Visiting Somewhere New? 7 Tips for “Getting In the Know” Before You Go

by Janis on June 29, 2010

Every Tuesday is Travel Tip Day

Today: 7 Tips for Researching a Travel Destination Before You Go

Are you a spur-of-the-moment, go-with-the-flow traveler? Or one who tightly schedules their travel agenda in 15-minute increments to not miss anything?  

We tend to be go-with-the-flow travelers and enjoy discoveries as they present themselves.  Yet we’ve learned – that a little advance research and homework before departure — ensures that we make best use of our time in a new destination.  After all, if you really want to see the Mona Lisa in Paris, you don’t want to go on a Tuesday, only to find the Louvre closed. Or, on August 15, when it’s closed for Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – a French holiday.

Advance research helps traveler’s uncover a destination’s unquie charms. Online research lead us to an invite-only climb of Big Ben in London.

Plus, advance research can help uncover unique events or discoveries that you would otherwise miss out on.  One of our best memories of London will always be climbing the tower that houses Big Ben, to watch the bell ring 12 times at noon.  Mr. Jones discovered this event, and how to get an invitation, through an in-depth online search.

Here are 7 tips for “getting in the know” on a destination before you go:

1.       Rent travel videos and/or movies shot in the destination.   From Netflix, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations inspired our dining choices on our recent trip to Singapore.   Watching Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday inspired our pre-cruise Rome stay during our honeymoon.  To find travel movies, search Travel Adventure Documentaries on Netflix.   Programs by Samantha Brown, Rudy Max, Rick Steves and National Geographic our some of our favorites.

2.       Attend a travel lecture. If you live in the Seattle area, Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Back door offers free travel classes every Tuesday and Saturday in Edmonds, Washington. Click for schedule and topics. Travel shows generally feature destination speakers, and travel classes are frequently offered through community continuing education.

3.       Search online.  Google and other search engines deliver massive amounts of information on most destinations.  Start with broad key words, but then get very specific, such as “walking tours in Singapore”, “local favorite foods in the Mosel”, or “shore excursions in Malta”.  Don’t let language limit your search: enter phrase in the local language of the destination, and then convert results to English.

4.       Look for travel and foodie blogs. Blogs have helped us find unique experiences that our favorite travel memories. Divina Cucina helped us find an in-expensive 5-table restaurant for a fantastic food and people-watching near the Central Market in Florence.  Our positive experiences from other’s blogs were the inspiration for us to start this blog three years ago.

5.       Use Twitter.  Search topics and see who is tweeting on your destination.  Follow them. Then tweet the kind of information you are looking for.

6.       Ask people who’ve been there. “What did you enjoy the most about X?  Just remember, each of us has unique points of view, so someone’s idea of the perfect hotel and your idea may be miles apart.  We like to compare information from a variety of different sources, and listen for consistent themes.

7.       Buy guidebooks.  Despite all of the information available online, we still like professional guide books.  Two favorites: Rick Steve’s Through the Back Door   for commentary and good restaurant recommendations and DK Eyewitness Travel for detailed photos and illustrations.


The Travelin Jones behind the face of London’s Big Ben

What is your favorite method of research prior to a new destination?   What insights have you gained from pre-trip research? Please share in comments.

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