Travel Research Tips

Starting your research in preparation for a big trip? Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.
Starting your research in preparation for a big trip? Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.

Nothing is more sensible than doing some good solid research before heading out on a big trip. You obviously want to make the most of the limited amount of time you have when you’re visiting certain places. But, with many destinations, there are so many sights to see and things to do that you can easily become overwhelmed by a place—sometimes even before you get there. And, while you can’t see everything, you want to be sure you experience as many of the good things a place offers as you can!

So, to help in your research process, here are a few tips that work well for us and other veteran travelers we know:

  1. Use the media you’re most comfortable with. While more and more people are using electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops both before and during their trips, many still prefer traditional media such as paper guidebooks and maps. There are certainly great advantages in accessing information electronically, but travelers who simply have a greater comfort level with paper might simply want to stick with it—at least for the time being. For those curious about making the leap to electronic media for travel, here is a recent article on popular and useful smartphone travel apps.
  2. Get information that’s as current as possible. No, the Eiffel Tower probably isn’t going anywhere before your trip to Paris, but many things around the world are changing fast these days. Whether you’re using traditional guidebooks or online resources, get the most current information available. Even information that’s a few months old can be outdated and incorrect. So, if a guidebook or a trusted online source recommends a certain place, visit the place’s website to get the most current information.
  3. Consider the sources of your information. This is very important. Today, many travel blogs and articles are little more than marketing pieces that present a very positive picture of everything from Bangkok hotels to Australian wineries. Often, travel writers even receive money or another form of payment from the travel suppliers for including certain places on lists (while excluding others) and saying complimentary things about them. So, buyer beware!!! While often illuminating and helpful, much of the travel information out there comes from sources that might not always be as consumer-oriented as they seem. So, check with friends who travel frequently to learn which travel sources they trust for honest appraisals and frank, thoughtful comments. Many people, for example, swear by Fodor’s, Frommer’s, or Lonely Planet. Others never consider European travel without reading what Rick Steves has to say. In short, find travel authorities you can trust.
  4. Decide what you want to focus on during your trip. As noted earlier, many destinations can overwhelm with the number and variety of experiences they offer. So, as much as possible, try to segment your research. If you’re an art lover, focus more on the best museums in a city. If you’re more the historian, spend more time learning about the key historical sites. You can certainly mix things up, but keeping your research fairly focused will help keep you from becoming overwhelmed with the choices you have. As one noted travel writer has said: “While information is what keeps you afloat, too much can sink the ship.”
  5. Check out local websites that have insider tips or “comments” sections. In addition to useful information from people on the scene, you can often get unfiltered comments that are refreshingly honesty.
  6. Tweet a question. Social networkers love this strategy. You’re in a city that’s unfamiliar to you. You want to find out about a great place for a certain kind of food, and you want to be spontaneous. The solution—you send out a tweet. You’ll be amazed at the interesting (and honest) responses you can get in just 140 characters!

If you want to learn more about travel research ideas and sites that are particularly useful, check out this Frugal Traveler blog from the New York Times. It’s very interesting!

Are there any travel research ideas you’d like to add? We’d be thrilled to hear from you. Just post a comment at the end of this blog.