In ye olde days when travel magazines and guidebooks were about the only sources of travel information, it was pretty easy to figure out where to go for making plans and getting inspired. I remember picking up Insight Guides for destinations specifically because they came with lots of photos. I’d check out video tours from the library in VHS and then DVD form.
Now that all seems quaint and we have the opposite problem: we’re drowning in travel information and photos. There’s even a sense among some that Instagram has killed the wonder of discovery, with every place on Earth seemingly photo uploaded to death with dreamy manipulated images that make it seem as every destination is always beautiful. Instead of a handful of resources about a specific beach in Mexico, you’ve got 10,000 articles and blog posts to sift through.
Here are a few options that can restore some sanity to your travel planning.
Local Travel Events
If you’re in the USA, major cities often host an annual travel show where you can meet with people in booths and get information on their specific destination or tour. There are also informative talks from travel editors, writers, and TV hosts. The New York Times Travel Show is coming up January 8 to 10 and Allianz Global Assistance is even giving away a free trip to New York City to check it out. The winner will receive airfare, hotel, free admission, a city tour with Pauline Frommer, and a goody bag with more prizes. Sign up here by December 4 to enter.
Now that we have DVRs and a half dozen streaming services to use on our TV, we don’t have to wait for specific TV shows at specific times. That means if you want to see what it’s like to explore the Galapagos Islands, you can just do a search and grab the popcorn. You can record upcoming shows from the Travel Channel, BBC, National Geographic Channel, and others on destinations you’re considering.
To dive down into more specifics, you can turn to YouTube and Vimeeo, where you’ll probably find footage from specific tours and luxury hotels. They might not be as slick as what comes through your cable box, but they’ll be unfiltered and honest.
Niche Blogs and Online Magazines
It’s hard to do a Google travel search these days without the first page of results being tour companies, Expedia-owned websites, Google’s own businesses, and TripAdvisor. If you have the patience to keep going past page 1 though or use a different search engine, you can get beyond the behemoths. Naturally use our site to research luxury travel in Latin America, but there are plenty of good specific websites and blogs for the various places you’re probably thinking of going.
If you can find one from a guidebook writer or research-focused expatriate, that’s ideal. See Wayne Berhardson’s Southern Cone Travel blog for how a blog written by a local expert can bring so much more value than silly “Top 7 Topless Beaches” posts the major magazines put out just to get more clicks. ExpatsBlog and BlogExpat list travel blogs written by expatriates in specific countries. It’s a self-submission process, so you have to sift through some junk to find the gems, but these can give a real local’s perspective in your own language and tend to show the destination with all its warts.
Local Tourism Sites
You won’t find any warts on the websites meant to be the mouthpiece of the government’s tourism bureau, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. Over the years there’s been a realization that a lousy tourism site nobody visits doesn’t do anyone much good. So the visitors bureaus have commissioned good articles, paid for some slick videos, and hired some talented photographers to make prospective travelers want to stick around their site. These still range from laughably bad to really terrific (Ecuador.travel is probably the best one in Latin America), but overall they get a bit better each year.
Pinterest for Travel Information
Instagram gets all the buzz, but Pinterest is a much more helpful website for travel information and inspiration. It’s also filled with beautiful photos of most anywhere on Earth, but you search with real words and phrases, not hashtags. You can collect your favorites and pin them to your own boards, or just follow the ones that interst you. The real advantage of this platform, however, is that most pinned photos lead to a corresponding web page with more information. So it’s not just a photo and short description, but a window into more knowledge (and more photos) when you click through.
Don’t forget the last part of your planning before you take off: getting travel insurance so your well-planned journey can play out as you hoped, without any major setbacks. With the right plan you’re covered for flight cancellations, lost luggage, and medical issues.
(This post was made possible through our partner Allianz Global Assistance. As always, all content and opinions are our own.)