Travel planning can be fun – it gets you excited and helps you make the most of your time in country. It can also be stressful if your crunched for time, or if planning ahead just isn’t your thing. Whether you’re a type A traveler or a play-it-by-ear nomad, here are five ways you can plan your next adventure:
1. PERUSE TRAVEL GUIDES AT THE BOOKSTORE
This may seem a bit obvious and old school but you don’t necessarily need to buy a specific travel guide. I personally love travel guides and purchase them often because I like to collect them. But even when I already know which travel guide I’m going to get (I tend to lean towards the colorful pages and practical style of Lonely Planet), I peruse through all the other available travel guides for my destinations. This way you see what tips and hot spots are referenced most often – that gives you a better idea of what you might want to do or see.
Trying to figure out what the top “can’t miss” sights and attractions are in your destination. Go to the local bookstore and peruse through travel guides from different publishers – most travel guides have a section listing the major highlights (e.g. “Top 10” “Most Visited” “Must See”). The things that you see repeated over and over across travel guides are probably the things you won’t want to miss.
2. GOOGLE IT
Once you’ve done some basic research you’ll have a general idea of some the things you want to do. You can find all the details you’ll need from a quick Google search. Using Google is as easy as typing “things to do in .. [insert destination here]”
3. SCOPE OUT INSTAGRAM
With all the amazing upgrades to the Discover section on Instagram you can find endless inspiration with just one hashtag or geotag! Start by searching the #name of your destination (for example, #NewYorkCity) but also neighborhoods and specific attraction names (like #WestVillage or #TopoftheRock). Once you’ve found a few good spots start searching using the geotag. Searching this way is one of the best ways to find local gems – like cafes, bookstores and restaurants that you might not read about in a travel guide or via a Google search – because local users will populate those tags the most. One thing to keep in mind is language; if you’re searching in English you’ll be missing out on locals who are tagging in Korean or Japanese, but once you’ve been searching enough you’ll catch to these
Be warned, using this method could result in a loss of countless hours and a productivity (not that travel planning isn’t a productive task in and of itself; be we all know the vicious vortex that is social media).
4. ASK YOUR NETWORK
This one might also seem a bit obvious but thanks to social media (again) you aren’t only limited to your immediate family and friends. When you’re doing your search on Instagram, for example, and find something that catches your eye, don’t be afraid to leave a comment or send a message to the user asking for tips. Some of the best travel recommendations I’ve gotten have been through Instagram. People are usually so excited to give advice and help a fellow traveler. You might even make a new friend!
5. USE TRIPADVISOR & YELP
Searching crowd-sourced sites is another great way to find out what’s popular and worthwhile and what’s just touristy and overrated. This isn’t only true for sights and attractions but hotels, day tours, and transportation services. Communities like TripAdvisor and Yelp will help you weed down your list to only the best, which is important when you have limited time to spend in your destination. By reading honest reviews from other travelers you can learn if the museum you read about in your Google search is actually worth visiting; you’ll also be able to pick up insider tips that are left out in travel guides (e.g. like which exhibits are worth paying for or which hiking path has the better views). When you’re on these sites, search by “top rated”, “most reviewed” and “most popular” to help you sort through things quickly.