I've been on this site for a while. I've learned a lot and I've enjoyed reading it. Recently we had a trip planned in the US, and I started reading Trip Advisor's forum for New Orleans. I got a lot of questions answered; never posted a question. I also looked around at the European forums. Some of those forums are huge! Paris alone gets so many threads I have no idea how anyone keeps up with them. I know some of you are active on TA. (That's right, Pat from Victoria. I saw you! If that's your real name.) Which do you prefer? I'd rather swim in this smaller pond for a couple reasons- -Time-just how much do I need to be online? -With so many posters on TA, it's hard to know who might be more accurate or who might have advice you want to heed. -Too much advertising on TA. You think you're looking at real info but it leads to to ad links. Thoughts?
I think it is a function of the quality of the posters AND the web master who keeps a pretty tight (and appreciated) rein over the children in the sand box. My perception is that most of the long time posters have a very similar approach and belief in travel - how to do, value of, slower, less luggage, etc. and, of course, much narrow since it focus on Europe only. So that the advice here is more consistent and probably in a narrower range. Few 5 star hotel users or fully guide tours. The group is smaller and generally friendlier - couple of exceptions.
TA is wayyyyy broader in terms of geography and users. Wikipedia estimates over 100 million travelers have used it. This site has a much smaller pool of "devotees", whereas TA seems more dynamic (users coming, going, expanding, etc) and does not coalesce around a central figure (i.e. Rick Steves). It think you'll get a broader range of viewpoints on TA because it's not centered on a single travel philosophy, whereas the RS site could probably use an infusion of outsiders once in a while to keep things fresh. How much do you need to be online? As much as you perceive you are deriving value from each additional minute/hour spent. My own thought is that researching is sort of like eating pizza, the first slice (or research source) will give you the best bang for your time and most satisfaction, then additional slices (sources consulted) will give smaller and smaller benefits - largely due to overlapping of info and diminishing returns of more and more info (i.e. "the tyranny of choice" - people say they like more choice, but it ends up stifling them from over-saturation)
Frank, excellent point about the Webmaster. I do see a lot of threads on TA that disintegrate into real ugliness. We don't get much more than testiness and snarkiness here. I'll use it again for places not covered by Rick Steves. Just prefer this.
Karen, "Time-just how much do I need to be online?" The "simple" answer is probably whatever amount of time you want. If you're looking for information to plan your own trips, you'll spend as much time as necessary to get the information you need. If you're providing information for others, that's somewhat "variable" and you can spend as much or as little time as you want. I use Trip Advisor or other travel forums on occasion, but there's such an enormous amount of information on the other sites, it becomes onerous and somewhat overwhelming to wade through it all. I prefer the more narrow focus on the HelpLine, and I like the polite and well mannered group here. I have no interest in travelling in the Asia or other parts of the world (at the moment), so this also fits with my interests. It's become somewhat of a "community" here, and RS HelpLine groups have formed in several cities around the U.S. where people get together once a month to exchange information. Some of the cities that have groups are Denver, Sacramento and Atlanta. Cheers!
The Helpline is generally a friendly place. TA in my mind serves a different purpose. TA forums focus on locals giving advice to travelers. Not to say that non-locals don't post, they do, (see my post on Scotland!) But in general if you post on the Edinburgh forum to find out what bus you should take to get from the Botanic Gardens to the Castle, someone locally will have answer. Also, TA has Destination Experts. There are TA DE's who also post to the Helpline. TA seems to pick their DE's by looking at posts in a particular forum. I became a DE for Madison WI because I was answering questions in a helpful manner. The bigger the forum, the more DE's there are. I still post to the Madison forum, but I am very cognizant of the fact that I don't live in Madison anymore and always double-check any recommendations. On the NYC forum New York Whiz is amazing. If you're traveling to the city look for her advice! TA also has the reviews section. On the Helpline you can get to know the people who are posting. Anyone who has been on the Helpline for any small amount of time will know that I post about Scotland. They can figure out my tastes and what I think is good. This is the same manner that Rick's book's work. You know Rick's perspective and can take that into consideration about everything you read in his books.
Karen, not sure why you addressed me or why my name is of any importance, in actual fact both my names here and on TA are my real names, one is my first and one is my second, and it was done that way as TA does not allow people with same screen names ( thank goodness drives me crazy sometimes on here we have quite a few posters with same names and you have to constantly check where they are from to tell them apart)
I am not sure what you are asking exactly, but I like and use both forums, and frankly I think a wise traveller does.. I like to get as many opinions on some things as possible, and I tend to go for the most convenient or constant answer . I do like some things better about TA.. I use the hotel reviews all the time, have for years.. and I post reviews. I have never been disappointed or surprised by a hotel I have booked using TA, I do however usually book directly and not through TA. I like having as many locals and expats on , they can answer some really tough questions that a tourist isn't as likely to know. Once on TA an expat made the effort to go to a certain neighborhood and look in the stores to see if they actually had a particular brand of baby formula for a poster whos baby needed a very specific type. I have also gotten answers on small local trains that take me to my relatives homes,, and they live far far off the beaten path so a locals advice is most helpful. I read my first RS book about 15 years ago , and liked it very much, I have since taken one RS tour ( Family tour) and loved it, RS picks good hotels too , but interestingly, not a single tour hotel we used is in his books! So I don't feel the need to use his books for hotels..
My bargain hunter Euro-specific side loves this site even if it has gotten a little clubbish. I'm cool with that though as I am outside the demo here anyway. I offer my views on places and stuff to do regardless if I know it will be shot down by a more monolithic group opinion. Never know who else is different too! I'm not always a bargain hunter (especially on the food side!) and like international places outside the EU so TA is my go to. I contribute there and ask questions too. I have found a good mix of opinions on all budgets/preferences. I wish RS would have a page dedicated to non-Europe trips and a guilt free policy for those who like a great (Michelin stared) meal! I know there's some closeted ones like me here too :)
I am very active on Tripadvisor and have more posts there than here as I have been designated a DE ( Destination Expert) for place that shall remain unnamed. I like that ir is broken down into smaller forums, by country and by region or state within that country, so one can get very specific advice from locals. It is easy to tell who knows what they are tali
King about by the post count. As for snarkinessmor or threads " going south", I find it less likely to happen there, as anyone can hit the button that challenges a post, and it will disappear. I guess the difference is that the Tripadvisor editors will edit mainly when asked, but it is very easy to report abuse there, and the editors respond quickly. Here,mthe Webmaster seems to have more discretion. As for advertising on Tripadvisor, just ignore the ads. Easy to do. Don't get me wrong, I like this site, obviously, because I do post here. But I tend to ask my questions on Tripadvisor, and answer questions here. I do ask questions here when I know the topic is covered by a particular expert, like Lee for German train questions, or Ed and Pam for walks in the UK. As for friendliness, on the Tripadvisor forums where I am active, I have seen nothing but collegiality and helpfulness from the regulars. ( My favorites are the Alaska and Yosemite forums). There are very few of the "philosophy of travel" discussions that we see here, and little if any of the personality conflicts we see here. So overall I find less conflict there than here. And yes, some of the Tripadvisor forums are huge, but you do not have to read everything. If you have a question, ask it and it will be answered.
Oh, James, don't think of yourself as the idiot uncle. You're more the obstreperous cousin who always likes to stir s**t up, make people mad, and sit back and enjoy. Pat, it's just that you have a pretty distinctive style of writing, and I recognized it quickly. You give good advice on both forums. Please don't take offense.
and a guilt free policy for those who like a great (Michelin stared) meal! I know there's some closeted ones like me here too :) Leslie, feel guilt free. I've made a reservation at The Ledbury (2 Michelin stars!) in London next week and I'm looking forward to it. I'd love to see more foodie posts on this site. I use both TA and RS, but I use them somewhat differently. I like RS because it is small and manageable. I can skim though the posts on a regular basis and see a broad variety of information on places all over Europe. I learn a little bit about a lot of places and get ideas for future trips ... plus, there is a nice community of people here since it is smaller and I enjoy that. TA is too big for me to read on a regular basis, but when I am planning a trip, I spend a lot of time on the boards for my specific destination and I get much of my best planning information from Tripadvisor. With the large number of locals on TA boards, I often learn about things that I would be unlikely to find out about on the RS board. When I've asked questions, I've gotten tons of detailed and informative responses. Only on TA could you get a long list of specific Polish dishes to try or 15 different and detailed responses on visiting Spencer House and the Columbia Road Flower Market. I probably read the TA London Forum (TALF) the most since I usually spend a few days there every year and there are some seriously knowledgeable people who post on that board. TALF even does monthly pub meet-ups where some of the regulars and visitors get together; I made it to one of them several years ago and it was fun. I use the hotel reviews a lot. Finally TA covers more than just Europe. I use it for all my U.S. travel planning and when I make an overseas trip to another continent. I think the ads on TA are easy to ignore.
I use Firefox browser with Ad Block and see absolutely no ads on TripAdvisor. Ever. TripAdvisor forums beat the Helpline hands down. TA has a much broader range of expertise and more helpful locals. I understand the attraction of the Helpline and am posting here myself, but it is no contest. Rick Steves offers nothing like TripAdvisor hotel, restaurant and attraction reviews. Try to find a Steves' recommendation for Schwäbisch Hall. I can't help you with the time you spend online.
Most of the advice and information on TA is reliable and very professional, in my experience. Some of the advice and info here is very good, but a LOT of it is very anecdotal, offered up enthusiastically by well-meaning folks with very limited travel experience in Europe. The amount of misinformation is substantial, so users must take care to sift through it all carefully. I suggest that you pass good-sounding ideas and info that you find on this forum through the DEs at TA before taking them as gospel.
I will add that I have found more of a sense of community on of the Tripadvisor forums. The regulars on the Southern Utah/Northern Arizona/ Grand Canyon forums have biannual ( or so) get-togethers with a Multi-day camp out, hikes and other activities. Lots of fun.
Something I have found to be pretty interesting as I talk with young people (university age) who travel extensively all over the world (well-traveled international students) is how they never use sites like RS or TA for anything, ever. Sure, they use various online travel resources relevant to their age group, but they never use or carry guidebooks. And yet, this demographic seems better equipped, better prepared, more confident, and much, much more knowledgeable about the world and how it really works than any seasoned traveler of an older age that I've ever run across. People here seem amateurish in comparison, and these are basically kids. It's amazing, really. Some may think James' reply to be quite harsh or overly-critical, but he's actually spot-on with his assessment. Think about it for a second: There's no better site than TA for what they do, and the RS Helpline is a bunch of mostly retired folks with time on their hands who come here to share information and enjoy a sense of community. There's a lot of rambling and babble that most people who might use TA and not RS would find annoying and time-wasting. I'm not sure why those of us who don't have the time of a retired person might spend so much time here...could be indicative of an undiagnosed/untreated medical condition that could be managed through heavy medication (lithium maybe). :)
I prefer navigating here to the TA forums, this site seems more manageable.
@Michael - Your observation re: younger travelers makes sense - they've grown up at a time where information is more ubiquitous, accessible, and less siloed than before (although it's still too siloed). They also access info and connect with others in a different way than older people do - largely due to new technologies that make searching for something a snap. This is totally anecdotal and my perception only, but they don't seem to have the same grasp of history that older folks do and they seem almost ADD sometimes - can't focus on any one thing before jumping to the next (way less patient). On a somewhat unrelated note, just wondering if anyone has any thoughts about whether there is a market for tours for people in the late 30s-40s age group. I don't need the hand holding, but I really do appreciate the incredible knowledge of the guides (and unfortunately going to Russia has some crazy visa blocks and requirements to be part of a tour, at least in St. Petersburg) - but it seems like there's a gap in the market for people like me. The RS tours -any tours really (Perillo, Grand European, Tauck) - seem to cater to the AARP crowd or not-yet-retired teachers (not a criticism, just a statement).
I'm a DE on TA - you can all probably guess correctly which forum :-) In addition to what everyone has said before me, a big advantage to RS is that it's much easier to get overall advice on a multi-destination trip. It's also easier to get comparisons among several destinations or routes, because many of the regular Helpline contributors are so widely traveled. (e.g., there's no place to ask Paris or Prague) TA is specific to each locale. The point of view is somewhat different on TA - the regular contributors are locals and tourists who are so enamoured of the place that they return over and over. Here you are much more likely to get someone who went once and was underwhelmed, always useful to have another point of view. So I use both sites. I also use Frommer's destinations sites. They give lists and descriptions of tourist sights and rate them, useful itinerary suggestions and good overall orientation. I don't bother with their forums - they overhauled them a few years ago, and lost most of their participants in the process. My understanding is that TA offers DE status on a specific forum after another DE on that forum has recommended her/him, based on the quality and frequency of responses. That person then has the option to accept or refuse.
"This is totally anecdotal and my perception only, but they don't seem to have the same grasp of history that older folks do and they seem almost ADD sometimes - can't focus on any one thing before jumping to the next (way less patient)." I disagree completely. I talk with lots of high school and university age young people all of the time, and I'm convinced they represent the best generation yet. Sure, there is a common stereotype most older people have about this age group, but it's mostly based on nothing but bias and prejudice (you know, they're dumb, lazy, have ADD, not patriotic, not loyal to employer, etc.). If older people were to spend time with folks in this age group, they would find them to be some of the most educated, compassionate, socially-conscious, and civic-minded people they have ever met. Believe me, they know history better than most older folks, and they are more aware of the world than any other demographic as far as I'm concerned. The greatest generation might very well have been the WWII generation in some ways, but our future is in good hands with today's kids...I have no doubt about that.
@Michael - I didn't mean to walk into a quagmire here...I don't think pitting one group against another is constructive (plus, it veers off the topic at hand), so I apologize if my comments were perceived as such. My perception was based on direct experience - not stereotyping from afar - but, as I implied, my comments were not scientifically based or should be interpreted as such. I should have chosen my words more carefully. My experience is not any less valid because someone else has an opposite experience - there is room for both, isn't there? Moreover, ADD shouldn't conflate to lack of intelligence, laziness, patriotism, or any other attributes that somehow got mixed into the critique. I don't disagree with you on your points about younger folks - if anything, I'm actually more biased in their favor since I'm closer to their age group, although that didn't come out in my comment.
No apology needed...everyone has his/her own opinion. I just hear so many negative stereotypes about young people from my own peer group and older...it just gets old so to speak. :)
This will be redundant but I wanted to chime in. My experience has been that the tourists that visit TA are of another category than those that visit RS. I have more in common with the RS group and so am better able to assist, be assisted, and relate. The "Destination Experts" on TA are not always what they appear to be and they are not always "experts". Some are great, some are bogus. TA also attracts some pretty abusive and rude people. This is something that I am sure has happened on the RS forum but I have never seen it. I think its quantity vs quality. You get quality here.
I have to comment about young people today not using forums or guidebooks. My comment is that the more things change, the more that they stay the same! When I was a student in German for 6 months we had one copy of Europe on $5 to share amongst 35 of us. So, we hardly ever used it. Certainly, we never used it for hotels! Who was staying in a hotel? We were doing hostels and pensions. We learned about the places we wanted to visit by talking to each other, to what we'd heard from family, from other who had been the year before, to the professors who were there and so on. And in addition to having a good time and meeting people we were focused on getting the museums, seeing the famous sites, and making the most of our time. From the conversations I've had with college students, none of that has changed! How great is that? : ) For the rest of us, TA and the Helpline are both useful and I can't imagine planning a trip without consulting both over some issue on another. And on a completely other note, be sure to catch the PBS special on the Lipanzzaner Horses. It's wonderful. Pam
James the problem with your theory ( that posters are of a different type on TA then here ) is that you have already read that many of us here post on both forums, and that several of TA Destination Experts post here also,, so are you saying they don't belong here because they are the "wrong " type.. ( no I don't think you are, its a rhetorical question) I think most of us actually agree that both forums have their strengths and weaknesses and that using multiple forums can be a very good idea, especially for those longer more involved trips, , more off the beaten path, and that the posters themselves are not inexperienced travellers to begin with so sometimes need a bit more then basic information, or they need information on things that RS doesn't even cover ( which is quite a bit)
On a tangent here: Laura, PLEASE post a trip report of The Ledbury! I couldn't get in there a year ago, and now since it won every title in 2012, it's going to be near impossible now. I'll live vicariously through others until the buzz lessens or I get more than a 4 week notice of a vacation. Looks fantastic!
I go first to RS, both Traveler's Helpline and Graffiti Wall, for information and tips about destinations and travel topics that are widely covered here. For other destinations and more narrow topics, the destination experts on TA are a good source of information. And there is usually no need to ask a question, because it has already been asked and answered. Trolls can be a problem for both sites, although there are far fewer on RS, thanks to the webmaster. Destination (and topic) experts also exist on both sides, although they are not called that on RS. They can be a double-edged sword, giving great information at times and promoting an agenda at others. At RS, I can accept it because the DE's really believe in their cause. At TA, some of the DE's seem to be paid shills. This is especially true of TA's air travel site, where several airline employees spend so much time defending their industry, I wonder if that is their fulltime job. On the other hand, TA forums are clogged at times with so many "Don't Use..." comments from first-time posters, who never return or post about anything else, that they seem to be the work of trolls.
I probably use TA 52% of the time, my Family states that Rick Steves is my surrogate brother, 47% of the time in a given year, 1% to other sites. Like Hotel reviews I give each comment a lot of thought and take many with a grain of salt(whatever that means). What I really like about TA is that some sites, specifically Chamonix forums has a so-called " expert" that evidently lives in the area, and seem to be a very reliable source.
I post on a couple Trip Advisor forums. Advantages of TA - (much) better layout and thread search engine - easier to get city-specific information (like "does Amsterdam subway closes on Christmas day?" or " - good and easy to access repertory of local links (for transit, attractions, museum that take you straight to their webpages) - the important presence of local (expats or residents) Destination Experts that provide valuable information on current status of things like festivals, renovation works on monuments, opening and closing of restaurants or nightlife - outdated info is more quickly weed out (like people recommending closed restaurants, withdrawn trains etc). Advantages of RS - much easier to get itinerary or general travel tips and feedback (the "macroplanning" of an European trip instead of the fine details)
- the mindset of longstanding commentators and newbie visitors is relatively well defined, so you will not find many students travelling on extreme budgets neither people aiming for posh high-end vacations. - it is a more "newbie welcoming" space since there is a core group of attentive commentators that over and over post the same answers for the same questions in a detailed manner
Thumbs up to Andre L for the zippy formatting. Nice looking post, Andre.