Part of the fun of travel is taking side trips

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These short excursions provide flexibility to an itinerary

If you want to travel but have no idea where to go, you could throw darts at a map of the world. That might be a fun, but not very practical way to choose a destination.

On the other hand, you could do some research and find out where other travelers are going and what they are seeing once they get there. Travel site TripAdvisor did that, studying the most-booked trips from March 2016 to March 2017. The results are interesting, if not surprising.

Brooke Ferencsik, senior director of communications for TripAdvisor, says travelers like flexibility. They don't want to be locked into a firm itinerary and enjoy a change of pace.

Day trips and hop-on hop-off tours

"The three most popular tour types in in the U.S. are those enabling travelers to broadly explore destinations, such as day trips, hop-on hop-off tours and day cruises," she said. "These types of tours offer travelers more enriching experiences.

For example, if you are visiting the Chicago area, the Chicago Architecture River Cruise is a very popular side attraction. It's a 75-minute cruise up and down the Chicago River, providing great views of some of the city's most famous buildings.

If you're traveling to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon is usually on everyone's must-see list, as a break from the casinos. But how to see it is the question.

The Grand Canyon West Rim and Hoover Dam Day Tour departs from Las Vegas. It's a full day, spent exploring the natural wonder from the land, water and air.

Another way to exlore the canyon is with the All American Helicopter Tour. It also departs from Las Vegas and includes a Champagne picnic on a canyon bluff.

Bay area escapes

In the San Francisco Bay area, there are two great escapes. The Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods and Sausalito Trip is a half day spent wandering an ancient coastal redwood forest. You end up touring the artistic bayside town of Sausalito.

The Bay area is wine country, of course, so you might want to take the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Tour. It's a day-long trek through the region's famous wineries, from big-name outfits to small, family-run operations.

The New York City area offers several popular side trips. Here are three to consider.

Big Apple side excursions

You can pretend you're a big Wall Street mogul and take the Big Apple Helicopter Tour. You'll get a birds-eye view of the city, including flyovers of the the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center and Central Park.

You can also see the city from street level with the Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. As the same suggests, you get on and off a special tour bus to check out Central Park, the Empire State Building and the city's other main attractions.

Finally, there's the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Guided Tour. It's a half-day tour that allows you to avoid the crowds at this very popular tourist attraction.

No matter what your principal destination might be, there are undoubtedly interesting side attractions that will take up just a day of your trip, or even less.

You can find them by perusing the official tourism website of the place you are visiting. If you don't see one listed, contact the tourism agency and ask for suggestions.

Side attractions often make the trip more fun and more memorable.

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