The world is vast and there are so many places to see. Once you make the plunge and decide that traveling is a priority, how do you decide where to go and what to see? After all, there is only so much time and money and you must pick and choose. We have gradually narrowed the places that we would like to see when we start to travel around the world later this year through lots of research. Research – ugh it sounds so boring, but let me tell you, research does not necessarily need to be boring. There are lots of fun ways of finding out about a place other than conducting the usual internet search or asking your buddy at the office where you should go. Here are some of the ways that we research a potential destination.
A good updated guidebook is essential for anyone traveling. A good guidebook can help you avoid the tourist traps and uncover the gems. An example of this is when we were traveling around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The guidebook we had with us had noted a place called Ek’ Balam. Though Ek’ Balam is near Chichen Itza, it is a place we probably would not have stopped at if I had not read about it in our guidebook. Ek’ Balam was a hidden gem. The site at Ek’ Balam had some amazing carvings along with the luxury of avoiding the hordes of visitors that we encountered at Chichen Itza. None of the other ruins we visited while in Mexico had comparable carvings and to this day I am glad we took the time to visit. I am currently reading Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. This has been a great read giving us a lot of ideas of places to visit, when to visit, and ways of saving money. Rick Steves also has individual guidebooks for most European countries and a couple of the larger European cities. In his guidebooks, he shares the link to his website for multiple walking audio tours that can be downloaded. Our end table is currently covered with Rick Steves’ books checked out from the library. I have enjoyed thumbing through them and I bet the local library is wondering where all their Rick Steves books have gone. If you are going to visit Hawaii, author Andrew Doughty has an excellent series of guidebooks for each of the Hawaiian islands. Overall, Andrew Doughty has not steered us wrong when we have visited several of the Hawaiian islands. We have found some amazing beaches in Hawaii from using his guidebooks. For other areas around the world Lonely Planet has some excellent guidebooks.
One of our favorite travel video series is Globe Trekker. This series is not about spending a lot of money to see an area, but about connecting with the people and the culture of a place. Globe Trekker features several different travelers and have covered most of the planet. Each traveler has a different personality and things they like to do. It is interesting to see what each traveler decides to see, where they choose to stay and how they get around. Without the Globe Trekker series, I don’t think I would have ever put Cambodia or Vietnam on my list of places to see. I also really like Rick Steves video series. These are focused in Europe and have given us lots of great ideas. Another series specifically focused on families traveling with children is the Travel with Kids video series. One of my favorite places in Costa Rica was staying at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. I don’t think we would have found that place without this video.
One of our favorite travel magazines is Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel. Unfortunately, in preparing for leaving on our round the world trip we no longer subscribe to this magazine. Though, we no longer get this magazine, I highly recommend it. The subscription is relatively cheap and I have found great ideas for travel, packing tips, and places to see. Budget Travel is not one of those uppity travel magazines with advertisements for Rolex watches, sports cars, and other things that the average person could never afford. Budget Travel helps people realize that traveling is for everyone and not just for those with a mountain of money.