Trip Planning

I’m in the midst of trip planning. When I travel, I usually want to go to an independent bookstore, hit up a good bakery, and go to a farmers market, so I tend to do a fair amount of research before a trip and don’t rely too much on guidebooks.

Here’s some of what I look for:

When I visit a city, my focus is on neighborhoods. I want to see where and how people actually live. I think you can learn so much more about San Francisco by going to the Mission, Hayes Valley, the Inner Sunset, even the mediocre Castro, than just staying in Union Square. I like to think the same is true of other cities.

Wikipedia often has a description of neighborhoods. Otherwise, I look to find out where the independent bookstore is located or where there are restaurants that serve local food and start looking into those areas.

Independent Bookstores
A local, independent bookstore will tell you so much about a community, like what local people are reading and what books local booksellers recommend. Displays in an independent bookstore are for books that the bookseller believes in or thinks deserves the extra attention; displays in chain bookstores are essentially advertising space, paid for by the publisher.

This is not to say you should avoid all Barnes & Nobles and Borders, they are very handy when travelling because they have public restrooms.

To find an independent bookstore, has a store locator.

Farmers Markets
You might all expect farmers markets to be the same, but we’ve found that every market we’ve been to has something new or surprising to offer. The Portland, Oregon market, for example, had a surprisingly number of vegan baked goods. In Paris, you can buy a whole rabbit and have it skinned and gutted right in front of you.

I use Local Harvest to find U.S. farms, farmers markets and restaurants that buy from local farms.

Local Foods
I try to eat locally in San Francisco and I try to eat locally when I travel, too. The Eatwell Guide is a great resource for finding restaurants and stores across the country that support local farms.

Local Designers
As well as eating locally, I also want to shop locally. I don’t need to go to the GAP when there’s one in SF. I’d rather find a store that is selling goods made locally. Ideally, I want a store like Rare Device (a store I visited and loved in Brooklyn and that is now coming to SF!).

There’s no an easy way to find these type of stores that I know of. Usually I’ll start with a SF designer and see if their products are carried in other stores and then I google those stores.

Coffee is an essential part of life and finding good coffee can be a major problem when traveling, as I wrote a little about here.


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