Planning a trip? It feels like everyone is ready to shake off the isolation of staying at home and design a dream vacation. But if you’ve ever struggled with how to research travel destinations and actually make that plan, have no fear. We’ll go through the smartest ways to research your destination—while having fun doing it—and share some tips to get your trip planning started right.
Even if you’re not yet ready to break the seal on your blanket burrito, it’s never too early to begin making plans to make a plan to travel.
Table of Contents
- 13 Smart Ways to Research Travel Destinations
- 1. Scour Travel Blogs
- 2. Talk with Friends and Family
- 3. Consult TripAdvisor
- 4. Watch Film Documentaries, TV Shows, and Movies
- 5. Tune in to Travel Podcasts
- 6. Comb Through Travel Magazines
- 7. Peruse Travel Guides
- 8. Watch YouTube Videos
- 9. Read WikiTravel Articles
- 10. Chat It Up on Reddit
- 11. Talk with Expats Who Live There
- 12. Check Out Couchsurfing.com
- 13. Research Scams and Potential Dangers
- 14. Check Up on Local News
- Know Where You’re Going? 4 Tips for Researching Your Next Travel Destination
- Next Vacay Researches the Cheapest Flights So You Don’t Have To
13 Smart Ways to Research Travel Destinations
Researching your travel destination might sound like a drag, but it can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of getting ready for your vacation.
You get to explore your destination before you even set foot on the ground!
The number of resources might seem overwhelming but have no fear. We’re here to help you find the best research method to prepare for your next amazing adventure.
1. Scour Travel Blogs
Travel blogs are excellent research material because they offer a first-hand perspective of your travel destination.
If you want to know what it’s really like for travelers, simply put the name of your destination and ‘travel blog‘ in the search. The results will speak for themselves.
Most travel bloggers outline their experiences in detail, letting you know what worked for them and what they’d do better the next time around. That’s something you can use to your advantage for your own trip.
And if you have questions their article didn’t answer, you can always try getting in touch with the person directly via email or social media.
Travel bloggers love sharing their experiences and connecting with other like-minded travelers. They may even be able to connect you with locals and others who are more familiar with the area!
Pro-tip: Find travel bloggers with a similar travel style to your own. A blog based on a couple’s luxury travel experience might not be a great fit if you’re planning a budget solo adventure.
2. Talk with Friends and Family
Imagine. Your friend comes back from a trip and can’t stop raving about the place they’ve just visited, gushing over the beautiful landscapes, the mouth-watering food, and the friendly locals.
That kind of experience makes you want to plan a visit yourself, right? And the perfect source of information is standing right in front of you.
Our friends and family can act as rough guides and a good preliminary resource for places they’ve visited. You can get first-hand advice about the places they went, the things they did, and what they wouldn’t waste their time on if given a second visit.
You can use their experiences to guide the rest of your research into those travel destinations and determine what you want your trip to look like when you go.
3. Consult TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor has tons of recommendations. It’s a pretty great resource for researching any travel destinations you have in mind. In addition, you can check out travel guides and read reviews on all aspects of travel, including things to do, restaurants to try, and hotels to stay at.
If you hate going somewhere without knowing anything, Tripadvisor is perfect for looking up what other travelers had to say and getting word-of-mouth recommendations from a broad audience.
Whenever you look up a hotel, restaurant, or tour company, you can typically find a Tripadvisor page. It never hurts to check out their ratings and reviews before you go all-in booking that hotel room, tour, or dinner reservation.
Pro-tip: Take individual reviews with a grain of salt. It’s more important to get an overall feel for how people felt about a place or experience than to hyper-focus on one particularly positive or negative review.
TripAdvisor also offers another helpful feature: their Travel Forums.
You can search TripAdvisor’s travel forums for anything on your mind—ask for advice, read through other travelers’ experiences, and even share your own.
4. Watch Film Documentaries, TV Shows, and Movies
Not all of your travel research on faraway destinations has to be written content or face-to-face interactions. Media is an excellent source for learning more about a country and, if they speak a different language, beginning to understand common phrases and sayings.
Documentaries and fictional films serve a two-fold purpose in research.
- You can learn about a country’s customs and culture.
- You can find engaging topics for discussion.
What’s society like there? How do people usually greet each other? What’s it like ordering food in a restaurant?
These are all tiny things you might not think about when planning your trip but will be immensely helpful once you arrive at your destination. In addition, the differences between cultures may fascinate you and inspire some great chats with the locals. Who knows, you may even be motivated to pick up a new language!
5. Tune in to Travel Podcasts
Visual media isn’t the only place to learn information, either. If you’re an auditory learner—or you’re always on the go and need information you can easily digest while doing other things—travel podcasts should be your go-to.
A great source of practical travel advice and travel destination info is the Amateur Traveler podcast. But, you can find countless other great podcasts out there to inspire your wanderlust and feed your curiosity.
6. Comb Through Travel Magazines
You know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Travel magazines may be an old-school way to research travel destinations, but these glossy books haven’t lost their shine in the present day. For aspiring travelers who love to hold something physical in their hands, this old-school research method is calling your name.
Not only do you have sleek images of gorgeous travel destinations giving you ideas, but you can add notes on anything you want to remember, from scrawls in the margins to handy post-it notes.
And if you’d still prefer a digital alternative to all of that, plenty of travel magazines provide online articles covering a range of topical travel info.
7. Peruse Travel Guides
Guide books are a classic way to research your travel destinations. Some of the earliest travel guides popped up more than a century ago, and the trusty books have been helping intrepid travelers trot their way around the world ever since.
From inside the Lonely Planet’s informative guides on travel destinations to the tell-it-like-it-is advice and cultural insights of the Rough Guides, you’ll find plenty of valuable tips for your next trip.
The best part? No Wi-Fi is needed. So, if that internet connection is sputtering, you can quickly thumb back through your guide book to read over that helpful tidbit one more time.
The biggest downside to guide books is that some of their recommendations for hotels, restaurants, and the like are out-of-date by the time of publication. But for general cultural insights and tips, the knowledge will remain valuable for years to come.
Travelers will swear by their trusty guide book—and we can’t blame them.
8. Watch YouTube Videos
Instead of focusing your research on reading about travel destinations, you can watch them come alive on the screen!
A wealth of video travel content exists on the internet. From personal video blogs to official brand videos, you can find jaw-dropping images of gorgeous sights and learn fascinating facts about the place you want to visit.
You can get a feel for the locals’ daily life, what travel days look like, and what places are a must-do on your own travel itinerary—all without leaving your bed!
9. Read WikiTravel Articles
An excellent website for online research that many people find themselves coming back to again and again is WikiTravel. Or you can check out the newer, updated version, WikiVoyage, for an ad-free experience.
On either site, you’ll find a plethora of information about each destination’s history, how to get there, sights to see, and more. Checking out a destination’s WikiTravel page is a great place to start your research.
Like guide books, some of the information can be a little outdated. Still, it usually has good recommendations on local attractions, weather, public transportation, and plenty else to get your toes wet in the research pool.
10. Chat It Up on Reddit
Reddit offers an active community of users with countless posts and communities where you can pose any research questions about upcoming travel destinations and get advice and support from locals and experienced and novice travelers alike. You’ll also find several subreddits for specific travel destinations and styles, like solo traveling, road trips, etc.
Many people will leave follow-up comments and thoughts on both old and new posts, so reading through already posted questions and content is a good idea to gain further insights and even helpful travel tips.
11. Talk with Expats Who Live There
Reach out via your network of friends and family and find out if they know anyone who currently lives at your travel destination.
You can reach out to see if they’d be interested in answering some of your questions. If you’ve already done some preliminary work using one of the other research methods mentioned, you can focus on the questions you couldn’t find answers to anywhere else.
Of course, once you’re finished picking their brain, feel free to offer this generous person a coffee or some other treat once you’re in town as a “thank you.”
12. Check Out Couchsurfing.com
Want to connect with a local host at your travel destination and find a place to stay? Or learn more about your destination and meet up with a native for a bite or an adventure?
Wondering where you can make these magical connections? The answer is Couchsurfing.com.
This truly unique site works as a social networking platform to connect travelers and local hosts. Some locals will offer a place to stay or even their service as an unofficial tour guide to show you all of their favorite spots.
If you’ve traveled or spoken with experienced travelers before, experiences with local residents likely are what stuck in your mind. They’re often one of the most enriching things about traveling.
So, if you have questions about your destination or want to find people to meet up with when you arrive, this is a great online resource to use, and with an app available, you can take full advantage!
13. Research Scams and Potential Dangers
You can find scams anywhere, from the internet to famous landmarks—and on and on they go. You’re likely so used to the scams that pop up in everyday life that you have no problem ignoring or avoiding them. But you may abruptly find yourself face-to-face with them in a new country, where the rules you’ve come to know don’t apply.
Before you head out the door, it’s good to research any local scams at your travel destination. Simply type the name of your destination and ‘local scams’ into a Google search. You should find some common scams and dangers you may encounter.
For example, pickpocketing is terrible in Barcelona, so much so even the locals notice. And you know it’s bad if even the locals have issues! But if you know this in advance, you can take steps to protect your valuables and keep them where they won’t be pocketed by a clever thief in a bump-and-bolt situation.
14. Check Up on Local News
Things change constantly. Travelers have always needed to be prepared and flexible, but COVID-19 has taught us that more than anything, we need to stay up-to-date with changes in health requirements, visa requirements, and more.
Consider the local news your new best friend. Make a habit of regularly checking the local news at your travel destination, and be prepared to adjust your plans if anything arises. Another great idea is checking in with the State Department website for up-to-date visa requirements and travel advisories.
Know Where You’re Going? 4 Tips for Researching Your Next Travel Destination
So, now you could write a book with all the things you know about your travel destination. But, relax, we won’t make you write a book with everything you’ve learned. Now, you get to assemble the ultimate guide for what you’re doing, how you’re getting around, where you’re staying, and of course, the final step, how you’re getting there.
Overwhelmed? You shouldn’t be. Here’s a quick and dirty how-to for creating your perfect guide.
1. How to Find the Best Attractions
At this point, you’ve researched your destination and already know all of the top attractions that you want to visit during your trip. Now we need to figure out where they are.
This might be easy in a city like Rome, with many attractions close together or a short bus or metro train ride away. Meanwhile, on New Zealand’s North Island, your top destinations are likely miles away from each other.
Whatever the case may be, you’ll want to pick one main attraction you want to see more than any other for each day. This will likely be where you spend the most time as well. Then add 2-3 other stops along the way at other attractions you’re interested in seeing. If your plans change or transportation takes longer than expected, this will provide some cover.
Pro-tip: Use Google Maps to figure out the distance between your places of interest and map out an itinerary to get to and from each destination.
If an attraction ends up being further away than you can conveniently get to, try replacing it with another from your list. Transport can be time-consuming, and you don’t want to spend all your valuable vacation time in transit from one place to another.
2. How to Choose Your Method of Transportation
You know what sites you want to visit. Check. Now, you need to know how you’ll get there.
Using our examples again, Rome will be relatively easy to navigate using public transportation. Many of the biggest local attractions are within walking distance, and for everything further, you’ll find your choice of bus, tram, metro, or train line to get you where you need to go.
Again, Google Maps will be helpful because you can find out the best ways to travel between locations and the average time it takes per transport method.
However, in New Zealand, you’ll find far fewer public transportation options to take you from point A to point B. In that case, you may need to book a rental car or research tour companies to find one that provides transportation to the places you want to visit.
The method you choose should relate to the number of attractions you want to see and the distance between them. For example, a tour company won’t be the best option to visit multiple attractions if the tour only caters to one or two of them.
3. How to Find the Perfect Accommodations
Once you’ve figured out where you’re going and how you’re getting there, you can look into accommodations.
You’ll want to choose a place centrally located to all the landmarks you want to see.
Or, if you plan on traveling a lot—maybe you’ve planned several day trips to nearby cities—you’ll want to find accommodations along the way.
Pro-tip: Consider this an inception of tips, a tip within a tip, but plan carefully to ensure the first night and last night’s stay are somewhere near your mode of transportation.
You’ll want time to settle in and account for any travel hiccups during your journey in and out of the country rather than having to rush off as soon as you arrive.
4. How to Find the Best Flights
Flying is the most popular way for people to travel, getting them where they want to go fast.
Odds are you won’t be road tripping, taking a train, or busing it to your destination, so that leaves flying.
Decide where you can fly from and fly to and compare prices on the best options. Check out low-fare calendars and search engines to quickly compare pricing between airlines and travel agencies.
If you need help finding cheap flights, you can’t miss our Tips for Cheap Flight Fares. Once you’re finding deals like a pro, all that’s left to do is book your flight to your next adventure.
Next Vacay Researches the Cheapest Flights So You Don’t Have To
Planning a trip can be exhausting. Rewarding but exhausting.
Researching every aspect of it yourself can be time-consuming, and you’re not guaranteed to know where to find the best service or deals for everything.
That’s where Next Vacay comes in.
For the most expensive part of your trip, try handing the reins over to fellow wanderers with years of travel experience and expertise in finding the best flight deals around. Why pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your next flight when you could save that much with Next Vacay?
So, what are you waiting for? Your next travel destination awaits, and Next Vacay can help get you there.