The best trips are those that are best researched. Sure, it is fun traveling on the fly. But do you really want to risk sleeping in a skeezy hostel when you could have secured an awesome hotel room in advance? Or what if the one time you are traveling in Florence is the one day that the museum housing The David is closed?
In short, doing your research ahead of time will help you have a seamless trip so you can make educated decisions about your travel.
With the influx of travel sites and the popularity of traveling, there is no shortage of travel information. You just have to dig for it. Airlines and travel agencies have begun offering basic travel guides in hoping that you will buy their products. Be wary and do not use their suggestions fully. Often times they are sponsored and touristy. Here are some of my favorite research sites.
- TripAdvisor.com. This site’s shtick is to give the ratings to the people. Regular people (just like you and me!) rate their experiences, upload photos and give detailed reviews on hotels, museums, tour guides and restaurants. While this site is not just for travelers (many people rate things in their own town), it is a treasure trove for travelers. I tend to not focus too much on individual reviews (those most irate tend to post). The travel forums, however, are golden. Separating by geographical location, users can post questions to have answered by other users. Often times the questions are answered by fellow travelers or even locals. These are the kinds of questions that you won’t find in a travel book. Be prepared to lose many hours perusing the forums.
- Rick Steves. The European travel guru has a website that is almost as easy to navigate as his books. Along with updates to his travel books, he has a list of suggestions and tips, as well as a well visited travel forum. This forum is divided more by topic rather than location, but it still can provide a lot of research.
- Seat61.com. Ever plan on traveling by train? Seat 61 is the site for you. While it is unclear who is behind the site, one thing is for sure, you can learn everything about train travel before you set foot in another country. This site breaks train travel down by country and includes tutorials how to buy tickets, how to read train tickets and tips for successful traveling. There is even detailed pictures of different kinds of trains (first class, second class, overnight). It might seem chaotic at the beginning, continue to wade through the bevvy of information. Nothing is more unbiased and informative on the web.
- Facebook. Alright, this one might be a cop out, but hear me out. The best travel research you can do is by talking to those you know who have done it before. Send out a plea on Facebook for travel tips from your friends. Their advice will be tailored just for you.