12 Invaluable Resources for Travel Advice

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Travel Advice

With so many websites and guidebooks available for travel details and information, people find themselves asking, “Where do I go for the best and most relevant information?”  Many tools and resources are available for everyone’s needs.  Online tools may be good for one person, while others may find guide books most resourceful.  There is a prevalent amount of information available both online and at the bookstore. Online, community travel sites can be great because, unlike guide book authors, posts are made by real tourists, who aren’t likely to get the 5-star treatment by local establishments trying to get rave reviews. Their experiences are usually real.  When picking a guide book, go to your local bookstore and compare all of the different books on your choice destination and purchase the one most fitting for you.  And don’t cheap out – buy the most up-to-date guidebook.  The people who have the most miserable and uneventful travel experiences are the ones who didn’t do any research before they left, or who are too cheap to buy a $15 guide book.  Don’t believe everything you read, as some people are impossible to please and will complain about every little thing.  Also, many postings and writings are biased or out of date.  It is known that many writers’ “facts” and opinions are based on hearsay, travel brochures, or other books, instead of their direct experiences.

Hopefully, this listing will give you a good overview of what is out there and helps to  send you in the right direction for travel advice:

1. Tripadvisor – This is the first choice many people and number one resource for all of my travel research.  They offer unbiased hotel reviews, photos and travel advice for hotels and vacations.  Other sites claim to have the largest travel communities on the web, but I find TripAdvisor to have the most activity and information of any site out there.  Their forums are well-monitored and constantly updated by numerous local “experts” who answer the most obscure questions on thousands of available forums.  Peer reviews and ratings are provided for a plethora of hotels and attractions at every location, making it the easiest place to plan the perfect itinerary.

2. Virtual Tourist – This site also has a comprehensive travel community and forum, but its layout is outdated and it pales in comparison to Tripadvisor’s.  Still, I have found their “Travel Guides” to be some of the best on the web for a quick way to access listings of information (hotels, nightlife, restaurants, local customs, off-the-beaten-path, etc.) on most major cities in the world.

3. BootsnAll – This site advertises itself as the most comprehensive travel resource on the web.  It is geared toward the independent traveler.  I found a lot of their links and tools to be sub par, but their forums and Traveler’s Toolkit make up for this, helping to bring this site to the front of the pack.  Their destination forums cannot compete with Tripadvisor’s, but their alternate forums boast activity and topics unseen anywhere else on the net.

4. Lonely Planet – These guidebooks cover everything you need for a basic guidebook, especially if you are going to be spending a long time in a country.  They cater to the adventurous and active backpacking traveler.  They offer comprehensive tips on dealing with various daily challenges for independent travelers – lodging, where to eat, how to get around, and local facts.  These books are sometimes derided by many travelers because, at almost any time, you can arrive in one of the locations and see a larger number of people living their lives by them.

5. DK Eyewintess Guides – These books advertise themselves as the guides that show you what others only tell you.  They offer the best visuals – 3d walking path and city maps, and diagrams of major museums, galleries, and attractions.  The full-color and thick pages make these books much heavier than other guidebooks.  Because of the emphasis on photos and illustrations, an additional guide book is recommended for more comprehensive information.

6. Rough Guides – These guides offer the most comprehensive background info (historical and cultural) on the site you are traveling to.  They used to only cater to budget travelers, but now offer detailed information for independent-minded travelers on any budget.

7. Time Out City Guides – These are a series of guidebooks to over 50 cities worldwide, and are considered among the best city guides available for travelers today.  Users consider these the most comprehensive, most up-to-date, and best guides for nightlife for the cities offered.  These are for travelers who want to experience a city from a local’s point of view.  They also offer 25 shortlist guides, which are for travelers who want to get the city’s best on a shorter stay

8. Let’s Go Guides – These guidebooks are 100% run and written by Harvard students.  They are usually pretty thick books and are targeted predominantly at serious budget backpacking students (18-35 year olds).  They are very opinionated and attract the younger crowd looking for the best info on nightlife and what to see during the day.  Like Lonely Planet, they have a large backpacker following, which can be known to overrun their listed destinations.  It is sometimes known as the hosteler’s bible.

9. Fodor’s and Frommer’s Guides – I group Fodor’s and Frommer’s guides together since they are very similar and both cater to the more mainstream and older (30-40+) traveler.  These guidebooks are designed for those looking for a nice vacation rather than one who is more budget minded.  Fodor’s guides are known to be a little more reader friendly than Frommer’s guides, but at the expense of being bulkier – usually a couple hundred pages more.  These guides offer comprehensive general travel information (shopping, dining, hotels, attractions) for 200+ destinations.  They seem to have less cultural and historical info than other guidebooks and their maps are not as great as the ones in DK Eyewitness guides.

10. Tripprep – Offers a comprehensive listing of recommended vaccinations, embassy listings, tips on local customs, local transportation, crime advisories, and travel medical providers (supposedly not very comprehensive) for all the countries in the world.  Free registration is required.

11. Hire someone to do it for you – If you’re planning a trip and you don’t have time to do the research, or you don’t know how much to budget, a virtual assistant can help with all your travel needs for a reasonable price.  This includes making hotel and flight bookings for you, providing detailed research, and a potential budget for you. Look up “Travel Planning” on Elance, or check out AskSunday to get a list of people to hire for research.  Also, if you purchased travel insurance with your flight or have a platinum AMEX card, you can get free concierge service, which includes travel research.

12. Making friends with and talking to the locals – My best adventures have been found by going this route.  I usually try to make friends with one or two of the locals on the trips I take.  They point me to the best restaurants, nightclubs, and places to see without having to do any research.  They can give better information than anyone, especially if you’re looking for something off the beaten path.  Local scammers usually won’t take advantage of you either if you’re with one of their own people (always be careful though).

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