The 1 Thing You MUST Do Before Going on Vacation

POPSUGAR Photography | Tara Block
POPSUGAR Photography | Tara Block

I just got back from a two-week trip to Europe, and there was one huge factor to our months of planning that made the trip a success . . .

We asked our friends for advice.

Friends, family, co-workers — basically, we reached out to anyone we knew and trusted for recommendations on food, transportation, and activities. A couple of my co-workers even sent me a very helpful Google doc they had created for their past trips to Europe that I piggybacked on, swapping in my info for theirs and adding all the other recs so we had them in one, organized spot. Not to mention the trip itself was made possible thanks to a co-worker's tip on the best credit card rewards program. Our flights were almost completely paid for with miles.

Sure, we used Google, review sites like TripAdvisor, and POPSUGAR for some of our prep — like most of the places on my Harry Potter travel bucket list — but many of our favorite restaurants and destinations we wouldn't have experienced without those firsthand tips.

There was a hard-to-get-into restaurant in London we made reservations for ahead of time that was a highlight from the trip. Our hotel in Paris was in a stylish, convenient neighborhood close to public transit and the best crepe stand. There were lines we waited in because we were told it was worth it and it WAS. We bought tickets for tours and trains ahead of time online because we were advised they'd sell out. There was the Indian restaurant we went to twice, it was that good. All of these things contributed to a smooth trip with minimal posttrip regrets.

Not to say there aren't great articles out there for travelers — from packing tips to money-saving advice and destination ideas, we have loads of them right here! — but sometimes you need a trusted friend, who shares your same interests, taste, and priorities, to help find those gems in an unfamiliar place with countless options to choose from. When there's a bar on every corner, how do you know where the best cocktail is? What's the cutest, walkable neighborhood to stay in? Should you buy a bus pass or rent a car? Is the hop-on-hop-off bus tour worth it?

You don't want to unknowingly eat at their overpriced version of Denny's when there's an equally delicious spot off the beaten path. Or miss out on a must-see attraction because you didn't know it was closed on Sunday. So if you're going on a big trip, phone a friend; you'll be glad you did.

POPSUGAR Photography | Tara Block