With the internet, we can easily research an entire location like Hawaii or Virginia without ever leaving our homes. Even Google Earth provides a bird’s eye view of what the place looks like. Books are another source, but obviously, some travel books don’t even provide color pictures of a location. Plus, as I found out with my family reunion in Indiana, not every place rates a tour book. An entire state didn’t have one! What about visiting the location? Obviously, cost is a factor, but experiencing the location in person is a lot different than simply looking at pictures of reading a book.
My own preference is to start with books and, in I can afford it, visit the location. Internet comes last, and only really to answers questions I might have by seeing photos. Unfortunately, there are far too many sites that pass around misinformation as fact, but a bigger issue is even the reputation sites don’t provide a lot of information. I get ideas of things to put in my stories by reading books about the area, and things I learn at the location. But the information on the internet is often so superficial and minimal that I don’t get too much out of it.
What’s your preference for researching locations — online, books, or in person? And why?