As I've considered the topics I'll cover in my 31 Days in Europe series, it occurred to me how a few simple tips will maximize any travel experience–whether it's domestic or international. I'll be interspersing these posts among the more exciting destination pieces, and I hope the information will make a helpful difference in your experience.
Travel Tip #1: Research!
Travel isn't cheap. Often, your destination is once in a lifetime. It just makes sense to learn as much as you can in advance to maximize your experience and fully appreciate all you're going to see. Three suggestions:
1. Invest in travel books.
If you're spending an extended amount of time in a new country, it's not just helpful, it's essential, to get a book on the country. However, if you're spending time in a specific region, it's more helpful to buy one devoted to that area. We really like the DK Eyewitness Travel books ~
book, left above, has been helpful in planning overnight trips, while the book on DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Munich and the Bavarian Alps–focusing on the area we're living in–has been perfect for day trips.
Travel books are more than worth the $15-20 you'll spend buying them, a small investment with a great return.
2. Poll your friends.
Because for so many years I was scared to fly, coupled with the expense of a family of five, travel to Europe was never on my radar; consequently, I must have turned a deaf ear to any talk of it.
I was amazed at how much insight my friends provided in how to plan for both general travel, specific destinations and Must See and Do's. Sharing their personal experiences made a significant difference in our choices.
3. Scour the internet.
In a world where it's so easy to reach for your computer or smart phone to research everything, there's a reason I put this as my last suggestion (but I'd wager it's the first choice for many).
You're going to miss some wonderful less-traveled roads if the internet is all you rely on.
Sure, you might find some, too, but the tips and suggestions from friends and travel guides are the things that have added the most to our travel. What to eat, the first thing to do upon arrival to a new place, pitfalls and touristy things to skip, these are the things that have proved invaluable in our travel.
It makes sense, especially where friends are concerned: our friends know us. Travel books are fairly objective. But the returns on an internet search are based largely on smart SEO which may or may not lend itself to what's best for you.
Of course I google the spots we're going to every time, but I don't rely on that information only.
Next travel tip will focus on planning, for which research is only the beginning.
Your turn: What about you? What other means of research do you recommend for those traveling (especially internationally)?
Note: Affiliate links used in this post.