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It’s easy to overlook something or simply to miss something important you did not specifically search for when researching a destination. This page will help to give you some ideas of things to look for that you may not have considered such as day cruises, food, wine cellars, local crafts, markets and more.
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Destination Research Ideas Destination Research Examples     Pre-Travel

This page is not about the major attractions you are most likely already aware of.  It's about the little things that will help to make your trip more special and memorable.

If its your first time to a major location, then of course you will want to see the major sites.  You would not want to go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, or Pisa and not see the Leaning Tower.  If you are returning to a place you have been before, then you may want to revisit sites you enjoyed the most.  For example, we have been to Rome on several occasions and find it much more enjoyable now as we are not rushing around to see everything.  We can take our time to relax and stroll around.  W revisit some of our favorite places and look for something new.  The most enjoyable part is to relax and enjoy the scenery, people and food.

As you research a location, there are probably many things that won't pop-up in your search if you do not look for them specifically.  This page is more about the little things to consider that will add to your travel experience.  Some of our fondest travel memories are of a meal we had or someone we met along the way.

Be sure to see our Destination Research Examples page for additional ideas on where to research and examples of sites and activities you may discover.

 Seasonal Food   Regional Food   Local & Chain Restaurants   Special Restaurants 
 Alcohol   Farmers Markets   Market Halls   Souvenirs 
 Pay for the View   Speciality Hotels   Museums / Special Exhibits   Boats / Cruises 
 Walks   Cemeteries   Sites by Day & Night   Local Tours 
 Cathedral Climb   Treasures   History   Holiday Markets & Festivals 
 Day Trips   Entry Passes   Travel Passes   Holidays & Closures 

Topic Details
Seasonal Food

Research the food that is in season.  You may find that certain fruits, vegitables, seafood, etc. are best at certain times of the year.  Being from Colorado, in the Fall, we always look forward to Olatha Sweet Corn, Rocky Ford Canalope and Palisade Peaches.  Watch what the locals are eating.  Talk to others and ask for recommendations.

Regional Food

Look for local dishes for the locations you plan to visit.  Some of our fondest memories are from meals we have had throughout our travels...and don't feel funny about take a photo of your meal, you will notice other travelers doing it as well.

Be sure to check out our Tips page on Food.

The examples would be endless, but here are a few.

In Instanbul it's the fresh Mackerel Sandwich.  (To be honesh, we have not yet been to Istanbul, but watching travel shows and researching, it looks like the Mackerel Sandwich is one of the popular local things to try)  In the Alsace area of France located on the German border, the thin Alsacean Pizza is one of the specialities among other things.  On some of the Greek Isles, sardines are popular.  In Hungary, try the Gaulash.  In the UK give fish and trips a go.  In Holland, try Herring by the tai.

Herring by the tail - Amsterdam Netherlands

Local & Chain Restaurants

We try to avoid places that are obviously chain restaurants in favor of eating local.

With that being said, there is nothing wrong with experiencing a local chain as it will be new to you.

I was once on a business trip to India and after five weeks of India and Asian food, I was delighted to find a McDonald's on a trip to Jaipur and Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  The India McDonalds do not serve beef, so this was a unique experience.  I still remember having the Chicken Tika Burger and a Veggie Burger and both were delicious.

McDonalds - Jaipur India

Special Restaurants

You may be traveling on a budget but consider at least once special meal on your trip.  It may be at a nice restaurant or a local family owned restaurant where you experience home cooking.  You may also want to think about something really special to celebrate a birthday or anniversary such as the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant located on the first level of the Eiffel Tower.

58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant (located behind the windows)


Many places produce their own local alcohol including beer, wine, liquors, etc.  Look for local drinks to try and be sure to review our Alcohol page for more information.

Guinness Beer in Dublin Ireland

Farmers Markets

Farmers Markets are wonderful!  They can be small or quite large and you are sure to find local favorites.  As a tourist, you may not be purchasing items requiring a kitchen to prepare and cook your food, but there are many things to consider.  Look for local breat, deli meats and cheese to make a picnic lunch.

You will usually find an abundance of fresh olives which can be quite different than the ones you purchase at home.  Walking through the Market in Lyon France, we bought a container of olives and could not belive how fresh they were.  They seemed to melt in your mouth.  As it had been years sinced we lived in Europe and used to eat fresh olives all the time, we forgot how different and delicious they were compared to the ones at home in the jar.

Farmers Market - Lyon France

Market Halls

Many locations will have a large market hall in the town center.  These halls may contain different local food stalls as well as crafts and other items.  Some of the best local food at the best prices can also be found.  They are at least worth a stroll through to check them out.  Keep in mind that they are not always open every day, so check to see the hours.

Krakow Poland - Market Hall (Cloth Hall)

Souvenirs: Mass Produced vs. Hand Made

You will find touristy souvenirs everywhere you go and it's up to you to decide if you want to buy something.  Consider what you are buying and the price and ask yourself it you think if it's worth the price.  Don't be afraid to haggle, offer what you think it's worth to you.

Year's ago, we decided to collect Christmas Ornaments from the different places we visit.  We also look for items that could be used as an ornament.  We have found some really cool keychains and even nice coasters we made into an ornament.  Sometimes we find something that was made with no intent to be an ornament, but works perfectly as one.  Our Christmas tree is amazing now and every year brings back memoires of all the places we have visited.

Once in Italy, we had the idea of purchasing some unique postcards and framing them rather than purchasing expensive artwork.  They turned out really nice and are hanging on our wall, all for just a few Euros.

You can always find more expensive souvenirs such as the hand blown and painted egg shells from Bratslava that we where going to use an tree ornaments until we came home and found that one of our dogs had eaten them all.  They must have smelled like eggs and quite appetizing to him.  Now we have another reason to return to Bratislava to replace them.

You will find cuckoo clocks all throughout Germany, especially in the Black Forrest area.  You can purchase the mass produced clocks you find in most the stores which are expensive and quite nice, or visit a shop where they are made by hand and purchase one that is more unique and not any more expensive than the mass produced ones.

Pay a little extra for the view

Sometimes it worth it to pay a little extra for a better location or to have a nice view from your hotel room.

Traveling on a budget and keeping expenses down does not mean you never get to splurge.  There are times you may want to pay a little extra for special accommodations or to have a nice view.  For example, you could pay more for a night to have a room overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice, a city view in Rome, a view of the water at some seaside resort or an amazing mountain view.

We stayed at a hotel in Grindelwald and payed a little extra to have an Eiger View from our balcany.  We bought some wine and sat ourside to enjoy the sunset.  We thought this was really worth the extra cost to have such an amazing view and we would definately do it again.

The Eiger - Grindelwald Switzerland

Speciality Hotels

Something we have started doing is to look for a special uniqul hotel at least one night during our trip.  On the last several trips, we have found hotels rooms in castles that have cost no more or only slightly more than a normal hotel.

Liebenstein Castle Hotel on the Rhine River - Germany
Glengarry Castle Hotel on Loch Oich - Scotland

Museums / Special Exhibits

Museums will often have special exhibits or showings in addition to their normal display.  These exhibits may require a special entrance fee.  Search museums in the loctions you are visiting to see if there is anything special going on that you find interesting and may want to see.

Boat Rides / Day Cruises

Many locations will have a boat ride on the local river lasting from an hour to several hours.  Instead of taking a train to your next location along the Rhine River in Germany, break it up into a few hour boat ride where you can relax and watch the castles pass by.

You could take a fast train around Lake Thun by Interlaken Switzerland, but perhaps a couple hour boat ride across the lake to the same town the train stops in would be more enjoyable and add to your trip experience.

It's all about the time you have planned and considering variations on getting to the same place.  It's often well worth the experience to slow things down and enjoy whats around you.

Lake Thun - Switzerland Rhine River Cruise - Germany


Research your location to find any special recomended walks through parks or the town.  You may find a suggested walking path that will otimize your time.  One uqique walk is the Owl Trail in Dijon France where you follow brass owl markers throughout the town, taking you by all the interesting sites.

River Path - Bern Switzerland Owl Trail - Ddijon France


If you are new to travel, especially in Europe, you may not be aware that cemeteries can be major tourist attractions.  Many serve as parks, professionally maintained and landscaped making them beautiful places to stroll through.  Others are known for the interesting grave sites and momuments.

Montparnasse - Paris France Cemetery des Chiens - Paris France
Reykjavik Iceland Rothenburg ob der Tauber - Germany

Sites by Day & Night

There are some places you should visit twice, once during the day, then again at night.

One example is in Athens Greence.  There is a large hill opposite the Acropolis where you get great view of the Parathanon during the day.  You should plan on making the same trip after dark to get the night view with everything lit up.

There is something special about seeing the Colloseum in Rome all lit up at night, quite different than the day.  Also in Rome, consider having an evening meal at an outsite table in front of the Pantheon.  the Trevi Fountain is another one and the list goes on and on.

In Rothenburg Germany, walking the wall and through the town is a must.

Fisherman's Bastion - Budapest Hungary
San Gimignano - Cinque Terra Area of Italy

Local Tours

You will find that many locations have their own local tours, taking you to or through historic places in town.  These tours can include walking, boats and even small tourist trains that wind through the town streets.  You may visit historical sites and even supposedly haunted locations beneath the streets.

In the town of Rothenburg Germany, one of our favorites is the Night Watchman Tour.  The tour is only a few Euros and starts in the evenings in the town center.  You walk with the entertaining night watchman through the town as he explains the history from medieval times through WWII and current day.

In Edinburgh Scotland, there are many tours to choose from.  An interesting one is the Ghostly Underground Tour where your guide takes you through tunnels beneath the city streets.  You learn about the history and hear stories of ghosts and other hauntings.

Night Watchman - Rothenburg Germany Ghostly Underground - Edinburgh Scotland

Hidden Treasures

Interesting and important artwork and other items can be found all around Europe; in places you would never expect.

There is a church in Bruges Belgium that houses one of Michelangelo's sculptures - 'Mother with Child'. You may not expect to find an original Michelangelo here and may completely pass it by without ever knowing it was there if you did not do your research.


As Europe's history goes back thousands of years, take some time to research the places you will visit to learn about the importance and historical significance.
You will find Medieval, Roman, WWI and WWII and many other areas of interest.

See our page on Travel Shows, Documentaries & History for more information and a WWII example such as the Hofbräuhaus in Munich Germany.

Hofbräuhaus - Munich Germany

Holiday Markets & Festivals

Of course there is Oktoberfest in Munich in the Fall and various Christmas Markets scattered all through the towns of Europe, but there may be other festivals going on at the time you are there.  Do some research to see what celebrations are going on.  Read about the traditions, activities and why it's celebrated to get the most out of them if you decided to participate.

Christmas Market - Copenhagen Denmark Oktoberfest - Munich Germany Fulehung Festival - Thun Switzerland

Day Trips

If you plan to stay in a large city for several days, you may want to venture out a day or two to another place near by.  From Paris, it only takes about an hour to reach the Palace of Versailles or the town of Chartres to name just a couple.  Berchesgaden Germany and Hitler's Eagle's Nest is only an hour away from Salzburg Austria.

Plan ahead and research what is possible by your method of travel.  If you have a car, you may be able to reach some locatons not accessable by train.  If you don't have a car, is traveling by train a possibility or are is there a tour group you could join for the day that takes day trips to the sites you are interested in.

Hitler's Eagle's Nest

Entry Passes

The Rule of Thumb is that if you are planning to visit popular tourist areas or even travel through certain regions, then purchase what you can ahead of time.  It may not even be possible to purchase tickets upon your arrival at some locations.  For example, you must purchase your ticket ahead of time to see Leanardo's Last Supper in Milan Italy or to tour the excavations below St. Peter's at the Vatican.

It may be possible to purchase a specific date and time entry for a museum or a multi-day museum pass allowing you to bypass the crowds of people waiting in line to purchase their tickets.

Don't plan on just showing up at some popular site and going right in if you have not already purchased your ticket ahead of time.  All places are different, so do some research and plan ahead.

To help avoid lines and crowds for places that do not require a pass, try to arrive as early as possible or later in the day.  As an example, we arrived right before the gates opened at the Lichtenstein Castle in Germany and attended the first English speaking tour group.  As it turned out, we were the only American's there for the tour, so it was like having our own private gide.  Our gide also took us to places in the castle where larger tour groups don't typically go.

Lichtenstein Castle - Germany

Travel Passes

Swiss Pass

When traveling through Switzerland by rail, bus, boat and even tram, having a Swiss Travel Pass is the way to go.  The pass provides unlimited travel on the network of the Swiss Travel System.  There are several different passes to choose from including the Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Travel Pass Flex, Transfer Tickets, Half Fare Cards and Coupon Pass each having their own benefits and discounts.

See our Swiss Travel Pass page for detailed information and an actual example of how we used our pass on a trip through the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland.

Eurail Pass

Purchasing a rail pass can be one of the most efficient and economical ways to travel through Europe and there are several different types of passes available. You will need to research the type of pass you require based on the countries you will be visiting and the number of days you will be traveling. Rail passes will basically give you unlimited travel for the entire day on any train you board. So if you are making a long haul ride from Stuttgart Germany to Salzburg Austria, you may want to use a rail pass as it may be cheaper than purchasing a specific ticket for that journey. If you are traveling from Munch Germany to Rothenberg Germany having several train transfers, a rail pass would probably be a good option.

See our Rail Passes page for more information.

Cathedral Climb

At some locations it's obvious that you can climb to the top of something such as the Eiffel Tower and currently to the top of the Leaning Tower in Pisa.  As it turns out, most of the large cathedrals allow you to climb to the top although you usually must pay a small fee.

The climb can be quite interesting.  At different levels, you may encounter offices, bells and other special rooms.  Your reward are the spectacular views from the top.

When traveling to a location that has a major cathedral, research if it's possible to climb the steps to the top.  Make note of the open hours, cost and where to find the area to pay and enter.

Strasbourg Cathedral - Strasbourg France

Holidays & Closures

If you are planning on visiting museums or even major tourist attractions on a specific day, be sure to do some research to find their hours of operation as well as days they may be closed.  Be sure to research holidays in the country or region as attractions may be closed on those days as well.

In Paris, museums open at 9 or 10am and close between 5 and 6pm. Usual closing days are Monday or Tuesday, but there may be exceptions. Some are even open 7 days a week, such as some of the major monuments which can even be visited as late as 11pm or midnight.

Musee du Louvre - Paris France