Google Earth is helpful in getting to know the place you are considering visiting. It links to selected articles in Wikipedia and other sources. You can identify things nearby of importance about which you might not know.
This can help you decide between places and identify sources to help you learn more details.
You need to use Google Chrome to navigate Google Earth. If you wish to bookmark places, you will need to login with a Google Account. Browsing can be done anonymously.
Google Maps can be useful in several stages.
Early in the process, search for the places you are considering. Zoom in and out to identify what is nearby, routes to and from, geographic scale, etc. Viewing the user contributed photos can help you get a sense of places. Street View can be helpful here.
Look at the info on the left about named places. This will often link to official web pages. Follow those links to ensure you are getting the full information. For example, the Google Map view of Yellowstone has the pin for the park in the southern part of the park along the shores of Lake Yellowstone. This is not the park headquarters, which are in Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern part of the park near the Montana border. Going to the nps.gov website linked will show you this along with other critical information, like admission fees.
Save places you are considering to a list. This will require logging in with a Google account.
When you are considering routes, use Google Maps to find directions. Follow the routes to see options along the way.
When working on logistics of lodging, food, fuel, etc, use Google Maps to find those things near the places you will be. Street View is particularly helpful in these situations.
Government and non-profit organizations are good sources for detailed information about places from all types of perspectives and contexts. Here are a few from the federal government and national organizations to get you started.
State and Local government websites are rich sources of information and they can be difficult to navigate and find. Here are some tips:
Here are some resources to help you search the web more effectively.
Find tips on strategic web searching in the "Web Search Engines" section of Choosing & Using Sources, Chapter 5.
The following video may also be helpful.
Want to be more targeted in the kinds of websites and information you find in a Google search? Here are a few pointers for finding various NGO and state and local government information related to the places you may visit.
1) Want to find local or state government websites? In the Google search box, use "site:" followed directly by "gov" and the name of the city or state (ex: site:gov chicago). This returns results for websites ending in .gov related to the location.
2) Looking for non-profit, volunteer organizations (NGO) near your destination? In the Google search box, use "site:" followed directly by "ngo" or "org" (note that not all .org sites are for NGOs). The search might look something like site:ngo new york or site:org cincinnati. Combine them to search both: (site:ngo OR site:org) philadelphia.