Time to start planning your next vacation? Vacation planning can be so much fun. But what if you don’t know where to go? What activities to do? Now what? You could buy travel books to research travel options. But what if you change your mind? You’ve just spent $15 to $30 dollars on that travel book and now you’re not even going there!
The answer? Invest time, not money, the next time you start planning a vacation.
Investing a little bit of time researching where you want to go and what activities you want to do, can ensure that next vacation is just what you want it to be. And you shouldn’t need to spend a dime to do this. Quality travel information is right at your fingertips, just waiting to help you to discover that next destination.
Seven Free Travel Planning Resources
These seven free resources will have you well informed and confident whether you are booking with a travel agent, or booking that trip on your own. If booking with a travel agent, you’ll be able to confidently explain your vacation expectations, helping her to do her job best. If booking on your own, you now have a roadmap from which you can begin the booking process.
1. Borrow Travel Books From The Public Library
You local public library is a great place to explore new travel destinations. You might just find all the travel books you need, free for the borrowing. The library is also a great way to determine which travel guide book might be worth buying.
Not sure which travel books to borrow? Borrow them all! My favorite go-to printed travel books are Frommers, Fodors, Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, and Moon Travel Guides. Any one – or several – of these will have you inspired in no time.
2. Order Free Travel Brochures and Guide Books
Free travel brochures and guide books can be found through practically every travel information resource, including travel and tourism companies, destination tourism offices, even the back pages of nearly every travel magazine. All you need to do is order them and within a matter of time, you’ll have a plethora of travel information at your fingertips.
Traveling in the United States or Canada? Check out Free-Travel-Guides.US and Free Travel Guides for United State destinations, and Free-Travel-Guides.CAN for Canadian destinations. Easily order free, official travel guides, vacation brochures, vacation planning kits and maps and they’ll be mailed right to your house. For free!
3. Take Advantage of AAA Travel Resources
Are you a member of AAA, The American Automobile Association? Then you have a completely free resource right at your fingertips. Through AAA Travel, you have access to trip planning essentials including tour guide books, mapped out travel itineraries, GPS’s loaded with driving details and even a travel weather planner. Once you have a trip planned, use TripTiks to keep it organized.
4. Peruse Online Travel Websites
Travel websites are a plethora of destination ideas just waiting to be explored. The websites of many printed travel guide books and magazines are chock full of free travel information, including destination inspirations and suggested travel itineraries. And all this information is yours for the taking simply by going to their websites.
Check out websites by Frommers, Fodors, Lonely Planet, Budget Travel and Travel & Leisure for lots of travel ideas. Budget Travel’s Trip Ideas, Fodor’s World and Frommer’s Destinations are loaded with destination itineraries sure to ignite your travel plans.
Tour operators are another great online travel resource. Peruse through world wide travel itineraries from large tour operators like Globus Journeys and Trafalgar. Check out travel itineraries from smaller, more specialized tour operators such as National Geographic Traveler, Row Adventures and Adventures By Disney. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole bucket list of travel ideas and possible itineraries.
5. Download Destination, Travel & Tourism Apps
Have a smart phone or other smart device? Many tourism websites, tour operators and travel businesses provide free travel apps, easily downloaded for free to your smart devices. Check the Travel category of your favorite App provider and you’ll find lots of travel apps for a wide variety of destinations.
Another handy travel app search tool is 10TravelApps.com. 10 Travel Apps makes searching for destination specific apps a breeze. Simply put in the name of your destination, and before you know it, you have list of ten travel apps. Not all apps are free, but that’s ok. You’ll still find freebies here.
6. Read and Ask Questions In Travel Forums
Travel forums are a treasure trove of information. Search what others are saying about a destination. Ask your own questions and see what advice you might get. I have received some great travel advice through travel forums. Popular forums include: TripAdvisor Travel Forum – DisBoarads – Frommer’s Community – Fodors Travel Talk Forum – Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum – Cheap Travel Forum – Independent Traveler Forum
Found some great advice in a travel forum? Just be sure to research it on your own to verify accuracy.
7. Talk With A Travel Agent
A little overwhelmed with the thoughts of researching your own travel plans? Want to explore with the help of someone who knows that destination you are considering? Give a travel agent a call. Qualified travel agents are worth their weight in travel dollars, especially when planning complex travel itineraries or traveling abroad.
So there you go. Invest time, not money, when researching your next vacation. You’ll have loads of travel information without ever spending a dime!
What’s your favorite resource for planning a trip? Share with us in the Comments section.
Images from DanielPanev via Flickr, SmartDestinations via Flickr, AAA , Caitlinator via Flickr, and Globus Travel.