Trip Advisor Is Better Than Your Guidebook

"If I can just get listed in a good guidebook....."
Nine books I started with. Nine. (Plus cigars, of course) Nine books I started with. Nine. (Plus cigars, of course)

I used to love guidebooks. On my round-the-world journey, I actually started the trip with three of them weighing down my backpack — the Lonely Planet backpacker guides for Central America, South America and Africa. This was in addition to six other paperbacks I starting off carrying.

I have a slight book addiction.

Although I do love the feel of a book in my hand and do fondly remember hours spent on buses in South America looking through my guidebook and making plans for upcoming weeks….

Guidebooks have lost their relevance in today’s world. It’s time to put them to out to pasture.

trip advisor screenshot

These days, the bottom line is that getting your travel information from the internet, even from the reviled Trip Advisor, is a far better choice than buying a guidebook in almost every single circumstance.

Other than supporting your favorite guidebook writer (and I count some as good friends of mine), there is absolutely no reason to waste you money buying another guidebook for the rest of your natural life. Here are some of the many reasons:

Immediacy

As a byproduct of the publishing cycle, guidebooks are out of date even before they even hit the bookshelves. Those reviews you are reading about the cleanliness of the hostel common area or of the quality of the breakfast were researched a year or two before you arrived.

Nothing in a guidebook is current and up-to-date. 

Contrast that with any of the online travel review websites, whether Trip Advisor or HostelBookers or Virtual Tourist or Hostel World or any of the other dozens out there. The reviews are usually from the last month or two, sometimes even just days before you arrive. They are also dated reviews, providing temporal context you will never get from a guidebook.

A fellow travel blogger was swapping emails with me recently about where to stay in Amman, since I was there at the time. Winter is pretty cold in Amman, likely running counter to your perception of the Middle East. One thing I was able to determine quickly via reading through some recent reviews was whether each hostel had heaters in the rooms, since reviewers had just been there, during the same cold weather snap my friend was about to deal with.

You’d never get that sort of information from a guidebook. And in the dead of winter in Amman, that is information that will make or break a good night’s sleep.

Depth and Bulk

Let me make sure to say this a few times throughout this post, because I am sure to hear about it in the comments — guidebook writers are generally wonderful people that work their asses off, are for the most part professional, and bring years of experience and dedication to their craft.

That being said, they still aren’t nearly as good as what you get on basically any online review source from crowdsourcing the work of reviewing.

Guidebooks have page limits. The internet does not. Your average guidebook writer might be far more knowledgeable and more erudite that 97.24% of the people posting reviews on the internet, but you know what those reviewers have in spades over the guidebook?

Mass. In this case, the bulk of crowdsourcing wins out.

A guidebook may be able to dedicate one paragraph to any individual hotel or hostel. Perhaps a full page on an important local tourist site, perhaps even with a map.

The internet has no such limitations. The hostel I am staying at currently, Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, has 190 reviews in Hostel World and 103 reviews in Hostel Bookers. The same goes for reviews of tourist sights, when the best times to photograph locations, how to avoid crowds at certain places and more — you can get all that information so much more fully. completely, and currently online than you’d ever be able to get in any guidebook. Finding a good hostel online is much easier.

hostel barcelona, hostelbookers barcelona page

Typical search page from HostelBookers — 124 options in Barcelona. How many in a typical guidebook?

Now is it true that a bunch of these online reviews worthless, poorly written and sometimes even fraudulently placed there by competitors? Of course. With the wheat comes the chaff.

Much of the bulk you get via internet review sources is garbage.

But are you really so stupid to fall for the garbage? If you have an ounce of common sense, you can scroll through the reviews and very quickly toss out the best and worst in your mind and come up with a general consensus opinion of a place. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.

Or a guidebook.

Free, Free, Free

The easiest reason to not ever buy another guidebook is that you’ll save money. If they were providing some amazing insight that you couldn’t find free on the internet, perhaps it would be worth your money, but the typical “Mid-Priced Guide to Western Europe” is just a waste of your money and space in your luggage.

Save yourself wasting $20 on the guidebook and go buy your friendly guidebook writer a beer. They aren’t getting hardly any of the money that comes from the sale of their work anyway.

Avoiding the “Lonely Planet Effect”

I have talked to a number of hostel owners all over the world about the business of running a hostel. By the way, if you are sitting there in your living room thinking about some sort of life change, but are worried about how to make money… a well-run hostel can be a gold mine. It may seem counter intuitive that a business that is selling its beds for $5-15 a night verses $200 a night for a fancy hotel is a better business, but there is some good money to be made.

One thing that those hostel owners confirmed to me was the same thing that any of us that have been traveling for a while have known: as soon as they get listed in Lonely Planet, they jack up their prices.

internet reviews are better for hotels than guidebooks

“If I can just get listed in a good guidebook…..”

I’d say out of the hundred or so places I looked at in Latin America and Africa that were listed in my Lonely Planet guidebooks probably 98% of them had higher prices in reality than were listed in the book. Why? Because of the “Lonely Planet Effect.” The mention in that ubiquitous guidebook meant they were fairly certain of a large increase in customers. Increase the demand. Increase the price.

It got to the point pretty quickly on my RTW trip where I’d just use my Lonely Planet guidebook to find the places to avoid, so I could get away from the crowds and spend a little less money.

Avoiding Bad Guidebook Writers

As I said earlier, the vast majority of guidebook writers are great people that work way too hard for the limited amount of money they get paid and do as good a job they possibly can with the limited about of time they have in each location.

But like any profession, there are also some crappy ones in the guidebook writing profession. And the problem from your point of view is that realistically you have no way to determine the good ones from the bad ones. Unlike the crowdsourced reviews on the internet, you don’t get the benefit of multiple opinions — generally a city or country is reviewed by one guidebook writer, so if you catch a unethical one or just plain bad one, you’ve just wasted your time and money.

A few months ago, one travel guidebook writer was on Twitter basically talking about how he/she selected hotels that he/she was going to review on an upcoming trip. Reading between the lines it seemed that if the appointment to see the rooms wasn’t done on his/her schedule and as just as he/she wanted it to be, well….

RTW no-planes trip backpack contents

Nine books I started with. Nine. (Plus cigars, of course)

A related issue is that guidebooks simply are inconsistent. At one point in Colombia, I pulled out the Lonely Planet Guidebooks – the Colombia specific one and the South America general one. In one book, a hostel’s review said, “Great place, wonderful location, very clean rooms, but the owners are rude and horrible.” In the other guidebook, the same hostel’s review said, “Great place, wonderful location, very clean rooms, and the owners are some of the nicest and most helpful people on the planet.”

Look, I appreciate that different people have different impressions of the same place. That is normal and to be expected. But if the internal editing checks and balances aren’t good enough to catch that stuff, there is good reason to question everything they publish.

Better Knowledge Base

Guidebook writers are going to tell you that they know far more about a location, its culture, and its history than anyone that is reviewing places on Trip Advisor or Hostel Bookers. That’s generally true. And I did enjoy those few pages in most guidebooks.

Then again, I can also get the same knowledge, and sometimes better, from reading wikipedia on my own and asking the person at the front desk of my hostel if they want to go get a beer and talk about the town they live in.

Where guidebook writers fall short is on the basics that we all want. The internet sources are far better.

Guidebook reviewers don’t stay at all the places they review. They can’t. They simply don’t have the time, even if they wanted to.

Like the writer I referred to above, most of them will just go around town and check out the rooms in a dozen or so places, write up a cursory review of the hotel on that basis and move on. That’s better than nothing, but it falls far short of answering the questions you might have about a place.

Is it a party hostel or not? How loud it is on certain floors? Does the hot water work? Does the roof leak when it rains? Are their any horror stories about booking tours from the place? Has the cleaning crew stolen anything from people’s rooms? 

Take a look at reviews on most any of the internet sites and you get dozens of reviews that hit on those topics and more. The massive advantage crowdsourced review sites have is that they have tens of thousands of people writing reviews, every day of the year, rain or shine, during different seasons and other variables that a one-stop review can’t keep up with.

Perhaps there is a case to be made for some sorts of speciality guidebooks, for instance, if someone wanted a food tour of Southeast Asia from a certain perspective or some other small niche market, but if you are spending any of your money on the general “Guidebook of France” or “Backpackers Guide to Australia” you are wasting good money you should be spending on buying some good local beers.

DISCLOSURE: I was not paid to write or say any of this. HostelBookers has been a previous sponsor of the Ultimate Train Challenge, but they are completely unaware I have written this post. I have never done any business with Trip Advisor or Hostel World or any of the other sites I have written about here. Nor have I had any particularly bad business experience with Lonely Planet or any other guidebook publisher. As everything on this website, I just write whatever I think and believe.

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

43 Responses to “Trip Advisor Is Better Than Your Guidebook” Subscribe

  1. Matthew Karsten February 16, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Yes, so true. Why pay to get one person’s opinion when you can get the opinion of 150 people for free?

    I put a guidebook on my Kindle once, and used it maybe 3 times, when I was stuck somewhere without internet nearby. I probably could have just asked around if I really needed to. Not worth the money.

  2. Katie February 16, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    I can’t disagree with some points of this post, but you seem to focus primarily on the value of guidebooks when it comes to finding accommodations. For me, I love guidebooks (and will use them forever) for many other reasons.

    When I first start thinking of a place to visit, I pick up a guidebook to figure out where to go and what to see – and to get an idea of how much time I may want to spend there. Sure, things likes admission prices and opening hours may change, but the major points of interest in a destination likely aren’t changing much. I ended up visiting two places in Egypt because they were mentioned in my Rough Guide to Egypt – I couldn’t find ANY information on either on Trip Advisor or elsewhere.

    I also use guidebooks as an easy reference for places to look online – I’ll look up the websites of tour companies, transportation companies or sites that are listed. It can save me time with Google searches that don’t necessarily bring the results I want.

    While they aren’t always up to date, I also like guidebooks for their info about transportation options (some are better than others for this). They may not be able to provide current times or prices, but especially as it relates to smaller towns, they can tell me whether getting from point A to point B by bus or marshrutka or train makes sense or is even possible. It’s information I would doublecheck once I’m on the ground, but it gives me an idea of what to expect.

    Finally, I like guidebooks for their maps when I first get into town – especially he Eyewitness Top Ten guides with the nice plastic fold-out maps. I like being able to get my bearings right away and if there isn’t a tourist office or my hotel/hostel doesn’t have a map, the guidebook can be a nice backup.

    As for accommodation, I tend to stick to checking reviews on Hostelbookers or Booking.com (the two main sites I use), but I keep in mind they can be VERY subjective. My two worst hostel experiences came at hostels with 95% ratings on Hostelbookers.

    • Alex February 21, 2012 at 5:49 am #

      Well, I clicked over from my RSS reader to leave an amazing comment… and realized that Katie wrote it for me! :) I’m a lifelong guidebook fan and always will be. Before I left the States I used to use my library card to check out guides to countries all over the world and just daydream.

      Now I too use guidebooks to help me “rough out” my trip… that’s how I will find out, for example, that Mui Ne in Vietnam is famous for kitesurfing. Then I will likely turn to the internet to find out which is the best kitesurfing shop. Then when I’m in Mui Ne I’ll turn back to the guidebook to use the map. I see the internet and guidebooks as partners in my trip planning!

      Also, I love the history, culture, and itinerary sections of guidebooks. They give you such a rich picture of a place that I often find hard to replicate online (with some exceptions… like Travelfish for Southeast Asia). Long live the guidebook!

  3. OurPassportStamps~Karen February 16, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    We agree with you for the most part as we have personally found a multitude of errors in several books from a well known guidebook writer with a focus on Europe that many seem to follow blindly. In another well known guidebook series we found several places in the CURRRENT edition had been closed 5 years prior. Annoying.

    At the sametime, we’ve been very discouraged by official websites that arent always updated and posts of a few well known bloggers that clearly didn’t do their homework.
    One of those famous bloggers was quite negative on a small country that they showed up in without really knowing much about and had no plan. So their experience wasnt great. We researched our visits to this same place and saw 5x the amount they did and had a fabulous time….But the majority of people out there will believe this blogger and not us.

    There is 1 guidebook that we do purchase that we have found to be an excellent resource for hidden gems, no matter where the destination is and that is the DK Top 10 books! It is a small book, but it’s PACKED full of ideas and experiences that aren’t found in mainstream guidebooks or on many websites.

    There is one other book series will LOVE..that we HIGHLY recommend to read either before or after your travels to learn more about a region/country and their food,drink and how it ties in with their history and culture and that is the Culinaria Book Series. There;s also great pictures and recipes throughout!You don;t need to be a foodie or chef to appreciate them. Just a traveler who likes authentic yummy food!

    We reference information for trip planning in a multitude of places guidebooks, travel blogs, Offficial Tourism websites, message boards and world of mouth from friends and family. We don’t trust just 1 resource

    I think it’s important that every person planning a trip checks and cross checks each of their resources. Yes, it does take a bit more time. But it will save you time and money in long run!

    ***we do not work nor have we received compensation for prodcuts mentioned in our post, we recommend items because we love them and we think you will too***

  4. Laurence February 16, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    The Lonely Planet effect is amazing. I ran a hostel in New Zealand for a couple of months which was listed as the LP “our pick” for the town and that was basically all the advertising the place needed.. people just turned up clutching “the book”. And hostel owners particularly love it because it doesn’t cost them anything to be in it.

    Have to agree with the rest of this post too – guidebooks are just way too out of date to be relevant these days.

  5. Federico February 16, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    I agree with your partly, perhaps most regarding weight and cost. But they do allow me to find places where to sleep while actually traveling there, are a good source of reading and there’s the maps too.

  6. Stephanie - The Travel Chica February 16, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I will agree with you that guidebooks should never be the only resource used and that the big publishers like Lonely Planet are very outdated.

    But I think the eBook model that some companies are using to deliver more current content are good sources of information. Plus, some of these are taking a different approach to the information included to make the guides easier to use and include more relevant travel information that people want.

    And I’m not just saying that because I’m writing an eBook Buenos Aires City Guide for Indie Travel Meda :-)

  7. Bo from Globe Spots February 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Yes, guidebooks are outdated regarding accommodations, but as Katie points out they can be used for more things, like inspiration, planning, background info, and maps!

    Crowdsourced website are good to figure out what hotel to use in New York, but offer very little regarding what to see in Nagorno-Karabakh. So the death of guidebooks will eventually happen, but not because of review sites, but when other websites and apps can provide the rest.

  8. Stephanie - The Travel Chica February 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Oh, and I cannot believe you brought that many books with you on your round the world trip.

  9. Greg February 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Oh this is a great thread. You are clearly an ex-guidebook writer or intimately know a few, because your points are spot on, especially about the drawbacks of guidebook writers. But the internet has two serious flaws: 1. The internet sites are a pain in the ass, large, intractable, too many listings, too many reviews, who has time to sift through it all (besides guidebook writers who also sift through all of that online crap); 2. Connectivity. It’s not as easy to be online 24-7, especially when you are in developing countries, so the internet is of limited use for on-the-fly decisions. So guidebooks will stay around, but your points are valid too.

  10. Cam February 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    The “Lonely Planet Effect” is so true, not only do hostels jack up their prices, the service goes to shit and the rooms rarely live up to the review. Obviously not every hotel/hostel is guilty, but most of the ones we have visited have been disappointing – we now use the LP recommendations as a drop-off point, then hike around the area to see what looks good.
    It’s very true, the timeliness of the internet and the voice of the people is a far better measuring stick than a guidebook. But I still enjoy having a guidebook for those internet-less moments and I like having the maps, history and hotspots at my finger tips.
    I’m not quite ready to abandon the guidebook just yet, but its time is coming…

  11. Amanda February 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    I think the REAL benefit of using sites like TripAdvisor instead of or in addition to guidebooks is that you get a wider scope of reviews from complete strangers. Sure, you probably don’t know the author of your Lonely Planet guidebook, but that’s just ONE person writing about a destination. On review sites, you can read reviews from MANY people, which I like.

    I also read an article recently (on Forbes, I think) about how the younger generations are beginning to put more stock into travel recommendations made by strangers as opposed to family and friends. Meaning sites like TripAdvisor, blogs, and Facebook fan pages may soon have even more of an influence on travelers’ decisions. (I’m so fascinated by this that I think it’s going to be my thesis topic…)

    Personally, I like to buy one guidebook long before a trip to a new place, so I can browse through it and get ideas of where I want to go/what I want to see. But then before actually going, I go online to see what people are saying.

  12. Adam@SitDownDisco February 16, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Look, I agree with the sentiment but the reality is just not true for the vast majority of travellers. There are a couple of points I’d like to make:

    1. I rarely would trust the opinion of trip advisor. Firstly, it encourages you to trawl through and look for negative experiences and to be honest, there are far too many lunatics out there to trust them. Trust my friend, my guidebook or random lunatics? That said, I understand your point on the mass of people adding up to percentages which can be accurate.
    2. Trip advisor and hostel bookers are nigh on useless in many places I’ve travelled because they don’t list the best places. In fact, when it comes to cheaper accommodation, those websites have proven to be a waste of time. It’s very difficult for a hotel with a computer let alone Internet to get published on one of those sites. Most have never even used the Internet. So that means by dismissing a guide book, you dismiss a huge number of good places because they are too cheap to be on the Internet.
    3. You need to access the internet to find a place to stay using those booking sites. If you don’t have the Internet when you step off the bus, then what? Pulling out the guidebook is a good option. And besides, it has a map.
    4. The argument becomes totally skewed when talking about local transport and sites/activities. If you travel without a guidebook, you can have a great time. But you can often miss out on the unmissable attractions in a place because you simply don’t know about them.

    Trip advisor and those booking engines might have advantages when staying in the USA, but in much of SE they prove time and time again to be a load of crap. Guidebooks all the way for me. :)

  13. Christy February 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    I definitely agree with you, Michael. Maybe it’s just because I always have my laptop and access to internet (for work purposes), but I find it so much easier to just google something instead of trying to find the information in a guidebook.

    I think guidebooks are mostly useful for travelers who wander into a city and don’t know where to stay or what to do so they need that info at hand. But for research purposes, guidebooks don’t even compare to crowdsourcing or the oodles of info you can find online.

  14. Sebastian February 17, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Some good points Michael!!

    I totally agree, as most of us, that guidebooks take up too much space and are too heavy and often are not up to date. But I just love to put the guidebook in my travel shelf and see all the places I visited!

    I normally use them to get a little insight into the place, later start reading other blogs to get more “Up-to-date” information!!

    But the main reason why I actually still carry them around is, that I never know how easy it is to access the internet. And it’s always good to have a little book with you where you can ALWAYS see what to do and where to go in case there is no reception/internet.

  15. Kevin February 17, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Hey Michael!

    Contacted you a little bit ago about http://www.backpackmojo.com, this is exactly what we were talking about!

    Why don’t you talk about the next generation of travel guide as an addition to this article?

    Please contact me! I loved what you wrote there!

  16. Christine February 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Have you read Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm? It’s an entertaining look into the work of a questionable LP guidebook writer.

    I still wouldn’t rule guidebooks out. I like having one with me so I don’t have to rely on finding Internet and can have everything at my fingertips from history to language pointers, but the Internet is pretty impossible to beat.

    Then again, I don’t know if they can really be compared, as I think they serve different purposes.

  17. Andy February 18, 2012 at 3:34 am #

    I don’t agree that the guidebook is dead for the same reasons as most people in this camp – I like the background info, I like to read up on a place while travelling, there’s something inherently crap about being glued to a smartphone all day long and in any case you need internet access (which even if you have it will kill you with roaming charges).
    Now for research before a trip and accommodation, sure. But have you actually considered how this will work on a practical basis when travelling? Do you expect everyone to have a laptop and/or a smartphone when trying to get away from it all? I’d rather leave that all behind as much as possible. And okay there are hundreds of reviews online – so are you going to read all of them? What fun!
    I totally agree with the LP effect and another issue is that many people follow the tips in these books to the letter and man, it is no fun to meet the same people doing the same route when you’re out trying to see the real West Africa or wherever.
    I found the Kindle version of a Rough Guide to be a good compromise as it had links I could use when online but otherwise I used it occasionally in offline mode on a phone. But again, I’d rather read a book than squint at a screen.
    Each to their own, but I would definitely not write off the guidebook yet

  18. Candace Dempsey February 18, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    I agree Trip Advisor rules at finding accomodations but not when it comes to figuring out what to see or eat. The information tends to be geared toward families, not for the adventuresome traveler. You can get great advice on Thorn Tree, Lonely Planet’s forum on where to go, how to get there etc. Just post your question.

  19. Andy February 19, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    What about the Trip Advisor effect? Is it not also possible that those establishments ranking well on TA or similar crowdsourced website jack up their prices too? They love to display those TA recommended stickers…

  20. Andy February 19, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    What about the Trip Advisor effect? Is it not also possible that those establishments ranking well on TA or similar crowdsourced websites jack up their prices too? They love to display those TA recommended stickers…

  21. Raymond @ Man On The Lam February 19, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    I ditched my thick and bulky SE Asia Lonely Planet in Bangkok a couple of months ago — it just wasn’t worth the extra weight. I still have a PDF version though, but to be honest, I think I’ve opened it twice.

    What I like to do is Google the name of the place/event/hotel I want to go/see/stay ending with “travel blog” — that I way I get the lowdown on experiences from folks who have been there. And usually who have been there much longer than any guidebook writer has…

  22. Camels & Chocolate February 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    While I write guidebooks (so please don’t stop buying them! I need the work, ha), I also use TripAdvisor for a good deal of my research. LOVE that site. Yelp, too, is great while still not as universal as TA.

  23. lissie February 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Haha ONLY 9 books – yeah I used to travel like that too, long live in the Kindle!

    Tripadvisor only does a limited number of properties – its great if I’m booking 5 star – but otherwise I don’t use it much.

    I’ve only ever used LP to tell me the area that most of the cheap hotels are- then I go to somewhere not in THE BOOK!

  24. Michael Figueiredo February 21, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    I love Trip Advisor. In fact, every time I check in to a hotel, I take photos of the room to post on their site so future travelers will know what the room is really like. Of course, I never book a room without checking the “real” photos by other travelers too.

  25. Vi February 21, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    But you not always have internet and a lot of cheaper places are not listed on TA or other websites. Hotel reviews on internet also can be outdated as if hotel had 100′s good reviews couple years ago it most likely people even won’t notice a recent bad reviews.
    I think the best combination is to have a guide book (paper one or e-book) and double check information on internet (if it such available)

  26. Jessica Rawlins February 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    What happens if you’re on a trip without internet? It’s nice to have a book for those of us who like to open it up if we stumble upon a museum and are able to look it up on the spot.

  27. Nomadic Samuel February 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Agree with what you’re saying in the post but seriously the highlight is the photo of your kit with the cigars!

  28. Ellai February 22, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    This looks really awesome!Thanks for the information and advice you have shared us here then…

  29. Eva February 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Im a regular contributor to Tripadvisor, a destination expert for the Yucatan, and a New Yorker who spends a lot of time on the NYC forum. My entire site is a love letter to Tripadvisor.

    But, it’s really best used for hotels. Theyre attempting to get us to review more restaurants and sights, but the best place to get that info is the forums. The top rated restaurants for NYC, for example, were terrible, last time I checked them on Tripadvisor.

  30. Molly February 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Yes, I completely agree! I love tripadvisor! I have read all the reviews on tripadvisor when choosing a hostel! Plus it’s great when visiting a new city! People post their favorite parts and reviews and nothing could beat that!

    -Molly

  31. Erica February 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    We recently tried to visit a Lonely Planet suggested hostel and I swore it was a crack house.

    Yeah…

  32. Jeff February 29, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    I agree with much of what you wrote but also agree with Katie and Greg. One point you didn’t raise (or I just missed) is how useful posts by various travel bloggers can be. I personally got some good ideas for my travels in South America that way. The big downside is that finding them is hit or miss. I follow many bloggers and keep a running list ahead of the countries I visit. I’m not a big twitter user but I suppose following hashtags for the countries you are planning to visit would also be a good idea.
    Jeff recently posted..Travel Video: Iguazú (Iguaçu) Falls

  33. Abbey Hesser February 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Do you really tie your t-shirts up with tiny little strings?

  34. Scott March 17, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    What you are saying makes total sense for hotels. I love tripadvisor and the accomodation listings give me a good idea what to expect if I read 10 or 20 reviews and skim a bunch more.

    However, if I don’t know a destination, the guidebooks are great for pointing me towards the major things to do there with full descriptions and background so I can figure out if I’m interested, or shouldn’t waste my time with the big attractions. Same for neighborhoods, maybe one sounds interesting and another not as much. You can never see it all, so you need some background, context and idea how long things take, how to get around and all that type of information. Frankly, tripadvisor and many online sites are really dismal for basic info about a place and providing any context. They often have some of this info, but its terse, with shallow coverage and incomplete.

    I sometimes answer forum question on the tripadvisor San Francisco forum since I’ve lived in the area for 10 years and know it pretty well. I’m often shocked at how people who only use TA and online travel sites for their planning don’t have any clue about the geography, the culture, the weather, appropriate clothing to bring, how to get around. (“WHA? Ya mean it costs to park a car downtown?!!? That’s unamerikn.”) A guide usually answers those questions in a comprehensive way in the first 50 or 100 pages and people who have bothered to read one are usually way ahead of the game instead of showing up someplace, picking their nose and saying “What’s that there thing over there” while they point at the Golden Gate Bridge.

    A vacation in San Francisco based on top tripadvisor recomendations would more or less consist of a three hour bus tour of the city, eating at The Cheesecake Factory, a walk around fisherman’s wharf and riding a cable car. If this the perfect San Francisco vacation brought to you by tripadvisor and online planning, then I’ll use a guidebook any day, cause I don’t really want such a crap vacation as that.

  35. no-doz April 8, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    The perfect counterpoint to the rather extreme views in this post:
    http://travelswithanineyearold.com/2012/04/08/tripadvisor-versus-lonelyplanet/

    There’s nothing I like better than spending hours wading through nonsense by idiots on the web trying to get a basic understanding of a place when a good guidebook can give me an essential briefing in about five minutes which I can then use to create my own customized experience that suits me and not the crowd.

  36. Sue April 27, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My blog is in the very same niche as yours and my users would definitely benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Cheers!

  37. Michael Hodson April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Absolutely — go right ahead as long as you link back. Thanks!

Testing my relationship with gravity at Angel Fire Bike Park

If there’s ever a place to test your relationship with gravity, it’s here — Northern New Mexico, land of high [...]

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