Blogs, Websites, Podcasts, and YouTube Videos
“Publishers are notoriously slothful about numbers unless they’re attached to dollar signs – unlike journalists, quarterbacks, and felony criminal defendants who tend to be keenly aware of numbers at all times.”
Is the Explosion of Travel Information on the Internet Good for Travelers?
Online Travel Information Sources Twenty Years Ago, Versus Today
In the last twenty years, travel advice has changed dramatically. Previously most travel advice came from books backed by careful editing and research. Today, many, if not most, travelers review online comments, podcasts, social media, YouTube, and travel websites to plan their trips.
Twenty years ago, social media was in its infancy, and travel blogs were much less common today. Many of the ¨go-to¨ websites that I regularly consult today, like Nomadic Matt and Johnny Jet, did not exist. In addition, podcasts and YouTube provide some excellent travel information that was not widely available 20 years ago.
Until recently, I lamented this transition because I could no longer find many of the resources I used in the past. Twenty years ago, many books contained thorough lists and evaluations of travel experiences like volunteer tourism, learning vacations, and even staying in monasteries and ashrams.
In addition, Lonely Planet is no longer as independent, up-to-date, or relevant as it used to be. Moreover, there used to be guidebooks for many types of travelers (culture vultures, photo enthusiasts, adventurers, and travelers from varying economic backgrounds), which no longer exist.
Now that these guides are gone, I hope my website can help fill that void.
Online Travel Information Sources Today
As I read more travel blogs and went to travel blogger conferences, I questioned whether the transition was good or bad. I am still not sure.
I am sure more travel information is out there than in the past. Unfortunately, it can take hours to weed through all these materials because professionals do not write or edit the texts, many writers copy each other’s materials, and many posts are smoothly packaged ads. However, the best blogs are exceptional and low-cost resources. Sadly, many blogs are poorly done and a waste of time.
The following is a list of the pros and cons of the current state of travel information:
- Travel blogs cover hundreds of different communities of travelers, everything from the disabled to travelers with pets to foodies.
- Many travel bloggers are hobbyists who just went to start a conversation with other enthusiasts in their community.
- You can find more up-to-date information and opinions on travel blogs than in books, especially if you carefully check the post’s dates.
- The travel blog comments often add valuable perspectives to the posts. Now that bloggers can edit their comments, the days of blog slugfests are numbered.
- You can ask specific questions and get useful responses, especially on social media.
- Travel podcasts allow presenters enough time to explore travel issues in-depth. They also allow the listener to hear the same issues explored from different perspectives. They also usually do not have sponsors who can influence their opinions.
- Travel YouTube videos allow you to feel the ambiance of a place powerfully if they are well done. Some YouTubers are particularly good at concisely and meaningfully presenting their perspectives on a travel-related topic.
Online travel information sources have some serious downsides, including::
- Forums to promote other companies’ products (this is how many bloggers pay for their travel. I paid for all my travels out of my own pocket and intend to continue to do so in the future). Many companies (like travel insurance companies and airline and hotel search engines) can subtly influence the bloggers’ advice.
- Too short and superficial. Some blogs post awe-inspiring photos accompanied by skimpy information. I even went to a travel bloggers conference where a couple of women seemed to think that posting pictures of themselves scantily clad on beautiful beaches around the world constituted travel advice.
- Written by people without a lot of experience traveling.
- Poorly edited and filled with ads.
- Repetitive. You will see the same post in many different places.
Online Traveler Comments (Tripadvisor, etc.)
Today, much travel advice online comes from readers’ comments and evaluations. Many of the most popular travel booking websites rely on comments to help determine which businesses to feature. The largest travel website globally is Trip Advisor, which features only readers’ comments.
While sometimes these comments and assessments are helpful, they can be destructive and one-sided. A couple of bad reviews can ruin otherwise great businesses. Also, people post comments only when they are highly pleased or critical.
Businesses also game reviews. Many companies deliberately solicit positive reviews. As a result, I am suspicious when all the reviews are positive. Nothing is ever perfect.
Moreover, companies like Uber and Airbnb have convinced people that every score must have a five-star or bad. As a result, the ratings on these sites have become questionably reliable.
All this aside, I use reviews frequently. I mainly consult reviews after hearing positive, word-of-mouth comments about an experience. The readers’ reviews help provide a balanced view.
I also use readers’ comments to help determine if a tour is overly strenuous. Most company websites do not have reliable assessments of whether a tour is challenging or not.
I often do not read reader comments because I prefer not to have preconceived notions. Often, I am disappointed if I read too many positive comments beforehand.
Want More Information About Online Travel Information Sources?
There are several places you can find recommendations for the best travel blogs, so you do not have to waste your time searching through bad blogs, including:
What Do You Think?
I would love to hear pertinent and respectful readers’ comments on this topic. The internet is so big that it may be that I am missing something.