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The best vacations aren't always trendy. Sometimes, exploring a region that is off the beaten path can result in a vacation that is filled with pleasant surprises.
Finding little known pieces of paradise can take a bit of legwork, but with the right mix of resources, an exciting adventure that doesn't compromise comfort isn't out of reach. Here's how a traveler can plan the perfect unique getaway.
Travel forums such as TripAdvisor, Fodor's and FlyerTalk can be valuable tools during vacation planning. Their online communities are primarily composed of individuals who have already traveled to or live in that vacation location, says Jim Bendt, president of Travel Beyond, an international travel consultancy in Wayzata, Minn. This can help travelers gauge tone - whether the majority of people liked the destination or whether they had concerns. For more specific advice, travelers can describe their international travel preferences such as food accommodations or the desire to visit an exotic locale and receive recommendations in return.
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While these travel forums are filled with many well-informed travelers and accurate information - it's good to keep in mind that not all information is going to be true. This is why it's a good idea to vet all online travel information with a tourism board or hotel concierge service at the target destination, says Alyssa Schulke, owner of Schulke Travel, a custom international travel consultancy in St. Paul, Minn.
For a vacation location that is literally off the beaten path - and into the water - consider booking a luxury expedition cruise. These trips are conducted on small but comfortable expedition ships, which allow access to smaller bodies of water, where most traditional cruise liners are not allowed entry, Bendt says. Cruise locations range from the Galapagos Islands to the polar bear-filled Arctic, and some cruises even feature National Geographic photographers who give passengers tips on wildlife and nature photography. Expedition cruises are typically offered by niche cruise operators, such as Orion Expedition Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions and Un-Cruise Adventures, rather than major cruise lines.
While visiting these far-flung vacation locations, it can be helpful to employ the services of a trusted online foreign exchange service, which enables travelers to initiate foreign exchange payments from their mobile devices.
Planning where to go on vacation often requires a significant time commitment. For people who prefer not to spend time coordinating travel logistics and addressing potential safety concerns, it may be best to use a vacation planning consultant, Bendt says.
Each year, Condé Nast Traveler magazine publishes a list of more than 100 of the best travel specialists in the world, categorized by region, demand, cruises, special interest and adventure. Because each travel specialist has been screened and required to go through a lengthy application process, travelers who contact these agents can feel confident that their trip is in the right hands, Bendt says. In addition, the magazine's website posts reviews by readers who previously booked trips through the travel specialists.
Travel + Leisure also publishes an annual list of top travel agents, broken into three categories: regions, special interest and super agents.
With a combination of various travel resources and a solid idea of what individuals are looking for in their vacations, traveling off the beaten path can be the adventure of a lifetime.
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