Planning and Research for the Trip Ahead - Continued (#5)

Street Vendor in Old Town Hoi An, Vietnam

This is the fifth article in a series about Planning and Researching for photography on future travels.  I have put links to the previous articles at the bottom of this one.

For this article we are going to assume that the itinerary is pretty much set for you such as it would be on an escorted tour or you are invited along with friends or family on a trip that they already set up.
If you are going along on an escorted or guided tour or on a cruise the tour company,  travel agency or cruise line probably has a pretty good description of the itinerary already available to you, after all, the more detail they can give you about the wonderful places you will be going to and visiting the more tempted you are to shell out the dollars for the trip.  This is your best starting point.  Your goal is to find out as much as possible about each of these locations with a special emphasis on the kinds of things you want to get photos of. 

For me, I really like to put together a book for each trip, perhaps you want to get some photos to hang in your house or share on Social Media.  Maybe you’d like to have a gallery show or sell some of your work to help pay for the trip.  Whatever it is it helps to have that in mind as you plan. 

I have written a couple times previously of a “Spreadsheet”  to help you plan.  For myself I set up a spreadsheet with two columns for each day.   At the top I put the day and date and also the main event of the day such as “Ho Chi Minh City”.    Then I break the day down into segments starting with “Early Morning”  which is the time before breakfast while everyone else is getting up and ready, “Breakfast”, “A.M.” , “Lunch”, “P.M.”, “Dinner” and “Evening”.  In each of the cells I put where I will be or what I’ll be doing during that period of time after I have done my research and know the answer to those questions.  I will include a sample day in my next article when it makes a little more sense.  This is just what worked for me, you’ll want to design yours so it works for you, or maybe not go as hi-tech and just have a notebook.  I liked the spreadsheet because I’m carrying my smart phone along anyway and why do I need the smart phone and a notebook? 

As I go through the itinerary provided by the travel agent, or whoever is planning the trip,  I simply fill in those parts with the event, activity or location as I mentioned above.   One thing to keep in mind is that on a guided or escorted tours, unless the tour group is going to a new location and not coming back, it is still your option to join them or go off on your own.   I recommend you take a hard look at where they are going, then take a look at what else might be available in the area. 

A good way to start is to open your favorite search engine and type in the name of the city or the destination site listed and see what pops up.  You’ll get a lot of commercial sites trying to get you to book the hotels or flights and so on, but scroll down past all the commercial sites, even spend a few minutes in Wikipedia, and others.  Another is to open Google Earth and zoom in on the location and look at some of the photos that others have posted there.  Of course we’ve already talked about going to Flickr, 500px or even Facebook and searching for photos from that location.  Another that I have found fairly productive is to type “Things to do in ______________”.  Again, you’ll see lots of commercial sites who only want to sell you something, but even some of them might have some good information especially if they are the kind of site that has real people ratings, but . . . the real meat is often toward the bottom of the page or on the next few pages.  Don’t be afraid to go looking for people’s blogs or videos of places they’ve been and things they’ve seen.  Some of them aren’t worth the bandwidth they are using but you’re digging for gold and you can find it with a little time and patience. 

TIP:  Set up a “Bookmarks” or “Favorites” folder for the trip and save the good info sites in there so you can get back to them easily.

If you’re willing to spend a little extra money to get away from the typical tourist attractions and into the “hidden secrets” of the locals you can search for “Photography tours” or “Photography guides” of the city that you’ll be in.  It may well be worth the cost.  Or, you may just pick up a few hints of places you’d like to see from their web sites.

With this new information under your belt you can now take a more informed view of the published itinerary. 

Of course almost all of these kinds of trips also include “Optional tours”.  For a few more dollars you can add some more tours to your schedule.  Depending on what you’re looking for these optional tours may take you to the best locations or sites.  Take a hard look at what will be available to you and couple that with the research and planning you’ve done so far, or still need to do, and decide what is going to work for you.  On our recent escorted tour to Vietnam I went on every optional tour they offered and I got some of my favorite photos on those tours.  The reason I went on those optional tours is because I had done my research and knew what I was looking for.

In the next article I’ll go into more detail on the spreadsheet and include an example.
You can click on the descriptions below to go to the previous articles in this series:

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