Travel planning was simple when I was 20. Anything foreign was fun, so for each trip I would just buy a Lonely Planet and skip around the well-trodden tourist trail with all the other people like me.
These days my interests are more specific, and my travel research is too. When I travel, I want to see good design in all forms – cool neighbourhoods, good architecture, great interior spaces – and I have to go beyond conventional travel planning literature to find them.
Here are several of my favourite travel planning resources for design junkies and the people we drag along with us.
For Inspiration and Destination Selection
My research usually starts when I’ve heard about a potential travel destination and want to see if it has enough of the things I’m interested in to warrant a trip.
These days I start with Triptease, a UK-based platform for peer to peer recommendations about travel destinations. The site is picture-based, like Instagram with some written commentary, and is focused on mid-range and luxury travel. Many of the people who post are travel professionals, so content quality is high.
I use The Rough Guides Things Not To Miss photo galleries to get a sense of key tourist experiences in each destination. Check out their Argentina example here.
If my destination is a major city, I buy a Wallpaper* guide. These love letters to urban excellence provide a useful overview of neighbourhoods worth seeing, and curated recommendations on design-forward hotels, restaurants and shopping options. I go with the paper version because it’s small and I like to add it to my bookshelf when I get home but there’s an iPhone app as well.
Major cities get lots of indie web attention so it’s worth googling the name of your destination + design or + good design to see what’s out there. You will find things like the Think section at Hotels We Love, that lists books, films, music and art to give you the flavour of the place you’re thinking of going. You can see their Copenhagen example here.
Staying somewhere pretty and well-located is an important part of my travel experience. I use the Hotels section in Wallpaper* as well as Tablet and i-escape to get an overview of design-oriented accommodation options. tripadivisor is great for fact-checking splashy promo pictures against candid traveller shots and reviews. Airbnb is also a great accommodation resource for live-like-a-local options. Be careful about browsing the Airbnb picks – you might end up planning a whole trip around a must-see modernist houseboat in Amsterdam or a glamping treehouse in Northern Sweden.
For Things To Do
Several of the sources listed above also offer advice about places to see, eat and shop. I augment with hashtag searches on Twitter and Instagram just before and during my trip to get ideas for places to eat and local events. If you’re into music, Songkick is a global concert aggregator that lets you search upcoming shows by location. Peer to peer review sites like Yelp and Foursquare will cue you to hot restaurants and sift through the options when, say, you need to get your hair cut in Singapore.
Blogs are great resources as well, but many are regional so I usually start with a Google search of (destination) + design or (I hate to say it) (destination) + hipster. Some of my current favourites: Petite Passport, Kinfolk and Afar.
Pinterest helps with architectural inspiration. Searching (destination) + architecture will pull up pictures of notable buildings, or search your destination at ArchiTravel and ArchDaily for a list of structures worth checking out and a short write up on each.
For Logistics and Rural Areas
Most of the above recommendations are for urban settings. However, even design junkies like me end up on Thai islands with huts on stilts and patchy electricity. For more rural locations, and for practical travel aspects anywhere (e.g. transportation modes and distances), start with Wikitravel listings and branch out from there.
Now go, plan interesting trips, and tell me all about them.