I am prepared to do research before I go – years ago, that was very difficult, but now, with the Internet, online maps, review sites, forums – it is really easy to get the information you want.
You can enjoy visiting a place virtually before you go and it helps you decide whether or not this is the next place on your list. Google, Wikipedia, Google images and maps (streetview is wonderful); the review sites such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet are useful, but be aware that not all reviews are genuine. Sometimes it’s helpful to find a local expat blog or website; it is also interesting how many local people want to tell you about their city or region; they run websites to help travellers and visitors and they can give you lots of information you will not find on the local Tourist Information site (of course they are useful too). You really need to explore all the available resources of information.
Once you’ve decide where you think you’d like to visit, then I usually buy a guide book; one small outlay of £10-15 is worth it, to get some maps, information (check it on the Internet) – it could save you £500-1000. Amazon will deliver quickly, so will Bradt Guides. You learn which guide books suit you and your tastes – my preference is a Bradt Guide if there is one available. Some guide books specialise in telling you about museums and churches to visit – I know that they are not for me.
Different types of holiday I like (and this is a personal view):
1. City break
2. Seaside visit – but not to lay in the sun
3. Road trip – long or short
4. Exploring parts of the UK
What is there to see and do in the particular city?
There are hundreds of cities to choose from. I would prefer not to go to the most popular; I’ve tried this recently (Barcelona for example) and I am very glad I had visited in years gone by as it is so busy with thousands of tourists, selfie-sticks in your face, no-where to sit and rest, restaurants and bars packed – there is no loner and ‘feel’ for the city that made you choose it in the first place.
I’m happy to stay within Europe – there’s enough places I haven’t been or want to return to keep me busy for the rest of my life and my current list is long. I’ve been lucky enough to do some travel on business, so have eliminated some places, added some to the list that I have just had a ‘flavour’, a few hours to get the vibe (or not) – and it’s hard to explain, even to myself, why some places make me want to return and others I know I don’t want to add to my list.
Coming from the UK, I am well aware of how much the weather can affect a visit, so I will check the likely weather in the month I am choosing to visit. It doesn’t always work, but gives an idea and also helps keep the suitcase small.