For many people, travel is to experience new cities and break from the mundane of familiar sights and sounds. Some of the most popular tourist spots can be known for gimmicks designed to draw in first-time visitors; other destinations can be rich in historical context and provide a new learning experience each time you travel there. To get the most out of your historical vacation and avoid tourist traps, you will want to follow some tried-and-true tips from fellow travelers and history buffs.

Plan Around a Theme or Event

On his blog, Michael Canzian often describes trips planned around historical events or themes. For instance, instead of planning a trip around World War II historical sites in general, he followed the path of a movie and a true story from the era. You can plan vacations to chart the course your ancestors likely took to your current location, follow characters from a favorite television show or movie, or even do a deep dive into the timeline of a specific city. This type of theme for your vacation can help you narrow down your choices in museums, towns or buildings and focus your experience to fit the timeframe of your visit.

Find Learning Resources

One of the most significant pieces of advice Michael Canzian and other travel and history buffs will give you is to find learning resources for your vacation before you leave. Bookmarking relevant sites on your mobile browser, checking out library books on your theme or even diving into the pile of old textbooks you keep around are all good places to start. Not only will the right learning resources help you choose which sites to visit, but they will also add context to your visit and keep you interested in the journey. The United States National Park System can be a rich resource for information on historical sites, and you can sometimes find word searches or other activities designed to keep your kids interested in the trip.

Do Contemporary Site Research

While you certainly want to know the history of sites on your trip, knowing some recent facts about your destination is just as important. These facts will help you choose hotels central to the places you want to visit, find restaurants with historical connections and help you avoid some of the most crowded and gimmicky destinations. Current events can also enhance your tour of history. For example, visiting a city on a significant anniversary, such as a bicentennial, can add reenactments, working museums and relevant guidebooks to your experience. Hiring a local guide, particularly one who shares your love of history, can also be an excellent learning resource for historical and contemporary contexts.

Traveling to historical sites can teach you new facts about your favorite events and allow you to see up-close the wonders you know only from pictures and movies. To get the most benefit from a historical tourist site, choose a theme to plan your time around and find resources to help you learn about the area. You will also want to find information about current events in your destination, such as the dates of local art or history fairs, which accommodations will give you the best experience, and which stops to avoid on your trip.