For me, the most exciting part of planning a travel is when I begin researching about the city I’m about to travel to and start making notes and detailed travel itineraries. Sounds like a lot of work? Well, it is. But it’s worth it. I have had experiences of travelling to cities with absolutely no idea about the city, its history or its attractions, and my experiences have not been so great. I end up aimlessly wandering about with no idea where I am or what’s going on around me and spending most of my time deciding where to go or how to go. Honestly, that’s not how I would want to spend my time in a new place. I would want to soak up the culture and experience ‘life’ in that city.
And that’s why it’s always better to do at least a bit of research, if not a lot, before you travel to any place. It could do you a lot of good –
Save money – You know your way through a city much ahead, you end up saving a lot of money. For instance, in most of the cities in Europe, you’d be crazy to hire a cab. The public transport is quite well connected and cheap. You can save a lot of money by avoiding taking a cab. Especially from the airport to the city center. There is always that one bus that keeps shuttling between the city and the airport and the ticket is going to save you a lot of money as against taking a cab.
Save time – If you spend most of your time during the travel on deciding where to go, you’re going to end up having less time to do the actual sightseeing. On the other hand, if you know where to go, you can avoid spending time doing research while you’re on your travel.
Avoid missing out on something – I went to Milan and never got a chance to see Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ because I had no clue that I had to book the ticket much in advance. Had I done my research before, I would have booked the tickets much earlier.
Finally, as surprising as this may sound, experience the city as a local. Who would have thought that Parisians love picnics? Had I not read about it, I would never had had a chance to picnic in Paris or enjoy Tapas (Snacks/Appetizers as the locals would call it) in Barcelona like the locals would do.
To avoid those ‘I regret’ situations.
Here are ten tips you could follow before every trip to ensure that you make the most of your travel –
- Read about the weather conditions of the city during the dates of your travel. You may want to pack accordingly
- Make a list of all the places you want to see within the city limits – this must be an exhaustive list of any kind of place you want to visit ranging from historic places and museums to places where a movie was shot (Croatia is gaining a lot of popularity among tourists, thanks to Game of Thrones), etc. After you make a list, read a little about the back ground of each place.
That’s me on my way to Platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross Station, London
That’s me recreating ‘Roman Holiday’ at the Mouth of Truth, Rome
- Make a list of all possible day trips you could take from the city (I ended up not going to Switzerland when I was in Milan. Can you imagine? The beautiful town of Lugano in Switzerland is hardly an hour and a half away from Milan)
- Make a list of all the experiences you would want to have
- Find out if there are any public holidays during the days of your travel. Most of the tourist spots would be closed on public holidays. But that need not mean you’ll end up wasting a day. There are a lot of places to see in a city that do not need an entrance – just walking around and admiring the city, parks, trying out the local cuisines.
- Make a list of the food you want to try. If you’re a vegetarian, like me, or a vegan then you’ll also have to make a list of restaurants that offer you a vegetarian/vegan version of the local cuisine
- Make a list of the souvenirs you would want to get back home – mostly things that are famous in the city you are travelling to.
- Get to know about the public transport system – Metros, Trams and Buses. At least, make sure you know which bus takes you from the airport to the city centre so that you don’t end up paying a hefty cab fare from the airport most of which are quite far from the city centre.
- Most importantly, read a little about the safety of the place – the Dos and Don’ts in a city – the popular tourist scams, the courtesies to be followed, etc. For instance, to visit any temple in some of the East Asian countries, you cannot enter wearing shorts. You need to be aware of such rules and come prepared.
- Worst case, if you haven’t planned for your trip at all, take one of the free/paid walking tours (depending on your budget) and make up for not having done your research. But do remember, though walking tours are great, they are often rushed due to time constraints and it’s never the same as taking your own sweet time in a place, sitting down and soaking up the beauty and history of a place.