Whether you are on a professional assignment or just planning to take some photos on your annual holiday, by putting some effort into planning your trip properly you will be able to maximize your time and produce better results. It all comes down to research and knowing what to expect once you get there.
It is easy to think that it isn't worthwhile researching your destination just for a short trip. But the opposite is true. The less time you are spending there, the more planning you need to do to pack in as much photography as possible.
There are two crucial pieces of information you need when deciding when to go. Firstly, the weather. If you are short on time, bad weather can play havoc with your photo taking plans. If you have two days and want to take some great landscape shots for example, constant rain is going to ruin any chance you might have had. So find out when the dry and wet seasons are and plan to travel at the best time of year.
The other essential information is to find out when festivals and events are held, as these can provide a wealth of photo opportunities. These events are often linked to public holidays, so research when these are and try to work them into your schedule.
If you are planning to fit a lot into your trip, it is vital to make sure you can get from one location to another quickly and easily at the right time of day. Making a shot list of "must shoot" photos will help you do this. Once you have your list, mark it out on a map. This will enable you to see how realistic your plans are, and plan how to get from one to another. Where you stay will also be a great influence on how much you can achieve on a tight schedule. If possible, try to stay somewhere central that will allow you to get from one place to the next quickly and shoot for longer once you are there. A central location also has the advantage of enabling you to pick up and drop off gear that you don't need all the time and is an annoyance to carry around. Like everyone's favorite friend, the tripod.
Information about your chosen destination can be found in many sources. Guidebooks, magazines and websites are all very useful. One especially helpful method is to get involved in travel forums on the internet. Hearing about other travelers experiences can give a more realistic picture of a place than a glossy guidebook, and also give some useful insights into the best ways to get around and lesser known festivals and events.
If you are shooting for someone else, proper planning can avoid disaster when on location. If you are shooting for yourself, it can avoid disappointment and also free up time for other non photographic activities while you are there and ultimately make your experience one that you can look back on with a sense of achievement.