Holiday research: How to plan before you go
From guidebooks to endless online resources, the problem with doing holiday research is less about a lack of information, and more about knowing where to start finding what's relevant to you. We've gathered some useful tips to get you thinking, and make planning your next holiday a doddle.
Holiday research: From guidebooks to social media and blogs
No matter where you're going on holiday, from the Algarve to Cyprus, there will undoubtedly be a whole wealth of activities and sights, some obvious and well known, others under the radar. It's these lesser known sights as well as local tips and ideas, that can turn your summer holiday into an unforgettable adventure, yet knowing where to find these finer details can be head scratching. The internet is a fantastic tool, with travel sites covering everything from things to do (such as Isango) to climate and destination info (naturally, we mean Weather2Travel.com). However, not everyone is totally digital - yet.
Whether you're a fan of good old paperbacks or believe there's nothing better than the ebook, the great thing is there's something for everyone to help make holiday research that much easier. Read on to discover the best guides, websites and more:
It may sound old fashioned and even a tad dry but the tourist board is a great place to start your holiday research. They're there for a reason: to promote their destination and inspire prospective holidaymakers to make the most out of what's on offer.
As well as tourist board websites and tourist offices in the destination itself, you'll almost certainly find that each tourist board has an office in your home country and where you will find a lot of physical resources, from maps and guides to itineraries and booklets. Look out for transport info to make your arrival even smoother.
Many countries also have great full service websites, for example, My Switzerland and It's more fun in the Philippines, but individual cities and regions also provide entire websites to showcase their unique holiday ideas. In the USA, each state has its own microsite like this one from Texas, called TravelTex.
There are so many different guidebooks, so it's a case of finding the right one for your holiday. From the chic and urban Hedonist's guide to popular Time Out guides via the omnipresent backpacker bibles like Rough Guides and Lonely Planet, you're sure to find something that suits. If you don't fancy buying the physical book, you can download the entire thing or just relevant chapters from most guidebook series, which can also be cheaper than buying a paper copy.
Even a browse in your local bookstore or on Amazon may turn up an unusual and innovative guidebook that will help your holiday research phase along, and while you're there look for novels, non-fiction and history books about your holiday destination that may inspire you even further. Just remember you'll have to carry them, so make sure they're not too heavy to actually bring along!
For a short city break, downloading a chapter or excerpt from a larger destination guide to your iPad or phone may be perfect, but if you're taking a longer trip there's nothing quite like having your guidebook to thumb through on long bus journeys - and you don't draw nearly as much attention to yourself with a book as you do by pulling out an expensive device on the road.
The most well-known forum is undoubtedly TripAdvisor, and even a cursory glance through the destination guides will help you here, but by reading through the specific forum topics that interest you, you'll get a great overview of the experiences other holidaymakers have had, and learn not only what to do and where to go, but perhaps more importantly what to avoid.
Other travel sites such as Lonely Planet also have exhaustive forums where you can not only do your holiday research, but ask specific questions and connect with local experts whose help can be invaluable.
Whether you're a dedicated social media user or not it's possible to harness the power of social sites like Twitter and Instagram when you're in your holiday research phase. If you're a regular poster on such sites start by asking your friends and followers for their tips and to share their experiences with you, you may be surprised at just how much information you can get this way, and people love to share their own holiday memories and special places.
Even if you're not a regular social media user you can use hashtags to fill in the blanks in your holiday research; by searching the hashtag for a destination, for example #Majorca, you can see what people are doing and photographing, and can find hidden spots as well as off the beaten track ideas that you may never have found elsewhere. Of course you can also follow the tourist boards on social media in advance of your trip to get inspiration too.
Once you're on holiday the research doesn't necessarily end: you can be in the most exciting destination in the world but at a loss to where to go for a coffee or a meal; that's where location-based sites like Foursquare and Foodspotting come into their own. These sites will help you discover the locals' favourite spots - or just places that other tourists have successfully stumbled on - cutting out some of the legwork.
How often have you read an evocative feature in the travel section of a newspaper or travel mag such as CN Traveller or Wanderlust, and mentally bookmarked that hotel, boutique or hike they recommend if you ever visit the country in question?
We can't keep all of these wonderful resources on file unfortunately but if you can find back issues of the magazines with the kind of travel section that suits your holiday style, or simply look up their past issues online, you'll find a wealth of resources at your fingertips.
The modern day equivalent to a travel feature and a friend's recommendation rolled into one is the travel blog. Travel bloggers make it their business to visit anywhere and everywhere in the world and document the highs (and sometimes lows) so that holidaymakers can learn from their experiences and get the most out of their own trip.
Some blogs focus on certain aspects of travel such as sustainable travel with SusDane, while others are all about a certain location. Europe in the case of Rear View Mirror or Vancouver for Curious Around The World. Blog browsing can take you all over the world virtually, and revolutionise your holiday research all before you've even left your armchair.
If you're in the midst of your own holiday research, don't forget to visit check out the numerous articles on our blog, and see the latest travel deals and discounts to help get you where you want to go for less.
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