In the old days when I’d prepare for a trip, I’d read everything I could get my hands on about the weather, the attractions, accommodations, dining and even which restaurants had waiters with the sexiest accents. Thorough? Yes. Exhausting? You betcha.
I also learned that while guidebooks can be quite valuable in helping you find the best soup in Florence, they can also sometimes lead you astray. Once we rode our bikes all over the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco looking for the reported “roaming herds of buffalo.” After many miles, we finally came upon one tired-looking old guy who showed little enthusiasm for our efforts and whose roaming days seemed decades behind him.
So I’ve now settled into a compromise position of learning just the minimum. The rest I can choose to research or just wing it. Here are the five things you need to know before you go.
. Do you need to get any shots to go to your destination, is the water safe to drink and are there areas where you should not travel alone or at all? To find health information and travel advisories, visit the CDC site where you can get information on all the countries.
If you’re in a more rustic location, you may also want to inquire about the possible behavior of any native animals. I recently stayed at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Canada and during a stroll around the lake we were warned about keeping our distance from the grazing elk. One woman had not been so informed, and found herself being chased into the freezing cold lake by one jazzed-up elk.
After you’ve determined how you’re getting to your city of choice, have a plan for getting to your final destination. If you’re traveling by car, make sure you have access to your map apps or GPS. If you are flying, investigate the best and most economical way to get to your accommodation. Because I had researched transportation for a recent trip, we saved $150 by taking a taxi rather than a shuttle to a cruise ship from the Miami Airport. (Read more about discounts on cruise travel here.)
Quality of accommodations
. Any hotel can sound good on paper, and look good in photos. But maybe they left out the part about 90% of it being under renovation, or that 87% of the property has been rented out to 25 chapters of I Felta Thi fraternity while you’re there. My favorite way to find out more about a destination is Trip Advisor. Sure, you’ll get some ultra-negative and ultra-positive reviews about many places, but if you average them out, you can get a good idea of what you’re in for. A call to the hotel to inquire about any other groups or construction is also a good idea.
. Seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve fallen victim to this one. We visited Breckenridge, Colorado in the summer and I took shorts and T-shirts, only to find myself shivering and making a bee-line to a local shop to find the warmest sweatshirt they had. News flash – it’s cold in mountains of Colorado in the summer.
Details on any attractions you’ve determined are can’t-miss
. You’ve dreamed your whole life of seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and finally arrive only to find out it is closed on Tuesdays. Don’t make it a Wally World experience – check out your favorite sites before you go.