Travel Planning 101

Occasionally, I get travel questions that are so broad and basic that they can be hard to answer in a brief and simple manner. An example would be this query, from a college student named Lindsey: “My friend and I are planning a trip to Honduras, and we don’t want to do it like typical tourists. How do we go about planning for it? Could you give us a ballpark figure on costs for say a one-month travel period? What is the best way to get around? How do we come across inexpensive places to stay? Are locals usually trustworthy with their advice?”

I could answer all these questions specifically, but the underlying issue here is that Lindsey is in need of some broad general background on independent travel. Every potential traveler starts at this point, and I wrote Vagabonding to help address these very issues. Beyond my book, destination-specific travel guidebooks and Internet travel communities are useful resources for researching a trip. For those who are only just beginning their travel research, I’ll expand a bit on both of these resources.

1. Guidebooks. Some snobbish travel veterans claim they have no use for guidebooks — but I don’t believe them. Indie travel guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, or Moon are always a great place to start researching basics and background for your trip. Browse the guidebook section of your local bookstore or library to get a sense for what’s out there. A good independent travel guidebook will give you pages and pages of specific information on how to get around in a specific region or country: where to stay, where to play, where to eat, how to avoid trouble, how to be culturally sensitive, and roughly how much things will cost. (Just remember that a guidebook is not a travel bible, and that prices change and hotels go out of business. Once you get accustomed to travel, try to deviate from guidebook advice from time to time.)

2. The Internet. The main advantage of the Internet is that it can give you a great travel community to help you plan your trip and ask questions to travelers who’ve been where you’re going, or are making plans similar to yours. Check out the message boards at Lonely Planet’s massive Thorn Tree — or, for a more cozy online community, visit the Bootsnall message boards (where I moderate the Vagabonding Forum). Just remember to read all the posted messages first before you post your own — since many travel questions are common, and your question may already have been answered! Also keep in mind that this is subjective advice from people, and it might be based on opinion rather than fact.

For more online travel-research starting points, check out my Resources page at And don’t forget to check out my Vagabonding book (either from a bookstore or the library) — it really is a useful tool to inspire you, prepare you, and get you into the travel mindset!

Posted by | Comments Off on Travel Planning 101  | May 28, 2003
Category: Vagabonding Advice

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