A Comparison of Major Travel WEBSITES

Jun 14th, 2019, 04:21 AM
  #1  
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A Comparison of Major Travel WEBSITES

Let's give the Big Four some free focus group-style, marketing feedback. Seems that Lonely Planet, Fodors, Rick Steves and TripAdvisor are currently the top dogs. Can we plz try to fashion our feedback in ways that will benefit each other here?
YES: mentioning any other sites (specialty or otherwise) not listed above; your perceptions regarding the pros and cons of each of the Big Four; actual historical experiences on their 4 forums; ideas for improvement across the board, "I'd like to see...."
NO: personal attacks on Fodorites based on their opinion in this thread; your opinion of each of the above as a guidebook brand--lets keep this one as a constructive website/forum critique (nobody cares what you think about Rick Steves as an individual).
Have at it.
I am done. The end.

Last edited by zebec; Jun 14th, 2019 at 04:25 AM. Reason: partied til 5am with Mrs Z after Rapto.......................................................................................
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Jun 14th, 2019, 05:18 AM
  #2  
 
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I really only use Fodo'r and TA - I don't think I'm a Lonely Planet type of traveler. I do like Rick Steve's books - if fact that is where I usually start my trip planning - it just seems it is easier to get the big picture with a book rather than clicking thru different websites and I have always liked the format of his books. I like how he "triangles" / rates the sights, the walks he maps out, and I really like how he includes the practical logistics / connections. But I think the topic is supposed to be websites?

So when I have done my homework, Fodors and TA are good for tweaking. Both have snarky posters but they don't bother me. I use TA most for hotels and restaurants. I used to try to get hotel ideas from TA, then book direct but lately it seems esp. booking.com can offer a better deal - for example, just finished booking a London trip - hotel websites were often higher than booking.com - for example sometimes the hotel website did not have the option of no breakfast (and they want to charge alot for those hotel breakfasts!) or I could not tell if I was prepaying. I hope I don't end up in the crappy rooms because I did not book direct - we'll see.

Last edited by suec1; Jun 14th, 2019 at 05:20 AM.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 05:39 AM
  #3  
 
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I always suspect TA reviews as the poster isn’t vetted as to whether they actually stayed, ate, visited whatever they are reviewing. I look at Booking.com hotel reviews as the poster had to stay there to be able to post. TA’s ranking of restaurants where I live most of the year is way off the mark. A gelato shop, though good, should not be listed as the best dining in town!
Rick Steves is good but his Forum posters do not seem as travel savvy as those on Fodor’s. This is probably due to their taking Rick Steves’ tours instead of traveling independently. There is some good info on the website however.
I have never gone to Lonely Planet as I do not like their guide books at all.
Fodors has a good and very comprehensive website and the Forums are very helpful with info from dedicated and knowledgeable independent travelers.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Jun 14th, 2019 at 05:42 AM.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 06:27 AM
  #4  
 
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Like others, I will start trip planning using Rick Steves' books (if it's Europe) and like how he rates sites and gives estimates of what you can do in 1 day, 3 days, 5 days and if you have more time. That pace seems to match mine. I do sometimes disagree with him on how worthwhile some museums are, but I'll go to just about any museum over a lot of other things. His walks are excellent for orientation. I did both his Krakow and Munich walks on my first day in each city and it gave me a good lay of the land for the rest of my stay. His audio walks are better than following the book. I do not find his website terribly useful other than the updates he gives on closings, openings, changes to things on the ground where I'm headed that I may not already know about. I have little use for his forums as it's very elementary info.

I've never used Lonely Planet. No specific reason.

I never use Fodors for trip planning anymore. I seem to do better on my own or have found far better sources for reliable first-hand experience (Safaritalk for Africa) elsewhere.

I use Trip Advisor to read hotel reviews and find restaurants that mention vegetarian in their reviews as that's what interests me. I write reviews on all my hotels and tour/service providers as a way to give back. The forums are marginally useful. I find I'm offering help more than asking for it.

I'm adding a tangential fifth: For anyone traveling to Africa, the Safaritalk.net forum is an amazing resource. Only the Trip Report forum is viewable without a login, but the anecdotal logistics, itinerary and photos in that sub-forum is worth a look alone. It's a great place to get ideas for safari as well as ask questions of people who've been where you might be interested. The depth and breadth of detail is just incredible and for the most part the members are helpful without being condescending (just don't start a conservation or hunting debate!). The Trip Planning sub-forum (which requires a login) is a great place to run proposed itineraries by some very knowledgeable and experienced folks. There's no one here that has been on as many or as diverse number of safaris as the people there. I firmly believe that one safari does not an expert make, so I would take that opinion lightly, whereas on Safaritalk, if someone's been to Kenya dozens (literally) of times, they're more likely to actually know what they're talking about. Nothing on Fodors or Trip Advisor can compare to the wealth of information there. (I've never looked on Lonely Planet and Rick Steves only does Europe)
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Jun 14th, 2019, 06:36 AM
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Originally Posted by amyb View Post
I'm adding a tangential fifth: For anyone traveling to Africa, the Safaritalk.net forum is an amazing resource. Only the Trip Report forum is viewable without a login, but the anecdotal logistics, itinerary and photos in that sub-forum is worth a look alone. It's a great place to get ideas for safari as well as ask questions of people who've been where you might be interested. The depth and breadth of detail is just incredible and for the most part the members are helpful without being condescending (just don't start a conservation or hunting debate!). The Trip Planning sub-forum (which requires a login) is a great place to run proposed itineraries by some very knowledgeable and experienced folks. There's no one here that has been on as many or as diverse number of safaris as the people there. I firmly believe that one safari does not an expert make, so I would take that opinion lightly, whereas on Safaritalk, if someone's been to Kenya dozens (literally) of times, they're more likely to actually know what they're talking about. Nothing on Fodors or Trip Advisor can compare to the wealth of information there. (I've never looked on Lonely Planet and Rick Steves only does Europe)
Agree about safaritalk.net. It was started by former Fodor's poster Matt_from_England years and years ago. It's really grown. I try to avoid the site because it gives me $$ideas$$.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 06:48 AM
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5 posts in, this is already so useful! (Thanks Amy, I’ve saved safaritalk.net for reference)

I also am very appreciative of books that lay out itineraries based on time available (if you have ____ days....).

I don’t use any books in print for restaurants or hotels - they’re out of date by the time they’re released. So, for hotel reviews, I use TA and booking.com, and for booking hotels, I use booking.com or the hotel’s own website. For restaurants, I have found TA to not be a “match” for me. If available for the city I’m in, I rely on the “Eater” site - I get regular emails about the cities I frequent most. For places not on the Eater website, I use the web to get local reviews, coupled with google searches.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 07:16 AM
  #7  
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For hotels, I start with booking dot com and then check the hotel's website. There is always a good chance of a better deal there.

For restos, I start with TA and change my mind when I arrive in that town.

Ditto for things to do.

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Jun 14th, 2019, 07:38 AM
  #8  
 
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I start with TA and Fodors when looking for lodging; I'll follow up on any specific lodging, restaurants, or tours mentioned by Fodorites. I cross-reference them with Booking.com and sometimes Hotels.com. I've used Hotels.com a few times because of the tenth night free, but am more interested in Booking and TA reviews.

I'll start restaurant searches on TA but as noted above, too often the #` is a sandwich shop or a gelateria--not usually why I'm browsing reviews.

Sometimes smaller books work on specific locations -- I'm reviewing Marco Polo books' Lake Garda, since we will be spending several days there in the fall and not all books give it much coverage.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 08:09 AM
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If I know where I want to go, I usually start with Expedia. I will search for air/hotel packages. That will give me a pretty comprehensive list of hotels. On Expedia you can search by neighborhood or specific area. So if I am looking to travel to a city that I am not familiar with, I will take a look at the neighborhoods that Expedia lists and google each one to get a better idea of where I want to stay. Once I have narrowed it down, I will search the hotels in those neighborhoods usually by star rating. I take a look at the photos and reviews available on Expedia but then will google the hotel to get other sources of information, including the hotel's website, TA, etc.

For restaurants, I usually start with TA as I like the format. But I also check the restaurant's website and also google the name to see what pops up. I will also use Google maps to get a sense of where the restaurants are in relation to my hotel. I always choose my hotel before starting to research restaurants.

For things to do or places to see, I again usually would google "Things to do in ________" and see what comes up.

I intermittently have used Trivago, Booking.com, Fodors, among others.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 08:50 AM
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I forgot to mention, I often get great hotel and restaurant recommendations right here on the Fodor’s forums. That was true for Buenos Aires in February.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 09:12 AM
  #11  
 
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Here for unique experiences and food and TRs. Y’all really know your food. Also here for formatting. It’s the least annoying to me. But The powers that be seem to be rather inept. Or martians. I’m gonna go with martians.

TA for nuts and bolts. And just more traffic. Canada forum here is next to useless. I know more or less what regulars specialize in what. TA is more mixed. But there’s just better chances of getting a specific question answered, or find stuff out about local events. I hate nearly everything about the formatting and the stupid promotions, and the way they appoint “experts”. And trolls galore. But they are zero tolerance in someways and they shut down stuff fast.

I occasionally go over to Rick Steves. I sometimes use the guidebooks. I dunno. I don’t care for the “cult of rick” mentality that comes through sometimes. I like the formatting though. I think, but might be wrong, that the audience is sort of middle of the road. Families. Fodor’s tends older, thorntree tends younger. RS is least me.

Thorntree—I had an account there for about a New York minute. But there are too many boring and or depressing questions. Y’know: “will I get turned back if I have a one way ticket and plan to camp on my internet gf’s couch for an unknown length if time.” It’s partly that it attracts young budget travellers, but not all of it. Might be partly moderation too. Also I REALLY HATE the formatting. How you can see not just title but a lot of the post. Just why.


i find all of them depend on who is posting. You kind of need a sense of who is who, the dynamics of the group. For my specific interests, I follow blogs. Or instagram. I use Hostelworld a lot. I occasionally use some specialty forums, especially for camping. I use the forums for direction. Like stuff that might be cool in that city but isn’t on my radar. (Also, I use them a lot for entertainment. I’m always up for a good discussion on travel and I can’t say the same about my nearest and dearest)
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Jun 14th, 2019, 09:31 AM
  #12  
 
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Originally Posted by Leely2 View Post
Agree about safaritalk.net. It was started by former Fodor's poster Matt_from_England years and years ago. It's really grown. I try to avoid the site because it gives me $$ideas$$.
Oh, is that what Matt’s been up to? Nicest guy in the world. I met him in Lisbon when he was giving tons of advice here on Fodor’s and a couple of times since.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 10:13 AM
  #13  
 
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Interesting to contemplate.
TA: Reviews are only as good as reviewers. Most are near useless ("Great food" tells me nothing about a restaurant.) and a few are very helpful. A little more useful for hotels and sights, but nothing earth-shaking. The forums are mix of questioners, with answers tending strongly to concrete and on point.

Never used Lonely Planet. Not my demographic.

Hardly use RS. Too middle of the road blah.

Fodors: Full of digressions and personality. None of the other sites will have established posters completely disagreeing. The only site that has humor and emotional sensitivity. Now, if only the uninformed idiots would stop disagreeing with me, . . .
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Jun 14th, 2019, 10:22 AM
  #14  
 
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Trip Advisor. I'm very active on several Destination Forums (similar to Fodors). I rarely post or use the Reviews section. But it's easy enough to sort out what's real or fake imo. Have made person-to-person connections there which hasn't happened anywhere else.

Fodor's. Just for fun. I'm not sure I've ever used it for actual trip planning myself.

Rick Steves. Helped me on initial trips to Europe. Don't use it now.

Lonely Planet. I've been off and on with this. I do like their forum section The Thorn Tree. And made several long-term online friends from posting on the Mexico branch back when I was first going there.

Pretty much now I know where I'm going, where I'm staying, what I'm doing on my vacation trips. Until I am retired and ready to try some new destinations, I really don't need any help.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 10:46 AM
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Fodor's, Cruise Critic, TA and Flyertalk. All good in their own ways; quite different demographics it seems.

I enjoy the "omni" boards on FT (one for non-political/religious topics, another for just those things) and the Lounge on Fodor's. Both have a pretty limited group of regulars, but especially the Omni P/R board on FT includes some of the funniest, best informed, cynical, and often irritating "regulars" I've encountered. They make Fodor's Lounge look like a meeting of the Jam and Jerusalem crowd in England.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 11:14 AM
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Of course, I love and use Fodors. I've been posting here for so long that I know many of the posters. I actively dislike TA - the format is such that I mostly see advertising, and the place is filled with trolls and fake reviews. I never go there. Lonely planet - I have used for remote, less traveled areas, especially in Asia. Often times LP is the only place that has any info on Sikkim or Nagaland or knows what to recommend in less traveled areas of Indonesia. I've never looked at Rick Steves, as I mostly travel in Asia.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 11:51 AM
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It is thru Trip Advisor forums that I now have "insider" connections for renting apartments in Puerto Vallarta direct from owners. Nothing like that has ever happened for me here on Fodor's that's for sure. There are no "fake reviews" when you're in the Destination Forums. Seems a lot of people only know the Reviews or booking portion of that website. They have incredibly active individual forums as well. Kind folks there talked me thru a 1st trip to Cabo. The Negril Jamaica forum helped with all kinds of info I couldn't have found elsewhere (certainly not here) let's say how route taxis work. If I asked a west coast Mexico question here on Fodor's, I'd likely have to answer it myself -lol.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 12:24 PM
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I dunno Zebec. Here's some various & sundry little bits. Do you want us to comment on social psychology, dynamics, hierarchies, pecking orders and like that too? No?

I find LP's 'search' function to be the most consistent. The tone on their forum seems the most international of the Big Four. I'm guessing that males may outnumber females in their demographic(??). Lonely Planet is now onto their fourth owners. One now detects a certain slippage on LP, membership seems down and it'd not be surprising to learn that their team are currently in crisis mode about the Thorn Tree forum and the overall site. The visible increase in advertising rubs some the wrong way. Once, after my recent post about an Italian enoteca, up popped an ad for wine cellars (?!) on my next visit to the site. Trust me when I tell you that LP had a great many championship-level nutters about a decade ago, just prior to their shutting down their old 'Your Choice' forum for an overdue 'time-out' year. There was a lot of mental illness posed as traveller (you don't say, Zebec----editor).

I find TA to be cold, crass and commercial, and probably even more adjectives that begin with a 'C'. But it can sometimes be useful for cross-referencing and also vacation rentals. Their cringe-worthy 'badge-earning system' is downright insulting to the intelligence of any reasonable traveller, as though we're all 12 yr old boy scouts/girl guides--epic fail by their management team. Kinda' odd to see posters try to ramp up their totals by giving star ratings to local Turismo offices! IMHO, TA's tone can be bloodless, humourless and impersonal BUT love their idea of subdividing countries into numerous regions for purposes of directing forum Q&A (e.g. 7 different areas for Provence alone). Nonetheless, Mrs Z and I are using TA less and less often.

Most of the people on Fodors are dicks. Kidding. The demo here may be more females than males---am I right? And posters here sure like their acronyms--Jaysus! Fodors is an older demographic. Their 'Threads I Am On' feature often shows redundant doubling up--could the tech department please fix that? Fodors moderators allow more salty language than the other major sites. Who the fuck knew?! Of all the Big Four, there just now feels a healthier forum @Fodors, one that seems to promise many more years of usefulness on several levels.

The Rick Steves site has a nifty 'Jump to Bottom' feature for immediate forum scrolling. Like Fodors, its feel is very American--how could it not be? Gotta admit that I was taken aback around Xmas past when the RS Queen Bee moderator actually accused me right there mid-thread of lying! It was astonishing coz what I'd earlier commented on (an exchange a year ago of friendly emails with some of her colleagues about an unrelated and unserious matter) was 100% true. We had the emails to prove it. Tres etrange. And to think that I'd included positive coverage about RS back in my '80-'90s travel articles about the various guidebooks. Geez, you're welcome. RS has but a scant section on non-European locations on their forum, one so tiny that it begs the question 'Why Bother?'

Another shout-out for wikitravel and fingers crossed that Rome2Rio keeps getting better.

I am done. The humble opinion.

Last edited by zebec; Jun 14th, 2019 at 12:30 PM. Reason: told off by toads while typing
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Jun 14th, 2019, 12:35 PM
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I disagree with you 100% about Trip Advisor.

TA's tone can be bloodless, humourless and impersonal

When you are actually in the various Destination FORUMS there is no "tone" from "TA"... it's like here... just regular people talking to each other.
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Jun 14th, 2019, 12:46 PM
  #20  
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I've also posted this exact same-same thread over on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum's General Chat section. You might find the contrast with responses to be interesting.
I am done. I was supposed to be done.
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