This week's "Travel Tip," is to get a good guidebook!
Inevitably, no matter how much I think I know a place, I come up empty-handed every now and then. Of course, it's always when you want it to happen least! So, come prepared.
I believe in guides. I believe in experts. And, I believe the right guidance from the right person is invaluable. But, what's right? For me, right usually comes in the form of Rick Steves guidebook. But, there are many great ones out there, like Frommer's, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, DK Eyewitness Guides, and others.
The important thing is that you're not taking your advice from popular opinions, like those on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is only good, in my opinion, when there are tons and tons of reviews and they all point in the same direction - good or bad. If it's unanimous, that's not to be taken lightly. But, everyone's got an opinion, informed or not.
The guidebook writers I mentioned base their opinions on thousands of hours of travel and make comparisons based on having tried myriad options. They're not just pulling it out of thin air with nothing to compare it to.
Take Joe Schmo. Mr. Schmo went to Edinburgh once, stayed at one hotel, ate at a restaurant or two, took one car service, and only went to the most touristy of places because, without a good guidebook, he didn't know there were better places he could have gone. Mr. Schmo returns home and thinks, Edinburgh sucks. I'm never going back there. Then he jumps on TripAdvisor and rants about how bad everything was.
Then take Johnny Guidebook. Mr. Guidebook has been to Edinburgh dozens of times, has stayed in many hotels, B&Bs, and castles, has eaten in every major dining establishment as well as a lot of the minor ones, has taken every form of transportation imaginable, and knows every nook and cranny in Edinburgh. He knows where to go and where to stay away from. He knows what's a tourist trap and what's an authentic, immersive experience. Mr. Guidebook returns home, gathers his notes from his latest trip to Scotland, organizes his thoughts, compares his experience with his many trips to Edinburgh in the past, then sits down at his desk and begins to write a thoughtful, wise, energetic, inspirational story about how amazing Edinburgh is!
Who's opinion seems more valid to you? Joe's or Johnny's?
Don't be a Schmo! Get a good guidebook!