When you're planning a trip to Europe, doing travel research before you go is the best way to maximize your experience once you get there.
It prepares you for what you’ll see and do.
It helps reduce culture shock, no matter where you go.
It allows you to make knowledgeable choices, while planning your trip.
And most importantly, it gives you the ability to make informed on-the-spot decisions when necessary, during your trip.
When you fail to spend time doing travel research before you travel, it will take you longer to adjust to differences between your home and your destination.
If you skip this step, you're not only unprepared to deal with the cultural onslaught that greets you when you arrive at your destina-tion, you'll lose time, energy, and momentum at every point you need to make even the simplest decision.
This could be as basic as choosing which part of town for your hotel, to how to order from a foreign language menu, to how to greet the locals.
If you're not a seasoned traveler, everything you do from changing money, to asking directions, to making a simple purchase will be more difficult, confusing, and frustrating.
But if you take the time to develop a researched plan for travel, while also acquiring some basic knowledge and familiarity with where you're traveling to, you’ll quickly scale the learning curve and be able to make smart, informed decisions.
Doing travel research - both online and offline - when planning your overseas trip, guarantees you'll have a more memorable and exciting travel adventure.
Once you know something of the history, geography, and culture of the places you visit, those places will come alive.
When you learn just a bit about the politics, economy, and government of your destination, you'll open your mind to both the differences and the similarities between your at-home life and wherever you visit.
When you learn enough to understand the customs and lifestyle of the people, it will open the door to engaging them one on one for a more personal travel experience.
Not the least of the reasons for taking time to do travel research is understanding what draws you to the destination you choose to visit.
Traditional sources for plan-ning a trip to Europe - be they guidebooks, tourist in-formation offices, or online destination sites - double as both research and trip planning resources.
Using old-fashioned, hands-on guidebooks can help you solidify your ideas for where you want to travel.
Along with overseas tourist boards and information offices, they can help you focus on your specific areas of interest, as well as cities, regions, and not-so-familiar areas to include in your itinerary.
Begin by focusing on information for any major cities you plan to visit. Look for descriptive material on must-see attractions, noted architecture, and local festivals.
Expand your range of interests by gathering information on surrounding regional areas, even if you're not sure you'll visit there.
A broadly focused trip should include visits to areas beyond the major cities for a more intimate and true-to-life version of the people who live there.
Most information offices, especially in high-tourist areas have storefront locations, where you can pick up information when you travel. Many will also send you print brochures and provide links to digital material for local and regional areas you're interested in.
Tourist board websites can inform you of historic locations and attractions of interest, as well as current events enjoyed by the locals.
While brochures published by tour companies can give you an overview of tourist-focused sights and attractions, tourist boards give you ideas for how to get off the standard tourist track and into the soul of your destination.
Accessing information through overseas tourist boards will speed your travel research, while increasing your knowledge, awareness, and understanding of where you travel.
While their name may seem self-explanatory, tourist information offices, both storefront and online, are retail marketing branches for government-sponsored tourist boards.
They exist to promote local, regional, and country-wide areas for the purpose of drawing travelers to come and visit.
Travelers bring money, with many areas of the world relying heavily on tourist dollars and other currencies to keep their economies running.
It behooves those in charge to entice tourists to their areas and assist them with their travel research by providing the most accurate, up-to-date info for their overseas trip.
In Europe, most every location, from major capitol cities to the smallest of rural communities, has some sort of tourist board or informational website with a variety of materials and brochures available for download.
When contacting tourist information offices, always request general information for the areas you're interested in. This will give you an overview of the history, commerce, politics, and social culture of the areas you hope to see.
Combine this general info with specific local and regional material for a cross reference of things to see and do. This will help you decide which areas are most important to include in your travel plan.
Look for materials that include practical travel advice - often noted as tips or hints. You'll frequently find suggestions for how to organize your trip, ways to save money, timely weather conditions, and how to use local transportation.
No matter how much you think you already know about a destination [or traveling in general], you'll always find something of value by doing travel research that will add depth to your travel experience.
Tourist boards and information offices are the best source for current, accurate information for inbound travelers. They're the go-to source for opening and closing hours, entrance fees and event schedules, transport or attraction passes, and locally scheduled tours.
Combining online travel research with hard copy information, like maps, time-tables, and schedules from tourist offices, will increase your options for things available to do and when to do them.
The information promoted by tourist offices is researched, gathered, and published by the same people who live and work in the areas they represent.
When planning your overseas trip, start your research online with visitor bureaus, tourist offices, chambers of commerce, or government tourist boards.
These, coupled with a good guidebook or two will give you all the information you need to plan a great and memorable trip!
For great travel research, combine resources that are both online and low tech. Some of my favorite sources are in these articles:
Great Travel Resources are easy to find - and they're free. Seldom used travel sources can make planning your trip to Europe easy and fun.
Online Travel Research makes Europe travel planning a simple, straight-forward process. But where do you find the best travel planning websites?