Researching your next international excursion is a great way to build anticipation in the weeks leading up to your getaway. With today’s resources at their fingertips, travelers are in a better position to plan their trips than ever before.

The most popular travel resource is a guidebook. While these can never be as up-to-date as their online counterparts, they represent some of the most dedicated research available to travelers. Travelers in the planning stages can also make use of everything from word-of-mouth to magazines.

Since it’s impossible to know how things have changed since the last round of reviews, it’s a good idea to keep things flexible. Line up a couple neighborhood backups in case your hotel or restaurant of choice has closed its doors or raised its prices.

Above all, make it a point not to over-plan your trip. There’s only so much that can be done on this side of the journey, and too much stress and planning will drain all the fun out of the experience. It’s hard to anticipate the last-minute opportunities that may come up, and the option to tweak or altogether change your plans in-travel is key.

Travel guidebooks: Guidebooks are essential to cracking open a new destination. Whether visiting on a short-term holiday or putting down roots to stay awhile, a good guidebook has the directions, reviews and directories to get you started. The best guides are well-researched, have few (if any) ads and boast plenty of color photographs to prime your enthusiasm before you set out.

Alternatives to guidebooks: If you find that your guidebook is too vague or selective or just out of date, there are several alternatives. Online forums are a great place to get in-depth information and even include the option of posting your own specific questions or concerns. Traveler blogs are useful for learning about the ins and outs of life on the road. An offline option is to leaf through prominent travel magazines for ideas.

Travel maps: Getting your hands on a good map will make planning your trip a lot easier. The maps in guidebooks are inferior to the glossy, fold-out variety. Just be sure to get a tourist-oriented map marked with attractions, restaurants and accommodation options. This will help you select hotels that are well located near the attractions and districts where you plan to spend the most time.

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