“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Why you travel, where you travel… is very personal, sometimes inexplicable. It always fascinates me how different destinations resonate and attract different people. Whether it’s backpacking, hiking or kayaking; river or ocean cruising; taking road trips or tours; renting a villa or staying with a local family…some of us dream of trekking to Machu Pichu, skiing the Alps or learning to tango in Buenos Aires…some of us hope to see Mt. Rushmore or the Eiffel Tower. Travel offers an infinite world of possibilities and experiences.
Personally, I find that my experience enriched when I invest time learning more about my destination(s); the history, culture, customs, cuisine, even a few words of their language. It gives me insight into the world I am going to visit. I like to arrive as a thoughtful and informed guest. We make new connections, new friends, and we are all the richer for it.
Doing Your FUNwork can be enjoyable and is always rewarding! And, with all the travel tools and resources that you have, virtually At Your FingertipZ, it makes it embarrassingly easy to research and access information. And, once you’re on your way, there are terrific Tech ToolZ to help you stay connected and informed.
So, let’s get started! Whether your next adventure is armchair or otherwise, I hope that these resources and suggestions will enhance your experience!
Do Your FUNwork!
Be clear about what YOU want to do and see. After all, it is YOUR vacation! You picked your destination(s) for a reason. Something appealed to you – stay on course with what you want do AND keep an open mind. If you dig a little deeper you may find that there are more exciting possibilities to explore at your destination.
Today, not only can you can virtually book your entire trip without leaving your house, but you can access a world of useful information as well. Convenient? Yes, but it can be also be overwhelming, frustrating, and confusing.
When I research, here are some of my “FUNwork” guidelines:
- Use reputable and reliable sources.
- Read more than one opinion/review.
- Make sure the information/review is current.
- Make sure the information/review is relevant and accurate (fact check as much as possible) – check & cross-check.
The best thing about most excellent resources? They are FREE! All you have to do is invest a little time. And I always find that it is time well-invested. Doing some research on the front end invariably helps me to better plan and manage my time as well as help me be prepared and ready to hit the ground running when I arrive.
Here’s where I start:
- Your Local Library is a fabulous resource! If you have an account you can search online for travel books, DVD travelogues, etc. You can often even reserve or request them online as well. I do find that some of the materials may be a bit dated, but still useful. In addition, they offer travel magazines that you can peruse for relevant information.
- Your Local Bookstore:I still love going to the travel section and looking at the books and maps, etc. Everyone has their favorites. Once I’ve decided which I prefer, I usually make the investment and add it to my library. Occasionally you can find recent editions online and used for a bit less.
- My favorite travel books are from Eyewitness Travel. They offer fabulous historical information, beautiful photos and useful maps. I just copy the pages and take them with me for reference. They have recently started a “Top 10” series that is light and compact enough to take along and include excellent maps.
- I also love Streetwise City Maps. They’re laminated, compact, easy to read and conveniently fit into your purse or carryall.
On my AmaZon Store, you can check out all of my favorites including: Frommer, Fodor, Rick Steves and Insight Guides.
At Your FingertipZ
Some of my favorite online resources:
- Official Sites: Every major travel/tourist destination has a website (or they should!). Go right to the source –countries, cities, cities, museums, and events, for example, have official sites where you can access all the relevant information you may need. Check out the destination’s official tourism website; as a rule they are up to date and contain helpful information and resources.
- Reviews and Testimonials: Want to know what your fellow travelers thought? Trip Advisor is extremely popular. Again though, be sure the reviews and testimonials are current. I never let one or two reviews sway me, but if there are several recent reviews that are fairly consistent (either positive or negative), it’s worth consideration. Also, you can find contact information, links, maps, etc. When you get home, you can write your own review!
- Travel Blogs (Like Mine!😀): More grassroots information. And there are scads of them. They tend to be very straightforward and personal, but you can certainly gather some good information and make direct contact if you so choose.
- Firsthand Advice: Advice, opinions, and referrals from someone who has been there recently (e.g., your travel agent, relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues) can be very helpful Again, be sure it’s someone is on a similar budget, has similar travel preferences and enjoys similar activities. I always appreciate input (solicited and volunteered), weigh it carefully, then make my own decisions.
- Trip Advisor: Trip Advisor is extremely popular. It provides reviews and feedback from fellow travelers about just about everything travel-related! Again, be sure the reviews are current and look for a “consensus”. Then, when you get home, you can write your own review! (Click on link of this page!)
- Google Search: There’s a wealth of information online. Surf and see what comes up, but again, check your sources carefully, especially if you are reserving or booking online.
I just heard a statistic that 50% of us have our cell phones by our side when we sleep! There’s no doubt that we have become addicted, I resisted switching to a smart phone myself until I realized that I could fall further behind or run to keep up! Planning my recent month long trip to Italy and deciding to start this blog were the final deciding factors. I embraced the new technology and now I love it!
As terrific all of this technology is, at the same time I would caution against using it as a crutch! They are amazing tools, but it’s wise to always have a back up in the event that it doesn’t work, gets damaged or lost. In addition, remember that you are on vacation! Be selective about usage. It’s OK to stay in touch, but not at the expense of your travel mates and your travel experience.
Smart Phones, Cell Phone and iPads:
For travel, having a smart/cell phone and/or iPad is practically indispensable, but it’s important to get facts and information about its use and your plan before you leave on that trip.
Consider the following:
- The Best Fit: Which to choose? The best choice is what is best for YOU? It is an investment and budget will be a major factor in your choice. Assess your needs, then weigh against the cost(s) and capabilities of each device. Be sure to include data plan costs in your decision and know what you’re committing to before you sign on the dotted line.
- Service: Does your carrier (ATT, Verizon, etc.) have service where you’ll be traveling? This may not be an issue in the U.S., but when traveling overseas, service can vary from country to country.
- Data Plans: Get information on your data plan and what you will need while traveling. Calling, roaming and internet charges can accrue very quickly and be veryexpensive. Have your carrier send you the information (they should be able to do it via email) so that you can review it carefully before making any decisions.
- Internet and WiFi Access: Find out what the capabilities of your device are. For example, when I knew I was going to Italy, I researched the iPhone and found out that (through Verizon), with the 4S I could globally access WiFi. For me, this was a huge selling point when upgrading. (By the way, the rep at the Verizon Store didn’t know this, nor did the Apple Store staff, I had to call Verizon.) Lesson: Explore all sources for accurate information.
- Learn in Advance: If you’re going to switch to a new device before your trip, be sure to give yourself (and family members) enough time to learn and get comfortable using it! I switched to my iPhone 4S two months before my trip so that I had time to take free classes, play and practice, and upload useful APPS. (One of the best sources of useful info was from other students I met in the classes!)
Also, be sure you have all of the necessary paraphernalia for charging and converting/adapting your device. Learn how to use the GPS to locate and disengage your phone if it’s lost or stolen.
I know that there are plenty of savvy travelers out there!
Please share ToolZ that have worked for YOU!