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To get the most out of your vacation, you need to research all there is to see and do every step of the way. Wherever your travels may take you, don’t miss out on something because you didn’t put in a little time to do the research. As you travel, you will find that some excursions can be done independently while other require a guide or tour group. Learn how to search for unknown adventures every where you go.
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Destination Research Examples Destination Research Ideas     Pre-Travel

When researching a trip, you probably have some idea of where you would like to go as well as some things you would like to do once you get there.  However, you are probably not aware of all there is to see and do at each location and that's why researching your destinations is so important.  Walking around and exploring on your own is great...and you should, but if you take the time to do some pre-location research, you can be more sure you do not miss out on something important.

Our goal is not to provide a list of links to popular websites for you to click and search for your activities (although we have listed a few), but rather to provide alternatives to the normal thought process when it comes to researching what you plan to see and do.  Wherever you are going, look for opportunities to do something different and adventurous...something out of the ordinary that will give you a story to tell.

See our Destination Research Ideas page for additional ideas on sites and activities to consider when researching a location such as day cruises, food, wine cellars, local crafts, markets and more.

Topic Details
Travelzoo One of our favorites!

We highly recommend creating a free account using your email and a password.  Once created, customize your account to receive email notifications of the travel deals you are interested in.

We have booked several deals after being notified via email such as a trip to Iceland then on to Europe.  In the summer, Iceland Air offered cheap flights from the US to Europe with up to a week optional stay in Iceland either direction.  The offer was made during the summer for flights in the fall.  Without the Travelzoo email, we may have never known about this opportunity in time to book it.

The Crazy Tourist This is another of our favorite sites providing photos and short detailed descriptions of the top destination activities.

They provide enough information to give you an idea of the top things to do.  The information provided will allow you to do additional research to find find maps, cost, hours of operation, etc.

We use this site often to get an idea of what to do at various locations.  Simply search for your destination such as 'Lyon France' and then select the photo from the results such as '15 Best Things to do in Lyon (France)'.

Trip Advisor Trip Advisor is one of the largest information websites available when it comes to reading comments from other travelers.

You may find a wealth of information on vacation packages, city excursions, flights, hotels and much more.  In fact, there is so much information that it can sometimes be overwhelming wading through it all.

Utilize Trip Advisor for your research, but you may find that other websites are far more useful and informative.

From our personal experience, we have found that the information provided can be completely useless and incomplete.  They state that 'Everything You Need to Know' can be found on the site, but often there is little useful information.  When we need to find maps, opening/closing times, tips, prices, etc. often there are only comments posted by people that have not been helpful.

Viator Viator is a popular website for tour information and booking.

We have used Viator for several different tours including Iceland Whale Watching and Northern Lights Tours as well as booking a day trip from Salzburg Austria to visit Hitler's Eagle's Nest outside of Berchtesgaden Germany.

Sample searches to give you an idea of how to search for your location activities

Below are some examples of what we uncovered while performing pre-travel research.

Tour Groups

As you research the different locations you plan to visit, most activities can be done independently on your own.  There are however times when it makes sense or the only way to see something is to join a tour group.  In fact, some places will only let you go with a group and not on your own.

In some cases, you may be able to save time by joining a tour group to enter a location, but then you can venture off on your own.  Here is an example.  You were planning to visit the Vatican Museums in Rome and when you arrived you found the line hundreds of yards long, stretching around the corner from the entrance and down the street.  At the same time, you notice tour group leaders asking people to join them and for a small fee, they will be able to skip the line and go right in.  This is one location where you are not required to be with a tour group to tour the museum.  So by paying a small fee to join the group, you get right in and then have the option to stay with them, or venture off on your own.  He did this on a trip and stayed with the group part of the time, ventured off on our own, then rejoined them later.

Michelangelo's Moses and the Chains of St. Peter

Did you know that just a short walk from the Coliseum in Rome sits Michelangelo's statue of Moses in the San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) Basilica?

Most people are not even aware that the statue exists or that it is right under their nose.  How many people (especially tour groups to the area) completely miss seeing this magnificent statue?  With a little research, you may stumble upon this great work of art and can add it to your itinerary.  Also housed in the basilica with the statue are the Chains that Bound Saint Peter.

Michelangelo's Moses Chains that bound Saint Peter
San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica - Rome, Italy

The Labyrinth of Budapest

Here is another reason why research is important.  On Castle Hill in Budapest Hungary you will find the Labyrinth...if you know about it.  If you don't, you will walk right by without ever noticing it.

We cannot recall ever seeing this mentioned on any travel show nor is it mentioned in most guide books.  We did however find a reference to it in our DK Guide Book for Budapest.

The entrance to the Labyrinth is through the front door of one of the houses on Castle Hill.  Walking past the row of houses, you would never know the place existed.  The Labyrinth is an expansive complex of cellars, dungeons, springs and caves that run beneath Castle Hill.  You pay a small entrance fee and you are free to explore on your own.  This is one of the coolest places that no one knows about...but you know now.

Labyrinth - Budapest, Hungary
Lord's Street - House Number 9

St. Peter's Necropolis at the Vatican in Rome

Everyone tours The Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, but did you know there are special tours that will take you beneath the basilica?  Private tour groups will guide you through the necropolis, a Roman cemetery that’s said to house the relics of St. Peter the Apostle.  You will walk amid tombs that trace pagan Rome to the start of Christianity.

You must sign up for these tours far in advance and bring your voucher with you to bypass the Swiss Guard to a special side entrance of the Vatican where typical tourists are not allowed to enter.  Photos were not allowed in the necropolis, so the photo on the right is a stock photo we found on the internet.

Swiss Guard St. Peter's Basilica Necropolis
The Vatican - Rome, Italy

Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan

At the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan Italy, you will find Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper.

You must purchase tickets ahead of time to view the painting, so we purchased our tickets online prior to departing on our trip.

Photos were not allowed, so this the photo below on the left is of The Last Supper we found on the internet. The actual painting is in much worse condition than this photo depicts.  If fact, even with restoration much of it is barely recognizable anymore.

Our advice is to see the painting before it becomes totally unrecognizable due to continued deterioration.

Vienna Austria - Minoritenkirche - We just happened to stumble into this church and found a few interesting things.  The church contains a mosaic copy of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and a faded fragment of the 16th-century fresco of St. Francis of Assisi.  The mosaic shows how the original painting by Da Vinci must have looked.  It is so detailed that you may not even notice it's not an actual painting until up close.

The Last Supper - Milan The Last Supper - Vienna (Mosaic)