There is no end of travel information out there on the destination you might be interested in, and most of the time sifting through it is both time consuming and overwhelming. New places, funny-sounding town names, and getting a mental map of the area you’re going to all takes a bit of research and effort.
Of course I would highly recommend Google as a great place to start researching your trip, but if you’re anything like me, sometimes I find the millions of results you get kind of overwhelming. Which site do I select? What exactly am I looking for? Do I trust this information? So here are a few specific places and ways to begin your research into your next vacation destination.
1. Google “Top Tens” in the countries/cities/areas you want to go
When using Google, be specific. If you know what country, city or activity you’re specifically searching for with your next vacation, try a search string of “Top Ten” places to see or things to do in that destination and it narrows down your results and gives you a great list of the best places to check out.
I love Wikitravel. Wikitravel is an open-source travel guide and it’s usually up to date and has some of the best and most accurate information you can find. It’s especially wonderful to use while you’re on the road as people often post which buses to take and current prices. It’s basically a traveler-made guidebook and one that you don’t want to miss out on. If you carry a tablet or smartphone, check into downloading an offline version of Wikitravel, or cache the pages you might need in advance on your laptop. The information on this website is absolutely invaluable, and if you have the time, add your two cents to it when you have new information to pass along to other travelers like yourself.
3. Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum
Another great website to check out is Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum. Not only can you find answers to similar questions you might be thinking of, but people also reply very quickly to any threads you start. Definitely worth checking out when you’re wondering about certain places.
4. Trip Advisor
Another great online source for information is Trip Advisor. Other travelers and vacationers post reviews and photos and let you know what they thought of the destination, accommodation, or activity. Just be wary of negative reviews as it’s easier to post a complaint about your experience than it is to post something positive. Trip Advisor also has a great list of the top things to do in that location as rated by you, the travelers.
When I’m researching for a place to stay in advance I will check out both Hostelbookers and Hostelworld to book my accommodation. If you subscribe to their emails they’ll often send you information on their latest sales and discounts. Make sure you compare the two, as one is often cheaper than the other.
6. UNESCO Heritage Sites
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) promotes peace and security amongst world nations and they’ve created and put together a list of World Heritage sites around the world. This is a great resource to use when trip planning as each site is unique and full of the culture and history in the area. Definitely something to check out if you travel near one!
7. A paper or eBook Guide Book
Buy a travel guide and take it with you. Not only is it a great and comprehensive source of information, but you can get very specific travel guides for just a part of the country, or for a whole continent if you’re taking on a massive trip and don’t want to carry more than one book. E-versions are also available, but I tend to prefer the paperback kind as it’s still a bit easier to pull out at a moments notice and you can easily flip back and forth to bookmarks when comparing information. And another bonus to the paperback version, you’re not as big of a target for theft if you’re not flashing around an expensive piece of electronic equipment.
8. Ask friends who have been there already
One of the most valuable sources of information that you can garner is through someone you know who has already been there before you. I’m constantly messaging friends and acquaintances I’ve met along my travels to see what they would recommend and how their experience was. Just keep in mind that everyone has different ideas and perspectives about what is fun on vacation so you might not necessarily enjoy the activities or places they recommend.