We’ve all been travelling before and felt as though we missed out on seeing the best things, those hidden places that sometimes you stumble upon if you’re lucky, but otherwise you won’t ever find. That’s why research is absolutely key to getting the best out of travel. It’s the difference between sitting in front of the Trevi fountain and wondering why the food isn’t great, and finding that secret nook of a restaurant that only the locals know about. Sadly we can’t all travel with a local (that would be my number 1 tip), but by doing some research before you go you can find these places yourself. And although we all used to travel with guide books and they were the number 1 source of information, the internet has brought a million different travel voices – many of which that are probably more attuned to your personal interests than a mass market book could ever be. So below I’ve listed a few of my go-to places for travel research which help me get to the heart of the place, and the way that I put the ideas together and hold onto them.
You’re probably groaning at the thought of research – ‘Geneva I left high school a while ago and I don’t wanna hit the books‘. Luckily for you, I’ve listed a few of my favourite ways to quickly research a place for results that don’t take all day. Cheers to your next trip!
5 Steps For Researching Your Next Travel Destination
Step 1. Set yourself up on Pinterest (and maybe google…)
Ok so it won’t come as a surprise that I’m a Pinterest freak, it’s the number one source of referral traffic to this blog, so that’s something you can’t sneeze at is it? Anyway, amongst other things I find it invaluable for travel. The first thing I do is create a secret board with my destination. This will be my go to board when I’m on the road, the place I save off everything I find while researching. No more printed pieces of paper that always get lost! The downside to this is that it really does require you to have a working phone with internet access, so this will depend on your destination but generally is ok – most hotels have internet these days.
The next thing I do is trawl Pinterest itself, searching my location, towns I might visit, places to eat etc etc. I use lots of different search terms when I’m doing this and keep on scrolling down – you can find find hidden gems on Pinterest that link to blogs or obscure websites if you look beyond the obvious photos and search terms.
And yes yes naturally I google, but these days Pinterest is my go to search engine, I think it’s because I feel Pinterest is a better (visual) curation of things that might interest me?
Step 2. Instagram
Instagram is also another really useful tool for researching places things to do at your destination. I’m a screenshot freak and always save off inspiration from other people’s holidays (yep, that’s me, creeping on your holiday photos from Barcelona in 2012), and in addition I always check hashtags for the places I’m going. That will usually allow me to find geolocated places for the hotel I’m thinking about staying or the restaurants/ activities I want to do. Instagram is also often a really sharing community so connecting up with someone who is on the ground and asking them for some tips is a great way to go – and has worked for me so many times! Kinda like getting a local view before you’ve even arrived.
Step 3. Check the blogs
The best thing about blogs (and presumably one reason for you reading this blog in the first place) is that bloggers show a unique perspective which is individual to who they are. I have lots of different bloggers I (internet) like and would trust with their recommendations, so I always google ‘blog name + destination’ in the event that they have done a travel guide – or even better, live there – that might be helpful. Even if it’s two years old chances are it will give a view more relevant to what I like than a guide book aimed at a more general audience. Anything I find on these sites (or anywhere online) I’ll pin to my board, for easy access when pre-planning and when I’m in at the destination.
Step 4. Websites
You will have stumbled upon a zillion great websites through your Pinterest search, and so when I look at mainstream websites I like to focus on ones that I know have great content that will be aimed at someone like me – much the same as how I choose which blogger’s travel guides I will take to heart. Websites I will check for coverage of my destination are magazine websites like Conde Nast Traveller and food magazines like Gourmet Traveller (they understand that for me, it’s all about food), accommodation websites that have travel guides such as Air Bnb, The Luxe Nomad and Mr and Mrs Smith and Tourism Board websites.
Step 5. Ask your mates
And lastly, nothing beats real live experience from people that you know and trust. Right? Just make sure that the person you’re asking is similar to you in their tastes and interests, just because you’re friends it doesn’t mean you both want to go and get pineapples painted on your nails at Bangkok’s best underground nail salon.
Naturally I also check user review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, however I am always a little careful when using them these days because I feel that sometimes they are the target of spam and fake reviews. So use carefully!
Once I’ve got all the ideas, together, it’s all about culling them down and planning the perfect schedule! Feel free to let me know if you can think of any other sites I should be checking, I know there are lots of great sites out there!