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What, where, when, why, and how do I....

Maybe it's just me, but there seems to have been an uptick in questions in the last couple of weeks on this forum asking specific travel questions such as where to stay in (fill-in-the-blank) or best transportation option from airport to centre of town in (fill-in-the-blank). I've been happily giving my opinions again about Venice, England, etc. and even started asking for advice myself for next year's England 2020 tour.

I remember the first question I ever asked was in 2018 about a good restaurant in Chartres that would be open on a Monday for a 30th anniversary dinner with my wife, and I was surprised how helpful people were trying to be. I even had someone from France PM me that they were making some calls to see what would be open. Because of experiences like that I now feel an obligation to put some thought into my answers and be as helpful as possible. For example, if someone were to ask where to stay in London, I feel it's important to go beyond just naming a hotel. I like to add some detail of why I liked it as well as a link so the poster has a bit more info to go on.

I know this forum is for fun and recreation-and full of free advice, but I'm curious how much effort you feel is enough to answer a question?

Posted by
17858 posts

Some folks have such depth of knowledge about a place they can jot off an in-depth answer without any additional research. I don't tend to make a lot of repeated trips to the same place, so I often have to do some online digging to verify what I think I remember. Even so, I occasionally post something inaccurate and am very glad when someone catches my error so I can correct it.

I think hotel recommendations are tricky since people's standards--and budgets--vary a lot. I know I'm atypically positioned on the cheap end of the continuum, so I don't often provide hotel suggestions. I do make notes for my own use on future trips when the subject is budget lodgings. In that price range I don't expect a lot of detailed comments; there's not much to be said about small, basic rooms. I'm sure the folks willing to pay more for charm appreciated details. The same would be true for restaurants if one is looking for a special rather than utilitarian experience. But just having the name of a place is a good start; it makes online reviews accessible.

I think it's helpful to mention when one visited a place (city, sight, hotel, restaurant). That wouldn't typically require any research by the poster, and it provides information that can be critical to a potential visitor. Seasonality can affect the experience anywhere, and conditions (especially crowding) may change a lot over the course of even a few years. And obviously, if something like a lodging rate is mentioned, it's useful to know whether that price was encountered 6 months or 6 years ago.

Edited to add: I like to identify online resources that can help the original poster answer future questions without having to wait for others to respond. I didn't find any of those websites myself; I learned about timeanddate.com, the Deutsche Bahn, nationalrail.co.uk, skyscanner.com, the Wikipedia entries for airports and other useful websites from posts on this forum.

Posted by
2917 posts

If it’s a question on where to go, stay, etc., where trying to make a choice might be confusing due to the sheer volume of possibilities, I don’t mind helping out and saying where we stayed, how long, or what we enjoyed doing. Some things cannot easily be found on the Internet. Obviously, the more information an OP provides about what he/she likes to do, preferred type hotel, etc., helps the forum formulate helpful answers. I also don’t mind mentioning lesser, out of the way places, that an OP might be in the area of, but may not know about. What I dislike are those who haven’t done any research and want the forum to plan their trip for them.

Posted by
265 posts

I would like to provide more of an in depth answer but in all of our years of traveling we do not take notes. So, the best I can do is recommend places from memory. We travel the back roads mostly when in Europe and we have stopped at some great places to see or eat. Sadly, none of you will know ;) So, kudos to you all that can get very specific in your answers.

Posted by
3545 posts

Reply may depend on the question and way it is asked. If a real newbie, I like to offer tools or resources that will last beyond this trip....'teach a person to fish' approach. If they want spoon feeding, I'll ask for more details. If none are forthcoming, I haven wasted my time. We have posters from beyond North America or even Europe, so then I try harder. Not everyone has guidebooks in their predominant language, or are used to having reference books.
I do try to go to the extent of verifying facts and current status of places, but not always possible, so ready to admit if incorrect.
I never advise on restaurants and rarely on hotels.

Posted by
2159 posts

I try to answer the question as posed, and I feel my suggestions are most useful when the OP's travel preferences are similar to mine.

I will never tell someone they don't need a guide when they're asking for recommendations for a good guide!

Posted by
3604 posts

Allan, I’m so happy to see those travel questions coming back again instead of Covid type questions! A good feeling again on this forum.

To answer your question, my amount of effort varies quite a bit depending if I’m answering a question over my morning coffee and have time to look up past trips’ details compared to if I’m answering a question away from home and just giving a quick answer. If a question is posed as a “plan my trip”, I’ll pass by that one. When questions are asked where I perceive they are a newbie with some sincere inquiries or if someone is asking and I have some additional ideas that would make their trip more special, I will spend more time providing additional information.

I do give hotel suggestions, but for myself, I usually check Booking.com’s options vs. reviews and select my own.

Posted by
1729 posts

It really just depends on my depth of knowledge about the topic but especially how engaged the person doing the questioning is. Some questions require feedback before they can be properly answered--some posters never even return to their posts, some don't answer any follow-up questions. Some people just want an answer and don't really want a conversation, which is fine, but again it really depends on what kind of question it is.

Posted by
20893 posts

I try awfully hard to answer only from my experience and not what I have read on the internet or in a guidebook. Anyone can do that. The long time posters here will remember "he who shall not be named" who had nearly zero travel experience -- maybe one short trip -- BUT was very skilled at finding answers on the internet and other travel sites. So he was very quick to response sometimes in great depth with copied material and acting like it was first hand knowledge.. The problem was that even the best of the guidebooks and travel sites contain errors. He who shall not be name did not respond well when his errors were spotted and corrected by more seasoned posters. So I just try to stick to what I know and frame the answer with those limitations. I think that is what most posters want when they ask a question.

Posted by
11963 posts

If a real newbie, I like to offer tools or resources that will last
beyond this trip....'teach a person to fish' approach.

Maria, I like this approach as well, especially if time or COVID might make information which WAS correct at the time I did something to be no longer accurate when the OP travels. Supplying official websites for attractions or transport they are likely to be needing/using, so they can monitor ongoing changes themselves, is giving them the tools they need for planning down the road.

Aside from the logistics (current hours/entry fees/rules and regs), I will give them an idea of what they'll be seeing or experiencing, if it's an attraction that otherwise doesn't change much from decade-to-decade or even much longer. Hotels and restaurants? Will only recommend only if more current reviews (Yes, I check) consistently reflect our last experiences.

Editing to add: COVID will very well alter some attraction-reservation processes, eliminate choices of accommodations and restaurants some of us have enjoyed in the past, or change their reservation systems, list of amenities and/or cancellation rules.

Posted by
3545 posts

Yes, Covid is going to mess up a lot of bricks and mortar establishments. On one side, there seems to be a lot that took the opportunity to upgrade. On the other, they will have gone under or under new management. So any advise is bound to require some caveat or explanation of the 'then and reminder that the 'now' may be something entirely different.

Posted by
661 posts

What I dislike are those who haven’t done any research and want the forum to plan their trip for them.

This a great response to those who ask a generic question like, "I have 3 weeks in Europe, where should I go, where should I stay?" or similar questions. Many forum members do plan trips on here for people, so I guess why do so much research when folks here are willing to do it for the OP.

If I have stayed somewhere, eaten somewhere or visited a place I found special, it is worth sharing. Otherwise I try to point people to booking.com, Google or any sight where I think they will find many answers. I truly believe a trip planned by oneself is a better trip.

Posted by
1590 posts

I will never tell someone they don't need a guide when they're asking
for recommendations for a good guide!

One of my pet peeves is reading answers such as don't do that, do this instead. For example, an answer may be well meaning to suggest they don't need a guide, but those do's and don'ts can come across as harsh and bossy. I'm not perfect (unless you ask my Mom), but if I do feel if an alternative-such as no guide, is worth mentioning, I try to formulate an answer to gently bring up the topic as worth a research of the alternatives.

Posted by
20893 posts

I think sometimes posters forget that this is a public form/discussion. It is not a private one-on-one where you are specifically addressing a question in a private setting. All answers have to consider that they are really providing information to broad and diverse population of travelers. So I don't consider it unacceptable to provide an answer that may go beyond the original question. However, there are times when it is obvious that a poster via their response thinks that their approach is superior and they have justify it. And, there are posters who ask a question and get very offended if the answer is not an exact response to their question. Another of my cliche's that I used to use with my students, "If you are not prepared to accept any answer, then don't ask the question." Some posters ask a question just to obtain confirmation that they have made the correct decision --- and sometimes they have not.

Posted by
12103 posts

Covid is going to mess up a lot of bricks and mortar establishments.

Thats a good thing for the new Green Economy. Good riddens.....

Posted by
12103 posts

For example, an answer may be well meaning to suggest they don't need
a guide,....

Then accept it as well meaning and move on.

Posted by
397 posts

I give as much detail as I would hope to view in any review. Some people review a place and say, “The beds are comfortable.” What does that MEAN? Are the beds firm, soft, two twins pushed together, actually a king size instead of an American “full” but listed as a “double”, do they have multiple pillows available, or are they flat pillows that disappear into nothing overnight? Words like comfy, nice, good, cheap are all relative.

I also try to provide details that may be important to travelers of different mobility levels, having travelled with my parents. Sometimes it is critical to know that there are multiple steps leading to a hotel that advertises having an elevator. Or that the elevator is teeny tiny. Or that a restaurant has multiple steps leading down to it and no alternate entrance.

I would hope that people are on this forum because they love to travel and want others to have the best trip possible. Some of us have some experience that can be shared with others who are just starting out. My first trip to Europe was researched on microfiche at the library. Researching now is overwhelming at times with the abundance of info at our fingertips.

Posted by
1590 posts

I seem to remember a poster a couple of months ago that was planning a cruise through some UK and Ireland Ports and she would ask fairly specific questions but would get angry if the answers sidetracked to things she wasn't interested in. One of her posts was a question about something specific in Dublin. I couldn't answer her specific question but I provided her with some general info on how she might be able to figure out the info she needed. Her reply to me was pretty curt that the info I provided was something she already knew. I decided not to go the extra mile with her anymore, but I still strongly believe in paying it forward by helping out when I can-as long as I still enjoy it.

Posted by
14206 posts

I often spend a lot of time answering questions for several reasons.

  1. I'm retired and have lots of time
  2. I get so much help from the good folks on the forum that I want to give back a little
  3. Since I'm responding from personal experience, going back mentally brings me so many happy memories of my own travels
  4. I like to tell people what to do 😂

I often go beyond specific answers when I feel that the poster may benefit from some lateral thinking. One that comes to mind recently was asking for a hotel recommendation near the train station in Rome to have easy access to intercity transportation. But she was planning to spend 4-5 nights there.

OTOH, if I find something offputting about the post or poster, I just move on. Recently someone I responded to misread some of my advice and criticized me, then got argumentative when I explained. I won't bother to respond to that person again.

Posted by
1590 posts

I often go beyond specific answers when I feel that the poster may
benefit from some lateral thinking.

To me, that's the kind of value this forum can bring.

Posted by
5502 posts

I often go beyond specific answers when I feel that the poster may
benefit from some lateral thinking.
To me, that's the kind of value this forum can bring.

Yes! I've always spent more time with threads that are more like opening a conversation, than in asking a black/white yes/no question a guidebook would answer.