When you’re considering a trip abroad, it’s important to have more than a passing understanding of the country or countries you’re hoping to visit. International travel can be expensive, and your time off is limited, so wherever you go, you want to make sure it’s the right fit for your personality, capabilities and interests. And once you decide where you want to go, a little research beforehand will help you plan a trip that is custom-tailored for you, rather than just the top five tourist destinations. Here are four ways to research potential trips abroad.
#1. Travel guides
Think of travel guides as the introductory paragraph to the novel about a location. They will give you a CliffsNotes overview, but most are not designed with a particular traveler in mind, and therefore are mostly good for general information. Some of the top guidebook series are Lonely Planet (low or mid-budget travel), Rick Steves (limited locations but more in-depth), and Rough Guides (good for social listings and historical information).
#2. Travel blogs
For a more personal look at a location, seek out travel bloggers who have either live or have traveled extensively in the country. There is a lot of great travel writing out there, so you can probably narrow your focus to someone who shares your interests — if you’re an art history buff you might not get the best perspective from someone who is an adventure traveler. Of course, there is also a lot of bad travel writing on the internet, so a good place to start your research is with The Expeditioner’s 50 Top Travel Blog list or Expert Vagabond’s list of Great Travel Blogs. If you have questions after reading a particularly compelling post, don’t hesitate to email the blogger, they might be excited to talk more about their experiences.
Reddit forums like /r/travel are a good place to ask questions about a particular location or just to search through information previously posted. Start with their “destinations of the week” page for great tips on travel in particular countries or cities. There are subreddits for solo travel, camping and hiking, cruises and more.
#4. VR Experiences
If you really want to get a good feel for a destination, why not virtually visit before you go? If you have a VR headset, you just need to download a VR touring app like Gala360, Lufthansa or GoPro and you’ll be transported to cities streets, famous landmarks or on outdoor adventures. To get the most out of these apps, get a device that has a mobile processor like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon that is designed for smooth, immersive VR experiences. In addition to enhancing your VR experience, Snapdragon’s battery life allows for up to three hours of continuous VR exploration.
After you’ve done your research and have narrowed down your options, take the time to consider what visiting those places might really entail. Sure, you loved the VR experience of zip-lining through the treetops in Costa Rica, but in real life you’re afraid of heights. Maybe you’re intrigued by a blog about an amazing experience camping in the Australian Outback, but are you really prepared to spend a week without electricity and running water? Just remember, there is not one right way to do international travel, but the time you spend researching beforehand will help you plan a trip that is right for you.