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Before You Travel, Tune In To Your Destination's Local News

James Melzer
Crowds wait in line to get into the Uffizi Gallery museum in Florence, Italy.

Editor's Note: This episode of "Going Places" originally aired on April 28, 2016.

KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley is a big fan of travel experiences that allow for some unexpected discovery. But it's still good to be informed about your destination before you arrive, he says.

Here are some tips on how:

Read Local News And Listen To Local Music

Brumley downloads local radio station apps and reads local newspapers before he heads to a vacation destination.

“It helps you more quickly acclimate and become a local more quickly,” he said. “So when you go to a pub in Dublin, you know there’s an election going on, or you know there’s a major scandal in parliament.”

It can make conversations a little more interesting, and it also helps you avoid a taboo or uncomfortable subject.

Compare, Compare, Compare

Time was, you could only do this by buying a bunch of travel books and seeing what they write. But with online reviews, photo galleries, and websites belonging to the destination itself, you have more sources than ever to help you shop around.

Always weigh the criticism you see online against common sense. It’s not uncommon to find a review that burns an otherwise wonderful place because of one person’s unreasonable expectations.

We joked a little in the audio version of this week’s segment about physical guide books being out of date, but the truth is that a good travelogue can be deeply enriching and offer valuable insights about your destination.

And many companies that used to be known solely for their guide books now have excellent websites with indispensable expert advice.

Go Before You Go

Google Maps’ Street View function covers so many places now, you can take a virtual walk around your hotel’s neighborhood before you set foot on the ground. (It’s also nice after the trip, to make a “return visit” and remember some of the places you walked past every day.)

Call A Country’s Tourism Office

It’s old school, but many countries have tourism offices in the United States (often part of an embassy or consulate) that will happily send you a packet of information, including maps and photos, in the mail. Here’s a list.

Balance Your Research

The magic of a trip can often come from unexpected discoveries. Do some research, but also be willing to deviate based on advice from locals.

“I don’t want every day planned out, but I want to be informed,” Brumley said. “Usually what a local will tell me to do will trump all of my homework.”


"Going Places" is KNKX's weekly exploration of travel. Our travel expert, Matthew Brumley, is co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small group travel to clients including KNKX. Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Going Places with iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.