For some travelers, planning and researching is an important part of creating the right kind of trip. Each person or group has different goals for the journey, as well as different budgets, timelines, and modes of travel. It can be really difficult sometimes to have the kind of experience you want, since information that may work for one person may not work at all for another. It’s with that in mind, that anyone planning their trip (“to plan or not to plan” is a different debate all together) should consult at least a few different resources before arriving at a particular site or destination.
Nothing is more disappointing than getting to an attraction and paying a higher price than what your guide book said, and then finding that the place was just not as interesting as your dorm mate suggested. Or maybe it was completely different than what your favorite blogger described it as. It seems that when it comes to travel resources, it’s usually quantity over quality (except with this travel blog, wink!).
After traveling now for an extended period, we have learned quite a bit about the strengths and weaknesses that each travel resource offers. We thought we’d share with you how we value each of the different resources we use when planning our transportation, accommodations, tours, sights, etc.
(Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommers, etc.)
- Wide-ranging information on all travel topics
- Great for background knowledge
- Portable (even more so now with many offering digital formats of their guidebooks)
- Includes planned itineraries
- List Prices
- Used too much, too often, leading to everyone doing the same thing
- Usually are 1 or more years old, making prices outdated and the potential for listed businesses to no longer exist
- Once recommended in a guide book, businesses tend to raise their prices or lower their service standards
- They cost money to purchase
How we use it
We use our guidebook just as the name implies, as a guide, or sort of like a compass. It points us in the right direction. Before we get into a city or country the guidebook helps us understand the lay of the land; as in how to get around, how much things will cost, what to see, etc. When it comes to more concrete plan-making, we tend to only use the guidebook for its restaurant recommendations and occasionally for its suggested itineraries. We usually use other resources for accommodation and transportation, and supplement with other sources for sightseeing.
- Lots of selection with lots of various information
- Tend to have a specific target audience (i.e. youth, budget, adventure travel etc.)
- Some include video footage
- Usually are available for specific questions or comments
- Will have lots of first hand information on specific topics
- Offer great trips for beginner or seasoned travelers
- There are so many, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start
- Posts can become dated
- Biased or one-sided opinions are very common
- Ranting is often confused as information sharing
- You need the internet to access them (not always handy)
How we use them:
For us, blogs are usually the second or third resource that we will consult in our research process. No matter how small or remote the activity or place you want to travel to is, somebody somewhere will have blogged about their experience and will be able to offer first hand accounts of what they saw and did. Blogs have also been the starting point for some of our travel as they’ve inspired us to explore places off the beaten path that conventional travel resources might not highlight. It’s a little difficult sometimes to find a blogger or blog style you like, but with a little bit of searching you’ll find the one that works best for you. Some of our favourites include Travel With a Mate, Nomadic Matt, The Planet D, and Twenty-Something Travel).
Other Travelers / Word of mouth:
(tourists, locals, dorm-mates)
- Accurate and up to date information on prices, hours of availability, potential hassles, and other sightseeing information
- Offer recommendations on things to do, places to stay, or places to eat that are not in the guidebook
- Candid descriptions of first hand experiences
- Generally will reaffirm “must see” sites, or suggest sites worth skipping
- Different people have different tastes and price ranges, so you have to get a sense of their character
- They may not be able to answer all your questions, or have information on what you are looking for
- They may offer more opinions rather than advice
How we use them:
Before heading off to a site or city, we usually like to ask someone who’s been there what they thought of it, how they got there, and how much they paid. While their thoughts on sites and cities can be taken with a grain of salt, we find that other travelers are the best way to find out about costs of tickets and modes of transportation, especially when it comes to border crossings or long haul treks.
- Mostly reliable for: hours of operation, prices, “how to get there”
- Usually include photos
- Good for basic level or background information on sites, places, tours etc.
- For tours, will usually offer the best available price
- Biased, one sided presentation of information
- Sometimes the information is not up to date (always check when the site was last updated)
How we use them:
We find that official websites are a good second or third resource. While their information may be one sided, they are usually one of the best places to see pictures or to read about what is being offered.
So how do these 4 travel resources breakdown for us?
Here’s our formula:
Word of Mouth 25%
Official Websites 15%
Each person has their own style of travel and therefore their own style of how they collect and use travel information. The above information has worked for us, but we understand that it may be totally different for the next guy.
What travel resources do you use and how do you use them?