There's no shortage of resources available for the modern traveler. Pop into any bookstore and you'll likely find a section dedicated to travel guides. There are big names like Frommer's and Fodor's, along with smaller brands for practically any city you can think of. You'll find maps, reviews and, in some cases, even schedule recommendations to help you plan your own self-guided tour.
But the bookstore is just the beginning. The Internet has revolutionized the travel industry. Not only can you use the Web to book discount travel fares and hotel rates, but also research your destination more thoroughly than ever before.
A good place to start is the official Web page for the city you'll be visiting. Many cities maintain a Web page with links to points of interest, historical records and a calendar of events. The Web site might give you a better idea of the geography of the city and what each neighborhood is like. If you're visiting a large city, you may even find Web sites for particular neighborhoods.
In addition, sites like Citysearch and Yelp will help you find businesses and restaurants you might want to visit during your trip. These sites contain reviews from both seasoned critics and the average traveler. A few quick searches will help you find destinations that suit your interests, whether it's fine dining or a hidden hole in the wall.
Regional blogs and weekly papers can also be great resources. They can give you an idea of the local character of the city. They're also good for finding out about local events and businesses. For example, you may even learn about a new restaurant that hasn't been around long enough to be in a travel guide or on a review site.
Once you've conducted your research, you can start sorting the information into a plan. Plans should be realistic and flexible -- remember, there's always the chance something unexpected will happen that will set you off schedule. Try to create a plan that has enough structure so you make good use of your time, but with enough options to switch gears if you encounter an obstacle. The most well-researched plan in the world could become useless in the event of a traffic snarl or stormy weather.