“I can only speak to past travel research of my own but back when my kids were little and I was planning trips to Disney, I was a frequent visitor to disboards.com- a great community board for all things Disney.”
We’re taking our first “trip” with our 9-month old to Disneyland. Prior to this we were more “world” Travelers. Nonetheless I don’t take any travel planning for granted, even if it’s something as close by and as seemingly simple as a trip to Disneyland. I found disboard.com and have been floored by the amount of helpful information and insider tricks available. I’d have to say that disboard.com is the RS of Disney vacations.
“Most of the TripAdvisor Forums are really hit and miss..”
I’d have to agree with this. I’ve been using TA for years, both the reviews and their forums and it can be all over the place. Some forum posters post just or the sake of posting with either useless responses or worse, inaccurate responses. Tons of reviews on hotels that just talk about how in love they were on their honeymoon and less about useful practical info on that hotel. You just have to spend more effort sorting through it all.
“I am not sure there is a similar business model out there for other regions like Rick Steves has established for Europe. He has managed to keep himself front and center as the face of the organization, implying a totally personal touch (which to a large degree there is) while the reality is that there is an army of contributors, writers, guides, etc. that keep the place going and churning out books and content.”
Agreed….RS is really unique in that aspect. It’s still a personal business that hasn’t sold to a mega corporation with stockholders. He can afford certain luxuries which are then passed on to us as end users because of this. He also gives out a lot of content for free and is faithful to public broadcasting. I was at a travel show last year where both RS and Samantha Brown spoke and afterwards I asked Samanthan Brown about her decision to leave the Travel Channel and join RS at public broadcast and she said it was the best decision she ever made.
For Japan I discovered InsideJapanTours.com. I used them for a tour on my first trip there and was blown away at how good it was. They have differing levels of trips and I chose something closer to the lower end. Not once did we ride in a tour bus or eat in a pre-arranged tourist type restaurant. I asked the guide about the choice of restaurants in particular and he said no reservations are made in advance and that they could be different depending on the guide because each guide can choose which restaurants they like to use and so he was taking us to his own favorites. The guide brought our small group everywhere, on the subways, local buses, split us up into several taxis, you name it. The local immersion we received was amazing. Not once we were brought shopping anywhere. In fact, if we didn’t want to do what the group did, he would ask what we did want to do and then show us how to do it, how to get there, etc. it was less like being on a “tour” and more like being shown around town by a friend.