A Beginners “beginner” Guide to Travel – It starts with internet searches, Google Maps and a good guide book

Let’s start from the very beginning.

I love travel tips that range from how to get free upgrades on flights, money saving tips, what to (and not to) pack and so on. I think it is equally, if not more important, to research your destination before you step out the door or buckle that safety belt.

I want you to have a think for moment. Think back to when you went somewhere and you had no expectations (which is great) and literally no idea what this new place/town/island/country was all about. Now I know you probably found your way around, did some cool things, and most likely had a good time. That’s great, mission accomplished, holiday success achieved.

However, have you ever returned home and then found out something about that location you were just at, and were completely unaware it was there. Like, you went to Siem Reap in Cambodia, and somehow gapped it and missed Angkor Wat.

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Sunrise and jostling for a photo free of selfie sticks – Angkor Wat, Cambodia 2014
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No shortage of contestants for ruining your next photo , behind the scenes – Angkor Wat, Cambodia 2014

Or perhaps you were in the south west of England and didn’t get to meet up with giant chalk man with a permanent hard on.

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Cerne Abbas Giant – Cerne Abbas, England 2009
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Keeping away from the business end

 

This has happened to me far too many times!

The madness ends here.

When you’re in the heat of the moment while on your adventure it is easy to overlook places that are worth your time to visit. I don’t want you to live a life of regret, or what could have been, or have you suffer the burden of purchasing a ticket to return to what you missed (not always a bad thing). Together, we can right these wrongs.


Memory Lane

While road tripping around Europe for 5 months, with our heads buried in a Lonely Planet travel guide, I still missed out on things that I only found out about later. Even more disappointing, I went to places that were worth visiting, and I didn’t even realise the importance or significance of the place. I for one am a massive fan of places of historical significance.

Imagine if you went to the beaches of Normandy, France and somehow managed to overlook the fact walking the same sands where courage, horror and sacrifice were shared by so many brave souls. This was a place were blood was spilt and untold sacrifice was made that helped shape the world we live in today.

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View toward Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc – Normandy, France 2009

Or on a lighter note, you just happened to be traveling around Bavaria in Germany in late September, and completely missed the rite of passage of any Euro Trip that is Oktoberfest?

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Bottoms up – Munich, Germany 2009

You’d be bummed right!

But wait, drinking in tents and WWII history isn’t really your thing? That’s fine. What are things you are interested in? What would be the places and things would you be sad you missed once the wheels touch down in your home town? Focus on that.

Now do your research.


Research

A good thorough poring over of your intended destination in Google Maps is aΒ MUST. Zooming in and out, taking note of town names and locations, and finding points of interest and visualising their relative position to where you will be on your journey are invaluable. Without even passing Customs you’ve already got an overview of the area where you will be.

Bear in mind a topographical map does not prepare you for unmarked streets, dead ends and the population densities, but it gives you valuable insight to the overall outlay of where you will be once you’re on the ground.

But what if I don’t know what attractions or point of interest will be at my destination?

No sweat. There is an abundance of information and advice that can be found through simple web searches. There’s a lot of rubbish out there too. I try stay away from things that people say are a ‘must’ (I realise I used this EXACT sentence 2 paragraphs ago) and focus on general points of interest with places and see if anything strikes my fancy.

Tripadvisor is a helpful website, and I’m sure you will find what you need with some simple key word searches.

As mentioned previously, my interests might not align with yours, and same goes for the advice on the internet might not be what you’re searching for. I don’t travel to places based on their cuisine, just like you might not want to visit a giant chalk drawing of a nude cave man.

Each to their own.


Build that itinerary

I take a lot of notes when I’m doing my research.

A LOT.

I have notepad documents scattered throughout my hard drive with notes, locations, distances and prices of all the places I’ve been to.

Through my research on Google Maps and travel advice websites, I begin to create my own itineraries for the places that I visit. I now know the distances between them, how much each will factor into my budget (if I have one), and how I can maximise the time spent in each location and ensuring I get the most out of each place.

If that’s not your thing, and you’d prefer a tried and true itinerary of someone who has actually ‘been there, done that’, there’s also a lot of information on travel blogs about the writer’s ideal itinerary. And at the risk of repeating myself, follow with caution. Those itineraries were great for them. They might not be for you.

Your friend group are a valuable resource when gathering information about a destination. Seeing that you’re friends already, there’s a better chance that their tastes line up with yours, giving you juicier tips and tricks for your next trip.


 

Will this guy stop telling me how to live my life?!

Not just yet.

I’m a big believer in the creating an experience that caters to your own tastes, and is unique to you. Be critical. Just because someone says you ‘must’ see or do something, doesn’t mean you have to.

I was once told I ‘must’ have authentic Italian pizza.

Review: it was shit.


 

As I leave you empowered to blaze your own trails with your new insight and knowledge of travel, please like, share, comment, follow and sign up for my blog so you don’t miss any more nuggets of wisdom!


 

Happy researching.

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