brainstorm with your guy about what to see and do. If you'll be doing the cultural thing, check the Web sites of museums and theaters: Major shows usually require advance tickets. Then call your hotel concierge with questions and requests. Can you really walk from Barcelona's Picasso Museum to the beach? (Yes! So wear your bikini under your jeans.) How much time should you devote to Honolulu's Pearl Harbor memorial? (At least three hours—really!) Finally, give her a list of restaurants and ask her to make reservations.

Ditch the Unwieldy Maps

For serious pavement pounding, nothing beats a street finder. In London, locals and tourists swear by the A to Z, pronounced "a to zed," which lists every lane and crescent. Randmcnally.com sells similar inexpensive pocket maps ($7 each) for major cities. An added bonus? No refolding necessary. Pop a few of Chronicle Books' City Walks cards (at left) in your purse before you hit a new hood for information on the buildings you pass; from $15, chroniclebooks.com. You'll also want guidebooks, but publishers update them only every few years, so confirm hours and locations before setting out.

Get Counseling

A private guide can offer an insider's perspective on a city, especially in challenging destinations like Tokyo or Shanghai. Whether you're into art or apothecaries, these experts can find the sites that suit your interest. Your concierge can provide references and help negotiate the price. (A guide should cost approximately $50 per hour, depending on the location.) Top concierges can also refer you to a personal shopper who can gain entrée to fashion showrooms that might not be open to the public (this service is often free, though consultants make sales commissions). Tell your darling it's about efficiency—you'll get all your shopping done at once, then have time to play.

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