How much planning is necessary before your trip? I know people who plan out their every move for a weekend away from home and another that left home for a year with just a basic framework of where they wanted to visit. It all depends on what type of person you and what type of experience you want to have.
My first trip overseas was during high school to Ireland, courtesy of my step-father and mom. It was just the two of them and my younger sis and I. My folks bought one of those set itineraries that included lodging and bus transport. There was not too much slack in the itinerary for us to do our own thing and activities began early most mornings, (or we had to pile into the bus early to arrive at said activity.) This type of travel is good for those people who do not want to do any planning or research, and you don't have to make all those thousands of decisions while you are away.
For the last two decades, my travels have been solo, and very loosely planned. Usually I take the time to peruse a few different guides books (the public library is a great resource). In our information heavy society, it is fairly easy to do a search and find a few blogs regarding the place you would like to visit. I actually enjoy the hell out of reading cultural and historical information about a place- many times places I am not going to visit. If I am taking a long trip or traveling to a place I know very little about, I try to find literature or poetry by local authors or regarding national heroines.
However, I have visited places with little or no research simply because of the timing of the trip. I took a last minute trip to Kenya with my friend Sarah several years ago and did not do any planning for the destination. This resulted in me piling every inch of clothing on to keep warm in the evenings and early morning. Africa=hot, no? That was my assumption... Yet, we were in the desert, which became very cool at night into the morning. (On safari, hot water bottles were placed into our beds in the tents.)
I do not like to plan out my itinerary, but instead I choose to list the main places I want to visit (plus things like AA meetings and queer dance clubs and bars) and let the plan unfold on the road.
I highly suggest looking over cultural advice so as not to offend the very people who's land you are touring. Are you familiar with headwear customs in the East? Or what to wear in church? Handshakes or zones of intimacy in other places vary greatly. You can look these things up online. A few great resources: Lonely Planet, Country Guides. I also recommend going to a bookstore to check out their guidebooks. Happy Travels.
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.