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Christina,
I am for all purposes a beginner birder too,  have traveled on fairly
regular basis and really enjoy the planning part.  With that said I will
offer how I would go about it - if someone offers up specifics this might
not be relevant. My comments could be applied to anywhere you want to go.

Let's take Fla. - 
I start with the big fancy birding companies - Tropical Birding, Field
Guides, Victor Emanuel(VENT).  Do they offer a trip to where I want to go? 
Check and see exactly what the itinerary says - this is my clue to where the
birds are located - and also ideas where to stay.  You can generally figure
if the big bird. cos. go a particular place - there has to be good birds
there.  I see VENT goes to S. FLA - 
http://www.ventbird.com/birding-tour/2010/04/20/south-florida

You can see they go all sorts of places over 9 days - you can now narrow
down to the particular reserves, conservation areas etc. that sound
interesting to you.  Now you can look at those websites.

-- Next, using the S. Florida example - go to the FLA. Audubon site and look
for the chapter for S. Florida or nearby area.  You can find a contact to
ask questions about your planning, including is this a good time to visit
this area.

--Also suggest looking for a guide - for me, it is a good investment because
you are able to maximize your time - these guides know where the birds are.
 You might go to a notoriously birdy place - but the birds are not there, or
you can't find them amongst perhaps thousands of acres in a reserve.  It is
also educational - they teach and help you i.d. the bird, you learn about
the area, etc.  You could locate a guide via the Audubon State /Regional
Chapter.  

--Other must do is look for folks that have submitted trip reports to
wherever you chose to go, the birders often present invaluable information
on their trip, i.e. where they were successful, or not, things to avoid,
problems, tips, etc.  Here is recent S. Florida one: (stress recent one -
current info. is best)

http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=1640

-- Get a guidebook for the particular area you are going.

Travel planning takes time - but once you get into the flow it starts coming
together. The more planning IMO the better.

Good Birding.
Ev Luecke - Troy, MO.

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