Message board versus guidebook

Mar 20th, 2007, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I use both for various reasons and information, but actually rarely use message boards like Fodors for hotel advice. I usually just make up my own mind by looking at their website and making sure it is about what I want in appearance and cost, and especially for the right location, which is important to me. At least for Europe -- for resort areas where hotel quality really can vary or be a surprise, I pay more attention to comments on message boards. I just know my opinion on hotels isn't the same as many people's (I can tell that from various posts and comments on what is important and how people rate places I've been) or what I want, and I don't really judge the opinion of one person I don't know as very compelling. I would if maybe ten different people posted and all gave opinions of a place. I do read Tripadvisor for hotel reviews because there are more there in one place, so it's easy to do, and I consider them. OFten there aren't that many for the hotels I am considering, though, one or two if I'm lucky. But I like the detail and consider what they say and how specific it is or important to me. That's actually one thing about Fodors et al. that isn't as good as Tripadvisor, probably because their key mission is hotel reviews. A lot of recommendations about hotels on Fodors are very nonspecific and don't really tell you that much. But a lot of people like that and want that kind of advice -- like please tell me a good moderate-level hotel to stay at in Paris. And then someone says, oh, I really liked the Hotel Moyen, and they say, great and book it, I guess. Some people really do just want someone to make a decision for them because they find the idea daunting of figuring out where you want to stay in a city, finding lists of several possible hotels that suit your budget and taste, and then researching them online or finding out where they are, etc.

I wouldn't use Fodors or message boards for restaurant advice, either, for the same reason probably, but I am not a foodie so don't even really go looking for restaurant advice and am not willing to make special arrangements or go out of my way to get to one. I am always pretty happy with my own decisions on that, just choosing from proximity, menu and general appearance of the place.

I wouldn't ever use a message board to decide what to see, as I make up my own mind based on my own interests. Those things are the easiest to find out about from guidebooks or online tourist or city-specific websites, I find.

I have used Fodors for other kind of advice that is more factual and I have really found it useful for that. Like transportation methods from Heathrow into London, things like that. I think a message board is often better and more detailed than guidebooks on those options.

I review several guidebooks when going to a new place, but try to get them free at the library. If I want to buy one, I usually only buy one I like best by browsing through them at the bookstore.
Christina is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 08:04 AM
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I prefer forums for:
- the up to date information (a 2007 guidebook was current mid 2006)
- the variety of responses - no just one opinion
- the specificity of the responses
- insider info that is read by fewer people
- the self-checking nature of this board - incorrect info is likely to be challenged
- responses from "real" people who are not paid to tout a particular resto or hotel
- personal nature of a forum
robjame is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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This thread in and of itself is a perfect example of the varying opinions on Fodor's. We like Dorland's best for travel guides (except that they are heavy) because they are so thorough with sightseeing.

I think we have only once used a guidebook suggestion for a hotel. We have used Fodor's posters' suggestions for a number of hotels we've stayed at with excellent results: Maximilian in Prague; Victoria in Budapest; Santa Chiara in Rome; Casci in Florence; Ballastone in Savannah. Of course, I checked websites and did a little research on each of them before booking.

The planning for our most recent trips was done without any guidebooks, relying mostly on internet and travel boards and all turned out very well.

I compiled a file of my research when planning our trip to Buenos Aires, which I've been sharing with others, and prefaced it by saying that it reflects our likes and dislikes which may not reflect those of the reader. It starts with a short trip report, followed by a number of websites and then sightseeing, restaurants we might like, prices, etc. I did the same thing for our trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. They were very helpful for us, and those who've requested any of them can pick and choose.

To specifically answer Dave's question, I think I rely mostly on the internet (at least for the last few years). I think it depends a great deal on where you're going as to what resources you use. I would definitely rely more on guidebooks for places we don't know much about like Asia for example (we've never been but are interested in going).

As far as reliance on Fodor's posters' advice, it used to be easier for me because we were a smaller community and I felt comfortable with suggestions from many I felt I actually knew, based on their frequent and excellent advice. It's harder now with so many newcomers, user name changes, etc.
Giovanna is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 08:35 AM
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I use both. The Internet will ever replace the joy of curling up in bed with a fresh guide book, or the initial fun of choosing them at the store.

However, Fodors has saved me a lot of money, not the least of which was the recent post about 1/2 price Airbus tickets and 2-4-1 in London, both of which I took advantage of for an upcoming trip for six people!

Good luggage choices, restaurants, even travel pillows (yes, I bought the Restoration Hardware ones and LOVE them!)came from this Web site.

I got enough Fodor references for apartments through VRBO that I've now booked three and wouldn't stay in a hotel again!

And, finally, I've met true, actual, life-long friends through Fodors that I couldn't have found in a guidebook! And, yes, I mean I've MET them in person!
MelJ is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 08:53 AM
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I definitely use guidebooks along with comments from this board, however some of the best travel suggestions definitely have come from this site.

Examples that come to mind quickly are:
Palazzo del Capitano - St. Quirico Hotel
Stella Italia - hotel near Lugano
(both of the above from bobthenavigator)
Palazzo Bocci - Spello Hotel
Chez Fernand - Paris restaurant
Numerous driving tips from the likes of the esteemed Mr. Dudley
Switzerland hiking tips from Bob Brown

Personally, I don't trust everything in the guidebooks, because the cynic in me believes some of the people who write for them get extra perks to say places are better than they really are. Of course, I guess some of you could have ulterior motives for recommending a place, too, but so far my results from here have been overwhelmingly positive.

I've read a lot of trip reports on this site, and you can usually tell who is objective about the places they visit. There were so many positive comments about La Calcina in Venice and Tourist House Ghiberti in Florence that we took the chance, booked those places and were glad we did.

So to finally answer your question, "Is it too much trouble to look it up?", my answer would be no. This is just another option in the planning process, and, in my opinion, a vey valuable option.

maitaitom is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 09:30 AM
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One big advantage of internet message boards over guidebooks when dealing with hotels or restaurants is you can get your questions answered.

It's one thing to read a generic description in a guide book and quite another to ask someone if there was a shower curtain, or if they heard a lot of street noise.

Of course, using either takes a lot of reading between the lines, but my success with personal recommendations here has been far more successful that recommendations from guidebooks.

To be honest, it's now been several years since I've even opened a guidebook.
NeoPatrick is online now  
Mar 21st, 2007, 04:25 AM
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Christina : "I wouldn't ever use a message board to decide what to see, as I make up my own mind based on my own interests. Those things are the easiest to find out about from guidebooks or online tourist or city-specific websites, I find."

On the whole I would agree with you but I have visited a couple of really good things which I'd never seen mentioned in any guidebook at the time - the Sammlung Hoffmann in Berlin (the highlight of each of our 2 trips there) and Wagner's rooms in Venice. I can't now remember which Fodorites recommended these; but if you're reading, thank you !
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 05:13 AM
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You forgot the third option: any internet site put up by the source.

When planning a rail journey, for example, I'm going to rely on the published schedules by the rail companies, and neither a guidebook NOR a messageboard. Both the latter two can give me general advice, but I'd be nuts to rely on it without double-checking the source. Same goes for opening hours of museums, etc.

But if someone here has just taken a particular train, they might be able to warn me "renovations currently going on around track 11 - allow extra time" etc. etc. That kind of advice is hard to find anywhere else.

I don't mind people giving me their biased opinions, even their 'enthusiastically held' opinions provided those opinions are strictly travel related. I especially don't mind it when it occurs on a messageboard, since I pay nothing for their advice. I even don't mind guidebooks giving biased opinions - that is, after all, what the Michelin 'stars' signify - a biased opinion.

I do mind it if I buy a travel guidebook and start running into gratuitously inserted socio-political commentary. Such commentary I term unreasonable not because of the particular position taken, but because the medium is such that dialogue is impossible, and the author knows that very well. In other words, I'll be an audience for just about anything, but for sociopolitical stuff, I resent being a captive one.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 10:19 AM
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<<On the whole I would agree with you but I have visited a couple of really good things which I'd never seen mentioned in any guidebook at the time - the Sammlung Hoffmann in Berlin (the highlight of each of our 2 trips there) and Wagner's rooms in Venice. I can't now remember which Fodorites recommended these; but if you're reading, thank you !>>

I can understand that, although if you are a Wagner buff, you'd know how much time he spent there, where he lived, and might know that already. I don't like Wagner, but knew that (and I am actually half-Wagner by birth--my mother's family was Wagner, although I hope I am not related to him). Although some of these things you wouldn't know about to ask, but might find a mention of something in a post about something else that tells you this (like perhaps that one is how that happened?) However, I agree with you very arcane things like that (I don't believe that is a public museum, which is why it wouldn't be in most guidebooks) aren't in most guidebooks. And someone who really wasn't a big Wagner buff might enjoy that but not have been aware that he lived there. I do think that is mentioned in one guidebook I have, which is specific to sites about classical music, although I know most folks won't have that book.

I do search for things like that on the web or local tourism websites, though, as I said, I use both the internet and guidebooks. I have visited several cities that are not mentioned very much in guidebooks at all because they aren't big on tourists' destinations, but I found lots of info on the web about them (usually in their own city's website). I always look at a city's own website for info if I'm going to be there for siteseeing, and Wagner's rooms are mentioned on the city of Venice's own website, for example, in the palaces section

If you are really interested in Wagner and Venice, there was a film in the 1980s about that which was filmed there (titled "Wagner & Venice"). YOu might be able to track that down, although it might be hard to find.

I'm not disagreeing with you, though, I know many people may find out about something on a message board they weren't aware of otherwise, but a lot of people use them for very basic "top 10" type of sightseeing info.
Christina is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 10:41 AM
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As so many have stated, the message boards can be hit or miss because of personal preferences and budget differences. One tool that I have frequently used, but have become so frustrated with is Tripadvisor. I was recently researching hotels in San Diego and based on TripAdvisors reviews, we almost ended up staying at a modest chain inn that backed up to the 5 Freeway! It was ranked in the top 8% of over 200 hotels in San Diego. Fortunately, I changed my mind at the last minute and booked a sure-bet in the city. You would not have believed the stellar reviews about how wonderful the average -looking and poorly located little place was!

I've only decided that I'm good to use TripAdvisor only to ELIMINATE hotels based on consistently poor reviews.

Different strokes for different folks!
dgg is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 11:11 AM
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Posts: 218
I DO put a lot of trust in this message board, but only after lurking for a year before asking my first question! I use both guide books and forums. I mean, where else could I have MorganB's failguide open in one window and order my tickets in the other! I fsomeone recommends a hotel or restaurant, I look for other opinions in other forums to confirm it. When someone makes a resto recommendation, their description and meal price could persuade me to try it. In the beginning, I would not have used this board for hotel recs, but, with the ability to ask clarification questions (Hi, Ira!), you can get a better idea if it's the one for you. You can get a better idea of an area from someone else's post AND reading a guidebook (Thanks StuDudley). Sometimes it helps to have someone get you to the right spot on the foreign website!
Since I vascillate in fitting the guidebooks' target, sometimes better fitting Fodors, then Frommers or maybe Lonely Planet, you learn to take your travel advice with a grain of salt to dilute the bias that is always going to be there.
merrittm is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 12:16 PM
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I cross reference everything with at least 3 other sources. I might find something first in a guide book, and then look for it on Fodor's. So far, that's worked well for me.

sandypaws3 is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 12:47 PM
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As someone mentioned, the immediacy of the message board is fantastic. From a message board, you can find out that a particular funicular will be down for 2 weeks for construction, or that a certain cathedral is in scaffolding. No matter how "current" the guide books are, they aren't current enough. I recently visited a restaurant where the set lunch menu was supposed to be (per the recent guide book) 11.40 and it was actually 22 euro. The price had doubled!

And I can't believe how generous people here are with their time. Laclaire actually biked past my two apartment choices in Barcelona and told me which neighborhood was nicest!
missypie is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 01:17 PM
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Reading the topic line: why "versus", why not "in addition to"?
FainaAgain is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2007, 05:39 AM
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Thanks for the extra info, Christina. We are quite keen Wagner fans so knew he'd lived and died in Venice, but without the Fodorite's recommendation I wouldn't have known that one could visit his rooms.

I do agree with you, though, in being dismayed at people who just ask others what they should do in a particular place - I always want to shout "GET A GUIDEBOOK" !!
caroline_edinburgh is offline  

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