I was going to begin posting about my trip with Kate to London and Paris, but that will have to wait one more week since Antique Mommy is hosting a blog carnival which, interestingly, she’s calling Travel Tips Tuesday. And this is one carnival that a trip-lover like me could not pass up.
So, where do I begin? Well, that’s my tip.
When beginning to plan a trip, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. There are several great websites that will give you all sorts of insider information for planning your trip. And insider information makes all the difference between having a good trip and having a GREAT trip.
Some of my favorite trip-planning websites are TripAdvisor, Frommers, Fodors, and Rick Steves. Spend some time on these websites, learning some background about the place you’ll be going, and, especially, taking advantage of their forums.
I’d say that out of those, Tripadvisor is my absolute favorite. I have spent many happy hours on their forum boards, gleaning lots of insider information from people who really know "what’s what" about your travel destination. People are usually more than happy to answer your questions about your destination, as long as you’ve done a little homework first and you try to refrain from asking the most obvious of questions.
For instance, this summer, when I was planning a trip for 16 people to Switzerland and was the go-to gal in charge of the whole thing, I spent lots of time on Tripadvisor. It was there that I learned how to navigate the Swiss Rail system which can be veeeerry confusing. I even learned about getting group rates for train travel and saved our group a LOT of money. I also found out that in Interlaken you can watch paragliders come in for a landing in the park in the middle of town—lots of fun on a sunny afternoon.
But I didn’t just stop with Tripadvisor. I moved on to Rick Steves, even buying his book, because he provides some pretty interesting walking tours that you can do on your own—best part is . . . they’re free! We would not have known how to find Lindenhof Park, the beautiful park in the middle of Zurich that is so stereotypically European that old men even play chess with huge chess pieces there.
Nor would we have found the ruins of Roman baths down along a small alleyway in the center of Zurich without Rick’s help.
Travel website forums come in really handy when you’re deciding on a hotel. Say you’ve done some research and you’ve found three hotels you’re interested in. They are all in the same location, they all cost about the same, and they are all similar in terms of their amenities. How do you know which hotel to choose? Travel websites like TripAdvisor, allow members to post reviews and photos of these hotels, and, believe me, these reviews have helped me out more than once.
Last spring I was trying to decide which hotel in Paris to choose, and, thanks to the good information I got from these reviews, I ended up in a beautiful small hotel in a quiet neighborhood that was just right for my daughter and me. I also learned that this hotel would be about a fifteen minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and that there weren’t a lot of restaurants on the street where we’d be staying. By reading forums and hotel reviews before I left home, I wasn’t surprised by any of this when I got there.
So before you pack your bags, do your homework. Your trip will go from good to GREAT!