In my last, and first, feature;
I wrote to you regarding my first experience wandering solo across “the pond.” While the trip was a rousing success by my own account, I quickly found room for improvement within the gaps of my own technique. In this piece, I’d like to speak a bit on the topic of planning a better solo trip, specifically geared for the brand-new traveler, based on my own mistakes.
You may have read, In Part I of my Munich tale, that I had done no research prior to the moment of my trip, and had only begun my research on the flight to my destination. I visited a bookstore on my way to the airport, where I procured an analog travel guide.
While I wouldn’t rule-out this method entirely for the benefit of an adventurous individual with generous savings, the rest of us might benefit more from what resources we may find simply lying around in wait, for free, on the Internet.
PHASE ONE: DREAMING
The Internet. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? As Homer Simpson once wisely proclaimed; It’s on computers now.
You are here, reading my writing. I venture to believe that you are comfortable navigating the interwebs on, at least, a rudimentary, basic level. It’s also presumably safe to believe that you’ve “googled” something in your internet-experience.
I feel that researching curiosities, which occur spontaneously to us, in basic Google terms, will be the best starting point for trip planning, and brainstorming.
If I had simply fired up my computer, typed “www.google.com” pressed enter, and typed a search term into the window (something similar to “Budget travel destinations” or “Best destinations for solo travel”) I could, in short order, discover some interesting ideas.
Becoming more specific, I’ve had incredible luck with websites like:
These sites offer free, user-generated itineraries, walking tours, maps, traveler reviews, message boards, and real-time information which is often more relevant, and current than a printed guide. Moreover, unlike printed guides, this information is free. These sites also offer offline maps, and guides, which can be printed or used on your smartphone.
A WORD IN FAVOR OF THE DEVICE
Life became a LOT easier and cheaper for the traveler with the advent of the smart phone. One can download offline-maps, travel guides, itineraries, a reference for basic phrases, cat videos, and personal notes to a device that is capable of gps positioning, web searches, camera functions, phone calls and messaging, as well as a whole host of other functions.
Please remember to pack your charger.
One can virtually tour their destination, and place-mark points of interest for later, offline, recall on Google Maps, or the Google Earth standalone program. Cross referencing other sites for information, and compiling it here, is a fool-proof planning method. Google earth goes as far as to recreate a 3D rendering of many major cities.
Youtube similarly offers an endless supply of occasionally pertinent travel guides, and basic phrase pronunciation guides. Once again, free of charge.
A FINAL WORD ON THE ANALOG-OPTION
There is still a place in our individual travel-kits for some analog planning resources. While I personally wouldn’t purchase another location-specific guide book, I would purchase a copy of 1000 Places To See Before You Die. A brief hunt on Amazon will reveal other resources, although I’ve had great luck with this particular one. No, they aren’t paying me to say so.
For the inevitable moment when we forget our phone, or charger, I’ve found it absolutely necessary to carry and do some planning with a paper map. These can be had for no cost from many hostels, hotels, tourist information centers, and of course; online. http://www.Use-it.travel offers some great examples for travel in many northern European destinations.
In the next installments, we’ll discuss researching flight options, lodging, transportation, and entertainment. Thanks for reading!