Planning A Bird Watching Vacation - Make a Plan Before You Leave

When choosing a bird-watching vacation or birding tour, careful planning is the birdwatcher's best resource for a successful trip.

Planning your own vacation will also suit your time and budget needs more effectively.

You choose where you want to go and what birds you want to find on your trip. In addition, you choose what you do when you're not birdwatching.

Proper planning of your birding vacation will give you the ability to choose the types of birds you are most interested in spotting.

You'll also be able to set up the accommodations and other community interests that you may have.

This allows any members of your family to enjoy the same vacation, whether they enjoy birdwatching or not.

While you can have it all arranged by an agency and that's a fair way to go, I believe you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of short birding trips you develop within your own interest.

After the first time, you'll be able to plan consecutive trips faster and with less expense than a tour company.

What You'll Need And Where To Find It

Things have changed since "the good old days" of books and phone calls.

Online resources are now available. If you're taking a vacation somewhere, join a Facebook group in that state. Ask where the best birding is and where you can find reasonable accomodations.

Birders are helpful when it comes to their hobby. Still, a couple of old-school resources are availble if your primary objective is birding.

Two recommended resources for developing the first part of your birdwatching adventure are: Where The Birds Are and a little older but still useful Birdfinder: A Birders Guide to Planning North American Trips These books not only provide familiar national park and national wildlife refuges but also a wide range of state parks, forest, nature preserves, research stations, deserts and more.

Including maps, bird lists, and bird-finding directions.

The Birdfinders book also includes advice on lodging and transportation and both can help with budgeting your trip.

In addition to one or both of the books above, you'll need a quality field guide to identify the birds you see while on your birding vacation.

If you don't already have one, we can recommend National Geographics Field Guide to the Birds of North America, a popular choice with many birdwatchers.

Research Vacation Area

Once you select a particular area, whether a state park, refuge, or research station.

Begin by researching this area. Start by using the Internet. For example, if your vacation is to Arizona, just enter Arizona+Birds.

Visit each site that is applicable and begin making a list of birds that you might want to find while on your bird watching vacation.

A good regional guidebook may be helpful to exclude species not in the area. Check Amazon for state specific bird guides.

Every state and most cities have a department set up for tourism.

Contact them by way of calling, e-mailing, or writing them and requesting brochures.

While these brochures may not have a lot on birdwatching, they may offer ideas for lodging and restaurants.

After finding your perfect spot, make a list of potential birds to look for and collect brochures. Make sure you know what to expect when you arrive.

Weather is always a concern. If you're in the mountains, or in the desert, you'll need to know the proper attire for the season.

Also, keep in mind that most birding takes place in the early morning when the birds are most active.

Proper clothing for your trip is important. Checking out the weather by calling ahead or using the Internet is recommended.

How to Get There From Here - Travel

Now that you have decided where you want to vacation, and when you want to go, and have made sure you have your field guide, bird list, weather information, and binoculars. You need to decide what kind of trip you'll be taking.

If time is not an issue, driving may be the choice for you. If so, you'll only need lodging and occasional restaurants along the way.

In this case, your smartphone can replace the old atlas of the past. You can estimate the miles you want to drive each day and know when and where you'll need to stop for the night.

If you have a favorite motel or hotel, go to a local one and ask for a brochure that lists all of that chains, motels/hotels.

This way, you'll have the phone numbers to book your stays along your chosen route.

For those who are more limited in vacation time, air travel will have to be booked.

By now you know where you want to go, what type of accommodation is available, and can now book any flights, hotels/motels, and car rentals on your own.

Online resources for booking travel arrangements are numerous and you can use any resource you are comfortable with.


Planning your own bird watching vacation is the best way to insure that your birdwatching trip is the most enjoyable it can be.

While no one can guarantee a trouble-free-bird-watching vacation, Your chances are much better when you pre-plan.

You no longer need to depend on high-priced tours as your only alternative to visiting spectacular birdwatching spots.

Do a little research, book your own travel, and enjoy your bird watching vacation.

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