I love travelling! Going to new or old loved places always puts a smile on my face. I am also however, a planner, and when exploring a new place, I love to do my research and get the most out of my trip. Research does not mean hitting every single tourist site in the traditional guide-book. That type of flash sightseeing travel does not interest me. For me, research means not only knowing the historical and tourist landmarks to visit, but planning and experience that includes a great place to stay, local places to visit, great food. To try to divert from my planner mode, that also means the best neighbourhoods to get lost in.
How do I go about researching a trip? Here is my 101
Travel Books I read
Luxe Guide: I was introduced to the Luxe guides by a really good friend of mine (you know who you are) during one of our Paris trips, and I was an instant fan! First wonderful thing: They are pocket-size and tiny, which means they fit into any bag you are carrying. As for the guides themselves, they have the following sections: Blah Blah (boring but important stuff according to them), Accommodation, Food, Bars and Clubs, Spa & Beauty, Activities, Shopping, Standout Stores, Advanced Shopping,Very Useful & LUXE Loves & Loathes. I am personally always on the lookout of their excellent advice on restaurants (they rarely steer me wrong), what NOT to do in the city and most importantly great shopping walking trips. Whats best, they are updated monthly online, so you are never out of date. They describe themselves better than I ever could, so I leave it to them: ” LUXE is now famous for its super-svelte format, and its take no prisoners attitude, avoiding all the padding, photos, graphics and blah of other guides and getting straight to the meat. The result – ultra-smart travel companions stacked with priceless information for the discerning, value-conscious and busy traveller. LUXE really is all you need. Oh, and you’ll never hear us refer to our readers as tourists. With LUXE you’re a visitor. It’s a big difference”
DK Top 10: These are the ultimate guides in quick and easy understanding of a Place. They go through everything in a Top 10 format, starting with top 10 highlights of the city, top 10 things to do in each highlight, top 10 things in all sorts of categories like: Cafes and Restaurants, Museums & Galleries, Moments in History, Culinary Highlights, Places of Worship, Shops & Markets, Festival and Events, Activities for Children and Nightlife aswell as a neighbourhood roundup. Their Streetsmart section at the end is always nice and gives you good top 10 on Hotels (at different budgets), practicalities, security and health, Things to avoid, Planning and Getting around. The only downside is that you can’t find them for all cities, but they will have one for the big ones. At their website, you can find a list of all the cities available, and note quite a few of these are downloadable through amazon for the kindle/Ipad.
Wallpaper Travel Guides- These guides have a clear Design and Architectonic feel to it, and are beautifully made by Phaidon. Their sections are: Introduction (with a great map), Landmarks, Hotels, 24 Hours, Urban Life, Architour, Shopping, Sports & Escapes. The best part of these guides are 24 Hours, Urban Life and Architour. 24 hours is See the city in just one day. it is a recommended schedule for a day in the city, from breakfast to dinner. I really like their recommendations because they mix the local with the tourism and they have some great insights. The urban Life section has their tips for restaurants and Clubs, and they have a strong focus on places with Great Interior Design. The Architour Is an Architects dream when visiting a city: a guide to the cities iconic buildings and architecture. Another plus for this book : small and compact so it can be thrown into your bag without it weighing you down.
The Hedonist Guide to .. (HG2)- How they describe themselves: The leading city guide publisher for independent, sophisticated travel. This is a great guide to get your bearings into the “hedonistic” activities of your trip. Look up the hotel your thinking if staying it, research restaurants, clubs and cafes, as well as cool local stores. There is nothing great here about tourism/site to see, but well that why you have all the rest of the guides. They do their books by neighbourhood with easy to use maps which help when trying to find a restaurant close to where you are. You can either buy the books, or downloadable PDFs from their Website
Classic Travel Guides – I usually go for DK Eyewitness, but some cities and countries don’t have it so my second choice is Lonely Planet, Third is Fodor’s or Frommers
It’s so easy to do whilst your procrastinating from other tasks – that it is the perfect complement
- Luxe – When you purchase the guide, you have full access to the updates on the site (new places, places that have closed etc.): They also have a blog in their website: http://www.luxetasy.com/ where you can find some great recommendations.
- HG2 (above) has a great website as well. THe HG2 website has most restaurant listings online as well as some downloadable guides that are great, such as the EAT London.
- NYTimes 36 hours articles – The NYTimes travel section is great, but my true favorite are their 36 hours in articles for every city. It is a great concise review on how you could spend a weekend in that place. AS they do a whole day of activities, their recommendations encompass all sorts of activities. There is no link where you can find them all, you have to search for the place you are going, but it is usually the first article you find. For example, here is the latest 36 hours, One for Baltimore.
- Black Tomato – I first learned of this site, because it was from the same people as Daily Candy. A great place to get trip ideas and itineraries. Their Browse by Need feature is very original and useful. You plug-in your date of travel, and your need (defined by them as: A PURPOSE, A RETREAT, FREEDOM, SOME BUSTLE, TO DISAPPEAR, TO GET LOST, TO PULSATE, A HONEYMOON) and the site gives you trip suggestions. As an example, November to disappear gives me some of these sample trips: Spice up your life in Kerala, Sri Lankan Adventure Safari and Aborigine escapes in the Outback, amongst others. Another plus for this site, their motto, which I really dig: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindness.
- Time City Guides – As you might have gathered I like y guides short, insightful and to the point. I also have a thing for top 10s. So that is why I like Time’s City Guides. They do a short overview of the cities, but what I like the most is the 10 Things to do section. for example London´s Top 10 things to do are: Tate Modern, Marylebone Stroll, London Eye, Inns of COurt, J. Sheekey, Kensignton Gardens, THe Royal COurt THeatre, Berry Bros. & rudd, Smithfield Pub Crawl and Barfly and Roundhouse. Given that we have 3 top three in common and they have one of my favorite restaurants on the list, I think they have Great Taste!
- Zagat & The World´s 50 Best Restaurants for further restaurant ideas
I love to read fiction or historical books that feature the place I am going to. For those lucky ones that live in London, Daunt Books is amazing for this, because they are divided by geographies and countries, and mixed with the traditional travel books they have the non-travel books that relate to the country! definitely worth a visit before a trip
Booking the Trip
- Kayak: My chosen travel Aggregator
- Hotels.com: Great way to get an overview on what hotels (of your pre-selected list) have good deals for your time period
- Priceline: In terms of hotels you can get great deals here
- Starwood: One of the best things I’ve done is Getting My Starwood Prefered Guest American Express. Now I am Starwood groupie to get more points, and use my existing. It is not however a bad place to be a groupie at, They do include the Sheratons, W Hotels, St Regis, The Luxury Collections, Westins, Meridien and others, so you will definitly find somewhere nice to stay!
- Open Table: For restaurant reservations in the US
My Travel Apps
- Tripit: This is my latest travel obsession app. I keep all my travel, whether it is work of play, organized with Tripit. It is a fabulous app, and I have converted my whole family to it. It is a must, especially if you have a smartphone. The app consolidates your lodging, flights and events (restaurants, theatre etc.) The best thing is that it does it automatically for many things. You can forward your itinerary from selected sites (opentable, expedia, kayak, hotels.com ) to firstname.lastname@example.org and they automatically add it to your itinerary. Bonus points, you can share the itinerary with the other travellers so you all have the information.
- Flight Stats: Have used this less with Trip it, but it is still a great app to know the status of your flight
- Currency: I love this app – direct conversion from any currency to any other currency!
- Gate Guru: This is a good app if you are going to be travelling in the USA. You choose your airport and terminal and it gives you the map of it with all the adjacent food and shopping options
- Kayak: In case you need to book or rebook on the run
- Guide Pal: I was recently introduced to this app by a friend and i quite enjoy it. It has various selections of itineraries, a very good map and a Nearby “Augmented Reality” functionality that lets you find things within a Radius of 1 ,mile. You can use it online or download a guide to your ipad/iphone for offline research (key when roaming)
- Luxe & wallpaper Apps: Like the Books and Website, just in convenient app form to take around