The Editor officially unveils our new design and some of its key features, plus proves a sucker for a couple of cold beers on a boat, introduces a handy tool, a competition, and rounds up the latest travel stories…

So those regular readers of the blog probably noticed a change back in April that this here blog stopped looking like this… and started looking a lot more like the page you’re reading right now. Updating the design of a 5.5 year old blog is quite a painful process, and a balance has to be struck between a) making things look awesome and b) preserving and displaying all the great content we already have and keeping it indexed by our friends at Google. Hopefully we got things right, and with a featured image for every post, bigger photos, and a few nice touches added by our web designer, I feel comfortable that we’ve significantly improved the look and feel of the site. We’ve also made a couple of simple tweaks to make reading easier (wider columns, larger/darker font and use of blockquotes) and added a related posts widget at the end of each post to help you find more great stories and tips at the click of a mouse.

What else did we do? Well we reconfigured the home page to show a little bit of everything we do… we’ve highlighted ten of our favourite “Long Weekend” city guides, a slider of our latest “In The Zone” hip district reports, and teasers of all our varied urban adventures in different categories – from festivals and nightlife to top fives and urban trends.

Elsewhere on the site and we also organised all our City Guides on one page, divided by continents and ordered alphabetically…. chances are if you’re heading on a city break any time soon that we’ve got your destination covered, so I would love for you to make a habit of referring to this page before you travel and to make the most of our team’s insider tips.

Screenshot of our new City Guides page.
Screenshot of our new City Guides page.

Naturally of course everything is also responsive for mobiles and tablets. So you can look us up on your iPhone and expect a decent user experience (according to my designer some people like to use their phones to browse the Internet… who knew?!?).

One other thing I will be concentrating on in the coming months is building our email list and giving extra value to our subscribers. We already offer a fantastic 22-page e-book to Ljubljana with a beautiful layout and top tips by six of the world’s leading travel bloggers to new subscribers (old subscribers ping me an email and I’ll sort you out!) and we’ll be looking to add some extra goodies, give aways and  exclusive content to our urban travel followers. Plus of course you get our latest stories and news direct in your inbox… so hopefully a bit of a no brainer! You can subscribe here if you haven’t already.

The Airbnb of Tours?

What else is new? Well maybe it’s the sexy new design, or maybe it’s the summer heat, but a number of companies have been flirting with Urban Travel Blog recently… and whilst most got nothing for their bravery but the electronic communication version of a cold shoulder, a couple have managed to seduce me with their free offers and useful tools.

Trip4Real were one of such successful suitors, inviting me to test their services by slinging me on a boat full of Barcelona-based bloggers and plying us all with beers on the big blue. (Yes their marketing team know how to work with digital influencers!). If you can believe that I can remain impartial after that then take my advice and check out their website… I’m sure someone has already dubbed them “the Airbnb of tours” as at its heart it is a peer to peer site that connects travellers with locals who use the website to announce cool activities and experiences which they lead. Whilst some of the experiences resemble the same offers you might get on a mainstream tours site, dig around and you’ll find some really fun and original things to do – from nightlife tours led by a local DJ to cooking lessons with Spanish grandmothers. They’ve currently set up in Barcelona, Madrid, London, Lisbon, Paris, Rome and several other major destinations.

The lucky bloggers sent out to sea by Trip4real (I'm the wise guy doing the captain's salute...)
The lucky bloggers sent out to sea by Trip4real (I’m the wise guy doing the captain’s salute…)

Hand Luggage: Never Get Fined Again…

Another company that reached out to me recently were Expedia who wanted to share this hand luggage cheat sheet… it is basically a reference tool (which they assure me they will keep updated!) that allows you to quickly check the hang luggage allowances of all the major budget and traditional airlines. As someone who resents paying for checked luggage and who finds keeping up with the latest hand luggage allowances and rules by Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair etc. a strain, I found it pretty useful. Hopefully it might save you a fine, and could be one worth bookmarking.


Competition Time

One final collaboration that may, or may not, interest our UK readers is with HolidayCheck… I agreed to help them promote a competition whereby you can win tickets to the Rugby World Cup, Ascot Races and the Moto GP in exchange for sharing your hotel reviews and travel photos on their site. Since this is the kind of useful content many people happily contribute to Tripadvisor for free, it seems to me that it makes more sense to share these with HolidayCheck (at least for the duration of their competition!) and therefore put yourself in the running for some cool prizes… more info here.

The Round Up

So it’s been a long while since I last updated my editorial column… in fact it was way back in March just before I headed off to Romania for the #EnjoyBucharest blogtrip. I had a great time in the much-maligned capital of this grand East European outpost, reporting on the city’s impressive bookstores that are evolving from merely vending paperbacks to become “curators of cool”, and checking in on what the local hipsters were up to at an underground sneakers event. I even got interviewed by local newspaper Romania Insider who asked for my Bucharest impressions. Overall a great trip that has piqued me interest in exploring more of what the country has to offer… well no concrete plans to return just yet but keeping it firmly on my radar.

My own sojourns aside, our global coverage expanded yet further with new city guides to mighty Moscow and underrated Oslo by fresh recruits to the UTB team, Laura Gozzi and Ben Norum; whilst Berlin was lucky enough to be covered twice recently, firstly by Sasha Arms who filed her thoughts on the chic district of Prenzlauer Berg and more recently by Laura Harker who shared her love of Koffee und Kuchen with the Internet.

We also published our Secret Seven tips for alternative things to do and see in Rome, which should prove well worth a read if you’re heading over to the Eternal City any time soon. We’ve already divulged our top secret spots in London and Berlin this year, and we’ll continue to expand this series of posts throughout the summer and beyond!

Right enough from me already… go enjoy a browse around the new design and let us know (duncan@urbantravelblog) if you have any feedback! We’ll be sure to take any ideas and tips into consideration.

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