Weeks, even months, before actually going on a trip, I take a look at the areas we plan to visit on Google Map. My virtual adventure lasts way longer than the actual one, and it helps me to know ahead of time what I can look forward to. I like it that if we do have time to go exploring aside from what the tour has planned for us, we won't be wasting time walking around aimlessly. I pretty much have a game plan no matter what city we'll be in. For example, you see the map below? The circled "x" is where our hotel is in Nikko. If I want to visit the Kinugawa Onsen Foot Bath and the surrounding shops, I know that we need to take a left from the hotel, and at the intersection that's shown in the photo above the map, we take a right and then go a couple of blocks south. Very, very helpful. And very, very cool.
I have a binder with notes and printed out maps that I pack. It's tabbed by city. Even though a lot of times we don't have the time to do anything extra, when we do . . . I am so ready!