“Be prepared” may be a great motto for the Scouts, but it’s the theme song for travelers. That and flexibility. You must be prepared for all types of contingencies and flexible enough to handle anything that happens. Being ready for anything will prepare you for the worst-case scenario, and anything else that happens is just an adventure. Preparation means researching a location and taking the advice of the experienced. Where do you look to get help in preparing to make this the trip of a lifetime?
Let Someone Else Do It
When planning a trip, sometimes it is easier to let someone else do it, someone with more experience and familiarity with the area. Travel agents are probably the best resources and definitely the most experienced. They typically get into the travel industry because they love travel. They have already been through most of the harrowing experiences and challenges you may face. Take advantage of their experience and use them to plan your trip. They will handle all of the details that can overwhelm the inexperienced traveler, such as meals, lodging, airlines, car rentals, and insurance. All you have to do is pick the place, the time (they can even help with both of these) and show up.
Packaged travel plans are the best for either the inexperienced traveler or the traveler exploring a location or area for the first time. Trust others with the knowledge and experience to lead you to see the best places, then later return and explore on your own. You’ll have a better handle on expectations and potential.
Do It Yourself: Research
Travel magazines are great resources for a variety of locales and activities. If you are working on an Action Adventure, choose a magazine which specializes in your pursuit: hiking, camping, backpacking, swimming, walking, photography, or painting. In these publications, you will find listings for packaged trips, specialized travel agents, and places to visit. Going with like minded-people makes the adventure much more fun. If you are a Location Luster, then magazines like National Geographic, Traveler, Geo, Sunset and other scenic/travel magazines will open up your eyes to a variety of wonderful locations. Don’t stop with the most recent issues. A trip to the library will provide years of back issues to peruse. Most magazines seldom revisit an area more than once every five years.
While at the library take advantage of the many books published about your location or activity. Even out-of-date books will contain tidbits of information for you to add to your pre-travel journal which may be left out of more recent publications. Study the photographs in the books for areas of interest and things to see. Read about the history of the location and get a feel for the people there. It will all enhance your travel experience.
Many local visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, hotels, and tourist information centers offer brochures and pamphlets on places outside of their jurisdiction. Even stores featuring outdoor and travel gear may have information on trips and tours all over the world. Most brochures and books will list the local agency you can write or call and request information from. This information is typically the best and most updated for recommendations on where to stay and what to do.
With today’s techno era, information on where to go, what to do and how to make all the travel arrangements may be just a key stroke away. Online services and Internet sites provide access to travel information, resources, booking and purchasing. Many newsgroups and websites offer chat areas and information different adventures and experiences around the world. Many are geared towards families, seniors, or special interest, so you can narrow your interests and research quickly.
You are not Christopher Columbus.
Don’t think the trip you are planning has never been done before. Ask for recommendations and advice from friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers. Take some of their comments with the proverbial grain of salt, but look for those tidbits that tickle your fancy. Ask about favorite restaurants, what they enjoyed most, what they enjoyed least, where they stayed, and what cultures they found. Their perspective may give you a fresh insight into your trip, and when you return, you will have someone to exchange stories with.
A true traveler is always hunting for the unusual and off-the-beaten-path “find,” gathering information from the most unlikely of sources. A word from a stranger on the bus, an article in the local paper, a radio show commentary or a television special make it worthwhile to keep your eyes and ears open and your travel journal near you. Jot down the bits of information to store away to help you in your decision and planning process. And let the imagination fly.