Travel planning

Yoinks, I have been lax with posting, will get back on it this week.  I have officially bought tickets to Nicaragua, planning to stay 8 nights on the Corn Islands over Christmas, and heavily into planning.  I've discovered a few new resources, aside from the usual guidebooks/magazines/TripAdvisor (which should be taken with a massive grain of salt).

  • Newspaper articles:  Okay, fairly obvious, but now most major newspapers have archived their travel sections online.  I find the articles to often be more current and accessible than travel magazines, who are usually writing for a more affluent (read: spendy) audience.  Check New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and USA Today for good profiles and articles.
  • Email writers:  Since working at Conde Nast Traveler, I've emailed the writers I already know who have written articles about destinations I'm interested in.  It just occurred to me to not stop there, I could email writers I don't know!  So, I emailed the writer of the LA Times article on Corn Islands that originally got me interested and she has responded with great information.  Most newspapers make it pretty easy to email staff writers, Googling also helps.
  • Search photos:  My new obsession is going to Flickr and Webshots and searching for photos from Corn Islands.  These can tell me a lot more than the hotel's website or anyone's review.  I can actually see what the beach looks like, how far it is from the room, whether there are monkeys on site (very excited about this, I pretty much live for monkeys and there seem to be quite a few living on both islands), etc.
  • Beyond Google basic: I will say without mild hyperbole that I have a PhD in Googling, I love to search and used Google Scholar constantly when I was in school.  For trip planning, I find searching News and then Blogs is really helpful in finding random people's trip recaps and photos that don't show up on a regular search, and now Google's Picasa can be added to my photo search.  Fun fact: my concierge.com Suitcase comes up on Google Searches now for most of the properties on the Corn Islands!  Have I plugged the Suitcase enough?! It really rocks.
  • Other guidebook options: This is sort of a catch-all category.  It won't work for every destination, but if you can find a good travelogue/memoir for your place, it can be way better than a guidebook.  I wish I had taken Pete McCarthy's book to Ireland rather than Fodor's.  For guidebooks, Lonely Planet has just put out a cool new feature: Pick & Mix, so you can buy just a chapter of a guidebook rather than the whole thing.  It won't work for my Nicaragua trip since Nica is half of the guidebook, but it is super cool and I will use for a future trip.  Finally, I'm listing and looking for guidebooks on SwapSimple.com, so I can get books without paying for them and rather than sell them on half.com for pennies, I can trade for stuff I want!  They have a Facebook application now too, which I've added to my growing list of applications, like the highly addictive Traveler's IQ Challenge

Anyway, back to work, will continue the Finnegan's Wake of a travel recap later today.

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