When planning travel online is a bust – get honest answers from friends.
Do you ever wonder who writes the reviews on travel sites that rate hotels and restaurants? Here’s a cool new online travel resource that gets around this issue. Check it out. Gogobot.
When all the reviews are “over-the-top” complimentary, I question their credibility. Was this written by employees or friends of the owner? After all, they’re anonymous.
Recently I stayed in a “romantic” hotel along the river in Sedona, Arizona. The descriptions and reviews online were all exceptionally good , so I should have suspected something was wrong. So I followed the advice of strangers and booked a room. The resort was noisy, (meaning I could hear the couple in the next room), accommodations were damp and cramped and the staff was disdainful. And the hotel didn’t have a view of the signature red rocks that change in color and mood from sunrise to sunset. O.K. I made a mistake.
Where could I find more honest answers?
“I should have asked my travel buddies for recommendations,” I chided myself when I returned home. Perhaps you, like me, don’t appreciate lots of friends asking for advice often, about Paris, New York or Sedona. As a travel journalist with over 20 years of friends and colleagues, I have lots of contacts, but I don’t want to impose on anyone. But I learned a way to get around that.
When I discovered this new website I was skeptical until I tried it out. No one is anonymous, so your friends will see what you’ve written. In the The Passport section, you share a list countries and cities you’ve visited, sports you enjoy and you can write and read reviews for and from your friends. You can also see the travel credentials and hometown of the person who gives you a recommendation. This is how it worked for me.
WOW. Within minutes, friends I hadn’t communicated with in months began responding with short entries and great advice. And the followers of gogobot also chipped in. One responder is a professional woman who lives in TriBeca. Another friend told me about a hip night club and offered to get us reservations through a friend. What a deal.
New York City restaurants recommended in the TriBeca area included:
Blue Hill on Washington Square where all the ingredients come from from local farms, so they are incredibly fresh.
In Vino Wine Bar & Restaurant is a great cozy neighborhood Italian restaurant in the East Village. The cave-like interior makes for a very intimate experience.
PDT (Please Don’t Tell), on St. Mark’s Place is an underground speakeasy that has so much appeal that even the uber cool Europeans are all over it.
If you want to see more recommendations from New Yorkers living in the neighborhood, check out my profile at Gogobot.
Next I posted this:
Is Mexico Safe? Traveling to Playa del Carmen. Again, the response was immediate and from colleagues that had traveled to this area recently. Is it safe? YES! And I also learned that it’s easy to rent a car and visit Tulum and other Mayan sites on our own. I heard from people all over Mexico including two friends in San Miguel de Allende who assured me that the drug violence is far away from tourist destinations.
Since I know Paris well, and have wrote about it in my book Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide, I shared my favorite Left Bank hotel and favorite place for ice cream and sorbet (Bertillon on Ilse St. Louis).
When I have time I’ll add more personal favorites. Best of all, what I wrote on gogobot will always be there to send on to other friends. Gotta love it!
About the Author: Marybeth Bond, the Gutsy Traveler, National Geographic author of 11 travel books, featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and founder of the Online Travel Magazine www.GutsyTraveler.com She has been featured over 1,000 times on TV, radio and print. She is a Contributor to CNN, CNN Airport Network and CNN.com Speaker, spokesperson, author, travel expert, Marybeth, the Gutsy Traveler walks the talk. She's an adventurer; biked two months across the USA, traveler to over 90 countries, media travel expert for CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, NPR and National Geographic.