I’ve already complained about the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show, so I will spare you another dose, but I will admit that I caused some of my own frustration. I had planned to spend the whole day at the show, but I got a better offer. Most everyone who reads this blog understands that Joe T Garcia’s is one of my favorite restaurants in the world, so you understand how being ferried there in a limo to celebrate the birthday of a good friend would hold a much higher priority than any travel show.
The Dog Ate My Homework
Then there was my watch. I knew I had only a few minutes between Rick Steves’ seminar and that of Pauline Frommer, so I headed out to the exhibition floor to grab up as many brochures as I could and get a feel for the show. What I didn’t know was that somewhere along the way I pulled the stem out of my watch and stopped time.
And I ran out of steam. I had a quick bowl of cereal for breakfast, but it had been a very small bowl, because I needed to restock. Most of the cereal in the bag was powder. My watch might not have known what time it was, but the headache I was getting let me know it was time for food. To say the food service was lackluster and slow is an understatement, but I’ll leave it at that.
From the concession area we ran over to the stage where Pauline Frommer was giving her talk, but we were late. We’d already missed out on all kinds of valuable travel information. I whipped out my notebook and started taking down as much info as I could get for you.
Guidebooks Are Back
The best news I heard from Pauline was that guidebooks are coming back into fashion. For awhile folks gave the digital world a whirl, but digital has it’s limitations: wi-fi challenges, forgetting to charge your device, theft, the list goes on. Pick out a guidebook that suits you, dog-ear the page corners, make notes in it, tape stuff in it and carry it around with you. Guidebooks had fallen on such tough times that I feared they’d quit printing them, so I was glad to hear their sales are surging.
(I’d add that you also need a printed map. GPS is great, but there’s nothing like plotting your route on a good map and then seeing what might be around it. If you’ve traveled to the other side of the world, why limit yourself to what shows up on your phone screen? But back to Pauline.)
One of the reasons guidebooks are becoming popular again is because travelers need a curated voice. User generated reviews have some value, but people are gaming the system, especially hotels and restaurants. There’s a whole industry of review writing in third world countries, which dilutes the value of the real reviews. (I’d like to add that you’ve also got to wade through all the angst. We all know that people are more likely to complain than compliment, so the mean girls dominate.)
Pauline said the most valuable reviews are lists of things to see and do, but you still have to be wary. She said to completely ignore the food recommendations though, because the top reviewed restaurants will be the chains you find in every town.
- Rentals: When I arrived at the seminar Pauline was announcing deep discounts at some website, but I didn’t get the URL. In the next sentence she let us in on the news that rentals are no longer a bargain. Seems all the rental services were bought up by the big boys and prices have gone through the sky.
There are other reasons to rent at your destination, but it won’t be the money saving value it once was. She pointed out one reason you might want to opt for the rental is that hotels are usually in commercial zones and everything around the hotel closes down at five. If you’re renting, you’ll be in a residential zone, close to restaurants, parks and the like.
- Travel Insurance: She recommends travel insurance, but warned to never buy it from your providers. Go to squaremouth.com or insuremytrip.com. And don’t assume that the most expensive has the best coverage, compare the inclusions.
- Group Tours: They are in a world of hurt, because people are tired of being the prisoners of a bus. If you do take a group tour, ask for discounts. For small groups, she recommends: Intrpid, G Adventures, Djoser Tours, Friendly Planet and Road Scholar.
- Volunteer Vacations: Check out Earthwatch, Vaughn Systems, The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, American Hiking Society and Global Volunteers.
- Go to Cuba: The regulations inhibiting travel are vague and lax. You can meet the requirements with something as simple as going to church while you are there and call it a cultural experience. They don’t have a lot of hotels, so look for casas partiulares.
- Go to America’s National Parks: It’s their 50th Anniversary and many special events are planned.
And that’s about it. Sorry I missed the beginning of the talk. Come back next week and I’ll get back to local travel.