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And away we go!!!

May 18, 2010

Not so long ago, I spoke up in a rather large and public meeting and said something that could have been career limiting, if not ending.  We were talking about future publishing directions for our company, and I talked about how I was a fan and avid user of Trip Advisor.

You will note that I work for the company that publishes Frommers.  Ooops?  Or not.

You see, I was talking about what Trip Advisor offers that I cannot get on Frommers.  Tons of near real-time peer reviews of hotels, restaurants and travel destinations.  The ability for me to post my own reviews of said establishments.  The chance to reap the knowledge of and contribute to a community of fellow like-minded travelers.  It’s just not the same as what we have to offer.

Not the same, or not as good?  I didn’t get a lot of negative feedback for my comments.  Rather, some people thought it was funny.  Others asked what it was on Trip Advisor that drew me in.  I told them that I found a lot of validity in the user reviews and it gave me a comfort level that helped supplement what I read about in guidebooks.

Later, I got to thinking.  I’m the kind of traveler who is pretty methodical about the way I plan an itinerary.  I usually use sites like Trip Advisor to help me determine what said itinerary will look like.  Once though, I went to Paris for 4 days with only 2 destination in mind as “must dos” – the Eiffel Tower and Musée d’Orsay.  There were many other things I knew I could do, but I wanted to let serendipity guide me.  It worked – my trip through the Musuem led me want to visit the Rodin Museum, which led me to an out-of-the-way cafe, which led me to the Opera house and so on.  What fun that was.

So for an upcoming vacation, I decided I’d do an experiment.  I would book and plan the entire trip using the advice in the Frommers guide, in this case, the one for Las Vegas.  I did cheat off of this a bit – I used another book, Pauline Frommers Las Vegas (See More!  Spend Less!).  It’s a very opinionated guidebook that helped me so much with my first vacation to Vegas 2 years ago.

I haven’t made the trip yet, but I learned a lot about travel planning.  Mainly, I found it a relief to just take the word of the guidebook.  No more searching through hundreds of user reviews and thinking about which person works for the establishment, which person has a vendetta against said establishment, and which person seems a bit unbalanced and I really wouldn’t want to travel with them so why should I listen to their review?  Believe it or not, it made planning much less stressful. 

I’ve always been the person who buys 3-5 guidebooks before I go anywhere.  A knowledge junkie, you might say.  In the future, I might settle down with one or two books,  and a web site or two.  Find a reliable voice and listen to it.  As hard as it might be, sometimes fewer voices make sense. 

Once I’ve gone on the trip, I’ll have a better idea of how much I craved user-generated content and whether I can really do without it.  For now, it’s time to pack the suitcases and start dreaming of Sin City…

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