Preparing to go on a trip often takes hold of me in the same way that a brilliant meal, a perfect wine, a good nap and a delightful book do. I am consumed, and I am immediately looking forward to the next great thing. I also like to do my research. If I’m traveling to a new city, even with the most basic lead time, I’ve probably looked up a) restaurants, b) bookshops and c) recommendations – in no particular order.
I am a firm believer in the recommendations of those that have gone before me. Although, let me say it here: those of you reviewing hotels on Hotels.com and saying things like “I would have liked softer pillows” or “the television was too small” really are not doing anyone any favors. I usually seek out multiple references about a place, in hopes of finding the most well-rounded picture and gaining access to hidden gems, beyond the hyper touristy places.
For example – when heading to Austria, everyone said sacher torte had to be on the menu, and an argument about which restaurant provided the best delivery of said sweet ensued. In the end, I relied on a local to point me to the best venue. She did just that, and although I was not fond of the cake, the experience was memorable.
Now I have two major trips before me, both in the month of December. First on tap is Ireland, to present at a big conference that I am over the moon about. Professionally, it’s a tremendous opportunity and personally, Ireland is somewhere I’ve never been. So where to turn?
1. Friends. Several friends have visited Ireland before, including colleagues who just visited there last summer with a group of students. I also have a dear friend living in Belfast who I plan to visit / travel with while I’m in-country. Bonus!
2. Fodors. With all the travel guides floating around in the world, I have grown comfortable with the Fodors guides* and what they offer. Additionally, I am grateful to their active online community of travelers. When I first stumbled out onto their website in April 2011, I was planning a trip to Greece. Thanks to a kind woman from Philadelphia, we had almost our entire itinerary planned for us, with her every recommendation. *Yes, I still purchase hard copy guidebooks.
3. Literature. You know I’m a freak for books. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve amassed a little Ireland-related collection on my bookshelf. These include:
* McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy, which I reviewed in an earlier post.
* Dubliners by James Joyce, Dublin native
* Trinity by Leon Uris, recommended to me by a Barnes & Noble bookseller
* 44 Dublin Made Me by Peter Sheridan, which spoke to me from a used bookshop shelf.
How do you prepare for a trip? Are you a planner? Or do you wing it?