Deciding Where to Go and Using TripAdvisor

“Oh the places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Where do you want to go?  This is the question at the beginning of every adventure.  To answer this question, you have to decide:

  •  Who is going?  Is this trip going to be for adults?  For families with grown children?  For families with small children?  A group of friends?  Solo?  Answering this question is the most important for deciding what type of trip you want to take.

If you are a family with young children, and you are taking them on your adventure, then that obviously can limit what type of vacation you take.  Now, I know that some people will say that you can take your young’ns anywhere you want to go with no problem, but I, for one, believe in keeping my sanity.  I would not, for example, take small children on a hike up to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park because I would probably die of anxiety in the process.  With drops of over 1000 feet on either side of a narrow path, I wouldn’t even want to take a teenager on that hike.  Heck, I wouldn’t even want to take myself on that hike.  But, you get the picture here, right?  In my opinion, if you are taking small children on your vacation, you want to choose a place where small children can have a good time, and mom and dad don’t pull their hair out.

  •  What type of vacation are you interested in?  Do you like adventure?  Do you like to be physically active?  Do you need to relax and unwind?  Do you want to explore unknown lands?  Do you want to float in the water for a week?  Are you a foodie?  Do you want to discover different restaurants and cuisines?  Do you want to go someplace where everything is planned for you – like an all-inclusive resort?  Do you love roller coasters?  Are you sick of the heat and want to go somewhere chilly, or are you “over” the winter cold and want somewhere tropical?

Unfortunately, my husband and I don’t usually totally agree on the type of vacation.  He is in a high stress job with lots of work hours, so his ideal vacation consists of floating in calm blue waters and having drinks with little umbrellas delivered to his float.

I, on the other hand, having my adventurous spirit fed by great books that take you to unknown lands, love to explore new places.  I also like to make sure that the other members of our family are entertained and have hands-on activities.  I also really enjoy finding great restaurants in the area we are visiting, and sampling regional specialties.  For example, on our recent trip to Utah and Nevada, we tried some local Mexican restaurants, which were a pretty different experience than Mexican food in Virginia.

Anyhoo, after deciding who is going, and what kind of adventure you desire, the next step is to decide where.

  • Where do you want to go?  Is there someplace that you read about in a novel that piqued your interest in that country?  Have you always wanted to visit the land of your ancestors?  Have you heard about an amazing national park?  If you are heading for a beach, do you want to be domestic or international?  Somewhere in the Caribbean?  British or American Virgin Islands?  If you have young kids, is there a city with hands-on science or children’s museums?  A beach resort with playgrounds and lazy rivers?

If you have an idea of the who, what and where, then that info is your springboard to start your research on the web.  If you know you want to visit a national park, use Google to find out which one works the best for you and your particular situation.  If you know you want a beach resort somewhere in South Carolina, put some key words in the search bar and look for “best family-friendly hotels South Carolina” and see what you find.

While we are on this subject, I have to mention TripAdvisor.  I have used TripAdvisor for every single trip that I have taken in the last several years.  It is a phenomenal source of information.  You can find info on just about anything that is travel-related.

For example, if you are traveling to a particular city, and want to find a nice hotel, you just go to TripAdvisor.com, select Hotels from the very top of the page, and then type the name of the city you will be visiting in the search bar and click “Find hotels” or hit enter.
One note – TripAdvisor, in the past, was purely an advisory website.  Now, when searching for the most recommended hotels, the website sort of pushes you to use their booking system.  I totally understand why, but you DO NOT have to use their booking system to take advantage of all the traveler advice that is available.  They do have some cost-savings if you use their booking, but you can choose to use it or book directly with the hotel.  Anyway, once you get the hotels list, look up near the top where it says “Sort by:” and click on “Traveler Ranked” and you will see the hotels listed by the highest rankings.  Usually there will be one “sponsored” hotel (which means a paid ad), followed by the list.  On the far right of the listing it will have the rank, for example, “#1 of 263 hotels in Las Vegas.”

You can also use TripAdvisor to find top-rated restaurants in a particular city.  They have an over-all list, but you can also find something in a particular category.  For example, when we were in Las Vegas, I searched in the “Cheap Eats” category to find a really good restaurant that was easy on the wallet.  You can also search based on the type of food, like Mexican or Italian.  So, go to TripAdvisor.com, select Restaurants from the options at the very top of the page, then type in the city you are visiting (example – San Francisco, California), then click “Find restaurants” and the list will come up on the next page.

Once you have decided on a destination for your next adventure, you can also find out a lot of information about the area by once again using TripAdvisor and going to a forums page.  This one is a little more tricky.  As much as I have used this website, I usually can’t navigate through the pages to find the forums very easily.

But first let me explain.  Just about any place you want to go, you can find a forums page for that destination on TripAdvisor.  When we traveled to Ireland last year, I visited the forums page for Ireland many, many times, and I found out so much excellent information there that helped me with my trip.  There will usually be posts on the right hand side of the screen that are answers to frequently asked questions.  Those posts will be there all the time.  There’s also a list of posts in the center of the page that are always changing, as new ones are always being posted at the top and moving the older ones down.  You can also ask questions and some fantastic people will answer them for you!  These are people that are so nice and they take time out of their day to share their expertise with you.  It really is amazing.

So, the easiest way to get to the forum pages is to just go to good old Google and type into the search bar “forums Ireland” or “forums Las Vegas” or “forums (insert your destination).”  This really is much easier than trying to go to TripAdvisor and trying to navigate around to the forums page you are looking for.

Well, I hope that the information that I have shared is helpful to you.  Some of it is pretty basic, and you might be thinking, “I already knew all this stuff!”  If so, please come back around!  And if you learned something new, please come back and visit again.  I have a lot more to share and will be adding much more in the days ahead.

Until the next time – Happy Traveling!

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