I feel a bit like I’m back in school.
Spending hours combing the shelves for the right book, studying maps, using all of the proper Google search terms…
The best way to travel safe and have fun? Do some digging on where you are going. Once my destination was decided on, a trip to the travel section of Barnes and Noble was in order. I wanted to not only get excited to travel, submerse myself in the culture and beauty of my final destination, but I needed to educate myself on this country to decide where I wanted to start. What’s the current and exchange rate? What about the accommodations or the food and water situation? Are there any required shots I need before heading out? What can I expect the weather to be like?… cause that will totally dictate how I pack!
I also wanted to enjoy the next 7 months of preparing and learning. This makes the sense of adventure last a lot longer the just the 10 day vacation.
So with a copy of Lonely Planet: Bali and Lombok and the Tuttle Bali- The Ultimate Guide in hand, tabs saved on my laptop for the CDC travelers info, airline price watcher activated, and accommodations contacted – the research portion of the trip is underway and I am into anything and everything Bali. History, culture, religion, tradition, food, dress, war, geography, language, art… you name it, I want to learn about it. What I don’t want to be? An uneducated tourist looking to live my own “Eat, Pray, Love”. (although great book, yes you should read it).
Budgeting and packing will be in others posts all their own, so lets look at researching airlines and housing (both of which were influenced by price)!
Thank goodness for Google. You can search for flights over a given date period and it will pull up various airlines and prices. I also entered my itinerary into SkyScanner, which is a search engine for flights and prices on various carriers and through various host sites. The biggest thing I found— don’t fall for scam sites that are advertising really low rates. So in your searches, please check the authenticity of where you are purchasing tickets from! Price not only influenced what airline I travel, but the schedule and layover situation as well as safety.
I decided to go someplace in the middle. Air China. The particular flight I chose fit all my requirements pretty well. The price point round trip was something I could accommodate. The layovers were reasonable and in a country I wouldn’t mind being in- Taipei, Taiwan. I would be taking off and touching down at relatively reasonable hours with LOTS of time to sleep on the overnight flights. What I didn’t want was to arrive in Bali in the pre-dawn darkened of 4am and have to figure out how to get anywhere, but I don’t mind leaving NYC at midnight. There is really no reason to sacrifice personal comfort or anything else for that matter, enjoy the “in transit” part of your travel adventure!
For accommodations, I wanted to get a real feel for Bali, not something I could really get in the Four Seasons Resort… just no. So I began by looking into hostels and homestay- both economy friendly and a true cultural submersion. These are located al over the island, and I found a great one in Ubud- where I’m headed. With breakfast, bike rental, airport pickup, and a friendly staff who answered all of my email questions, and within walking distance of temples/attractions/a yoga studio/markets… I knew this was the place.
Guide books are great resources and so are other travelers. Because I’m excited about this trip, it comes up in almost every conversation and before I know it, I’m talking to 6 different people who have all been to Bali and want to share their tips and best practices- Attractions to see, things to avoid, how to pack, and more all came up. Some things I’ve already considered, other information was new and gave me more to look into with an educated eye. I’ve also turned to social media. Today almost every hotel and restaurant, store and park have a social media presence. Bali is a hot topic on many blogs and Pinterest boards. I’ve dug into it all. Looking up my homestay on Instagram gave me a look through the eye of other travelers, not someone trying to sell their place over others. Reading blogs (like this, haha!) that are not out to earn stars (like Yelp) give me a more “true to life” look at where I’m going.
This entire post to say that I like researching and learning, especially if it’s something I’m interested and invested in! Taking time to learn about a far away country that eventually I’ll actually be in makes the who trip experience more exciting and longer lasting.
Where do you look for travel tips and destination research?