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New Travelers - Please read a book!

I am constantly amazed at the questions here that indicate the traveler has not consulted a guidebook in planning -- or executing -- their trip. Read Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, Fodors, or something, but above all, get a good guidebook. Buy it or borrow it from the library, and even if it is a couple of years old, the book will give a good grounding for your travels.

One should not expect every question to be answered on the Internet. Why would one not want the guidance from a source that has traveled over-and-over to your destination and figured out the things that a traveler needs to know? Not just details about sites and sights, tours, restaurants, and hotels, but how to get a bus, ride a train, find WIFI, keep yourself safe, make your way from the airport to city, how to tip, and so on. You do not know what you do not know.

Once you have armed yourself with some good info from a guidebook, you will be able to ask targeted questions here that are pertinent to your trip and refining your understanding.

Posted by
3382 posts

I don’t mind the newbie questions, but I completely agree that a good travel guide book (RS ones are my favorite) is a game changer for planning or preparing for a trip. It’s one of the cheapest items of an entire trip and not a good area to try and skimp. Laurel, you are correct - “you do not know what you do not know.”

Posted by
345 posts

I second the suggestion that travelers read some about the places that you want to visit before asking questions on the forum. Smart travelers are informed travelers. Doing some research about what YOU want is good. After the research, then, please ask questions.

Many of us who have traveled are happy or sometimes, even anxious to share what we know. However, I need some basic parameters such as "how much money, what kind of food do you like, so you like museums or outside activities", etc.

Some posters only want to use trains. My husband and I rent cars so we can go to out of the way places. I love the book "Back Roads". We have one for France and one for Italy. They are DK books. We also like maps. We do not use cell phone maps. My favorite map is the laminated Borch brand that we get at Barnes and Noble. We like the flexibility of cars. My husband usually doesn't mind driving in Europe. He just likes to complain about the small roads and tight parking. I just tell him to keep driving as I check the map. :)

Also, please remember when we go to Europe, we "take" our suitcases, etc. but when we come home, we "bring" our suitcases and souvenirs with us.

Posted by
1352 posts

Oh Laurel - I SO completely agree. I've gotten to the point that if it's obvious a poster has not done any previous research I just completely move on. I'm amazed that some regular posters will happily supply answers (doing the OP's homework for them). It's one thing to ask an opinion about something specific, or to ask about detailed information regarding a particular destination, but there have been a few posters recently who admit to not buying or wanting to buy a guidebook. Even these posters could at least start with "explore Europe" section of this website!

Posted by
3460 posts

I have to agree with both of you.
Some of the OPs are totally clueless.
When I look back on my first trip to Europe, many years ago, I had a 3 ring binder stuffed full of info, I had printed out plus a Rick and Fodors book.

My sister thought it was hilarious until we needed more info.

I often wonder how some of these trips they take turn out.

Posted by
8889 posts

I agree. But I don't mind answering newbie questions which explain some concept they don't understand. It is important to know where the gaps are in your knowledge.
If someone asks how to get from A to B, I tend to explain how to find out this info yourself - not sure this approach is appreciated.

"how to get a bus, ride a train," - those are skills I learnt as a teenager, just getting around my local area. I find it a bit strange people can grow up without going on a bus or a train. But I never flew until I was 18.

What continually amazes me is the number of people who think they can drive a car in a new country without doing any homework first. Laws are different in different countries, road signs are different. You MUST look these up and learn them before you go to a country. But many appear to think it is not their problem that they don't understand the rules and the signs.

Posted by
1720 posts

I'll answer virtually anything on this forum without any snarkiness because frankly traveling to Europe for the first time can be intimidating--I know it was for me.

That being said, each time I advise a newbie I should make it a point to wax poetic about Priscilla's 'il dolce far niente'--the sweetness of doing nothing. First-timers cannot grasp this concept. RS talks about it here and there in his interviews, but his walks and tours have as many 'check off the checklist items' as any of his competitors' travel books. However, I don't blame him because he's giving people exactly what they want, as in 'How can I get to the Pantheon and how long should I spend there?'

I think discovering a great hang-out place, and actually sitting there and whiling away a couple hours while talking, sipping & people-watching is one of the greatest things about Italy, whether it be in urban or rural areas.

Posted by
12103 posts

I agree that one should read a guide book as an additional way of planning for a trip, I do not rely solely on the internet. That would not be my personal advice on being asked as to how a trip should be planned, researched and so on. Books a couple of years old also have value. I suggest reading Rough Guide, the general one on Europe, and the specific area or country book. Consult Let's Go too regardless if you go on a modest budget or not.

Posted by
6543 posts

Anywhere we visit, I read about the place on Wikipedia--city by city.
I also read about the airports I am going into and out of to learn about ground transportation. A list of every airline flying into that airport and the cities they fly to is a great tool and a timesaver used constantly.
Wikipedia gives great history, talks about the towns, socioeconomics and covers weather's average high and low temperatures, average precipitation, etc. It is such a wealth of knowledge accessed in a half second.

Posted by
1107 posts

A huge mistake I see new travelers make is that they only consider going to places they've heard about. Hence, the Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice itinerary fixation. While it's understandable as a starting point, it's frustrating that many just close their minds to possible new adventures.

Posted by
2466 posts

Completely agree Laurel. It's often patently obvious that some posters post questions without having done any research at all either in a book or online. Or want us to plan their trip for them. Some may be truly lost in knowing where to begin. For those, I'd much rather point them to places where they can learn how to do it for themselves - like a guidebook, or the man in seat 61 for train travel., booking.com and TripAdvisor for accommodation, Google flights or skyscanner for flights, etc. ( rather than spoon feed the answers - the old "give a man a fish" approach). But for others, the ones who just seem too lazy to do any work for themselves - those I just roll my eyes and pass them by.

Posted by
6412 posts

Yes the Internet and social media has made people too lazy for their own good.
It is like trying to live off of fast food.

Posted by
148 posts

I agree. My favorite posts are “Can I do 12 countries in 6 days?” - Type questions. Of course, one could, if they really wanted to...

Posted by
14 posts

I have not yet made my trip to Rome but I must agree that a few good books and searching the web is great. I have a whole section on my phone with link to everything from restaurants to sites and in between. I also have items copied as pages and saved to my phone.

Posted by
20632 posts

It is the background and age of the poster. When we first started traveling in the dark ages, there only thing we had was a guidebook and most just brushed the surface. Maybe a rail pass in hand since they were convenient and cheap. No advance reservations at a hotels - just use the TI when you arrived. We didn't do a whole lot of pre-planning. Had some rough ideas but nothing set in stone. So we just started rolling down hill and bouncing off a few stones as we went along. Worked well, never had a problem and enjoyed every minute. To a degree we still travel that well. And as my wife will say frequently, "We have never had a bad trip."

BUT, there is a huge set of travelers today who have to have every hour programmed from advance ticket sales, hotel reservations, the order of sightseeing -- why ??? because it can be done in the world of the internet and instant communications. There are some who could not conceive of not having every hotel and train reserved in advance. It is what they like (or think) they should do. We couldn't do it, would not, and our sons and dils are of the same mind set. We brained washed them. Not going to argue with anyone that our approach is superior but it sure works for us for the past 50 years.

Posted by
915 posts

I think most posters posting on this forum have done some homework and the forum members are nice enough to help. The only questions that bug me are about where they should go in Europe for the first time. That one floors me as I assume that person wants to go to Europe because they saw or heard something. Asking people what country they should go to is like asking someone what flavor ice cream they should eat-it's different for everyone.

However, I noticed there are less trolls here than before due to the lack of "18 countries in 10 days" questions.

Posted by
16847 posts

I head out not even knowing all the cities I will sleep in, so you can imagine how I feel about an hour-by-hour schedule. However, there is value for a first-time traveler in working out such a schedule at least tentatively, so he/she can see whether there's any possibility of fitting all the planned sightseeing targets into the number of days available. (Usually the answer is "nope".)

Posted by
20632 posts

Acraven, I am guessing you are pass 50 and probably 60. I am reminded from my military days how great detailed attack plans are until the first shell lands. I have read here and on other travel sites how unhappy some travelers are when they cannot stick to their predetermined plan. And it is so easy to get off schedule quickly. That is one of reason that we even with a loose schedule we always plan a totally blank day every four or five days. We might sleep till 10am that day.

Posted by
9421 posts

I do not mind answering questions from newbies. I don’t want to give that impression. However, like many of you, I resent it when the traveler, whether new or experienced, clearly have failed to lookup the simplest facts.

I don’t mind answering questions about confusing topics no matter how often they are asked. Swiss passes, the Berner Oberland, Roman neighborhoods, and places Rick Steves doesn’t cover come to mind. Or offering ideas on things to do that are beyond “the usual suspects.”

Chris F, so many Americans grow up in places with poor public transportation or in small towns with none. All we had in my small town was a daily Greyhound bus to Minneapolis. Not exactly preparation for international travel. 😁 Trains are scarce outside of the Northeast, so when an American (Canadians, too, I suspect) gets to Europe, they are ill prepared for buses and trains. I think Rick Steves does a particularly stellar job of explaining when and how to use public transportation. You are right about driving, too. There is a tendency to assume the laws and practices wher one comes from are universal. So not true,

I know a couple who saved do their last day of a week in Rome for their Vatican Museum tour. If only they had bothered to read a book.

One can research a bit on Wikipedia or Reddit, but Do those sources cover practicalities like what to do when there is Acqua Alta in Venice or what are the pros and cons of train travel inFrance? I like to use the Internet as a secondary source to pin down current details like timetables for lifts in the Val Gardena or new restaurants in London.

Mike, I agree completely! Another value of the guidebook (although travel magazines and sites, the New York Time Travel Section, the Guardian Travel Section, etc. are good, too) is finding out about extraordinary places. But I keep coming back to the guidebook for those questions about logistics.

Posted by
24 posts

I never read any books prior to my trip last year but I did A LOT of online research Google is the miracle of the interwebs. I also watched a lot of RS. I think it just amounts to some people not wanting to have to do the leg work and letting others in the forum do it for them. That approach is sometimes self correcting.

Posted by
5817 posts

I can’t think of the last time I bought, or even looked at a guide book before I planned or took a trip. I really don’t think they are necessary any more.

Obviously no one way of researching is perfect but for me the internet provides me with more useful, more accurate and more up to date information than any guidebook I can think of.

If I want to know how to tackle the public transport system for example, it’s easy enough to find the official sites with ticket info, maps etc. It’s just as easy to find video on YouTube showing how to operate ticket machines etc. Streetview can show me what the station looks like and how to find it. A short trawl through local blogger sites can find me less obvious sites to visit, if I want, and interesting restaurant recommendations

Any rare question that I can’t find the answer to is usually solved by a quick question on a forum, ( yes even TripAdvisor!) with an answer provided in hours if not minutes. I can’t get any of that from a guidebook.

The internet certainly isn’t perfect but when you take a step back and see what it can do and how it can help you it’s nothing short of astounding.

I’m certainly struggling with some of the thoughts on here that googling an answer is in some way “lesser” or a more lazy than reading a book. “Lazy” or just more efficient?

Posted by
3320 posts

Many people (often the same people) have grown accustomed to "googling" things and having answers handed to them on a silver computer screen. So in a way it's natural that some folks think the same applies to the forum.

I (and most on the forum) don't mind answering questions from anyone who has done some research and needs additional information. But when it is obvious the poster, newbie or veteran, has done absolutely no research whatsoever with guide books or the internet, I simple move on.

To paraphrase something in "the good book", I'll help those who help themselves.

Posted by
148 posts

Frank made a very good point about travelling without the use of the internet (way back when). I am guilty of researching a lot before I go now, back then I opened a map and visited a library. I always had a great time. I also never booked a hotel room (or hostel) back in the day, but I didn't have to because not many people did . I can’t imagine embarking on a trip without most of my hotels, events or trains booked. It does make me nostalgic for those internet-free days.

I think, and correct me if I am wrong, a newbie question is fine as long as it is asked if they are completely stumped or want some advice or encouragement after they have done at least some research.

I like newbies. I like to help others. I love to "talk" travel and share info.. It's fun to connect with a group like this - much better than watching tv. So, I say let all the questions and embarrassing experiences fly! I can just skip the questions I don't want to respond to.
There is a restaurant/hotel review section. Maybe we need a luggage review section.

Posted by
9421 posts

There's nothing wrong with "newbies" and their questions. Starting this topic was a desire to get some of the newer members to consider a step before travel planning, before pinging the Internet for random answers.

I cannot imagine planning a trip and deciding how many days to spend somewhere without having read quite a bit in advance. How do you know you want to spend 3 nights, 5 nights, or 7 nights somewhere unless you have some inkling of the sights and experiences to be had? So many people think that once they've done the Colosseo, Forum, and Vatican that they have "seen" Rome. I had no idea what Rome held in store until I devoured Rick Steves' book for the first trip.

Yes indeed! Planning that first trip to a completely unfamiliar place is tough. Then, there is the "let's see what's there when we get there" approach. Some folks like to pin down a lot of details. Others like to fly "by the seat of their pants."

Posted by
2388 posts

Chris, many locations in the States do not have public transportation and Amtrak is only available in a few places. The public transportation and trains is one of the things I love about Europe, because they are not an option in any place I've ever lived (although Amtrak did have one train a day in two of the places I lived, they were late at night or very early in the morning and the stations are in unsafe areas).
The RS guidebooks meet my need for hand holding with their detailed info on transportation options.

Posted by
145 posts

I don't mind helping newbies, either, but I don't like helping people who have obviously done no research on their own. Or those who start a new topic that has been discussed in great detail already.

When I went to Europe the first time, there was no Internet. We had a book called "Europe on $5 a day" -- now I've aged myself! Even today whether we are traveling in the US or abroad, we still like to get a guidebook.

I like to do my own research and then come to this forum when I have specific questions. Although I must say that I benefit from reading the detailed answers that are given to other people's questions. I usually end up learning something I hadn't thought of.

Posted by
5318 posts

It seems the "guidebook or Google" question is much like "paper maps versus GPS" -- both provide different perspectives, and a combination of the two enhances the experience. Big picture plus up-to-date details.

Posted by
2963 posts

As I read these posts the thought, "You haven't seen anything yet" crossed my mind. There is a entire generation of individuals that won't even consider looking in a book for information. They pull out their phone and if they can't access it online, or get a quick answer on the internet then they assume an answer doesn't exist. I see their smiling faces daily as a High School teacher.

They are terrific at using online resources and can do amazing things on their phones. Yet, they are seemingly at a loss to use any sort of research method that would require investing more than just a few moments of time or opening a book. These are the upcoming generation of travelers.

Posted by
1087 posts

There are different approaches. Only one of my friends has traveled as much as me (which is more than most we know, but less than most of you who hang around these boards). Her approach drives me nuts - she goes to a place to 'see what's there' - rather than going to place to see what you know is there and are interested in. I rail to DH about it and he just tells me to relax - it is their way, and I need to respect it. I have given lots of information, guidebooks, websites, but all for nought. She is truly uninterested in planning until they are 'on the ground'. Seldom does she refer to a book, website, or brochure. When I hear of their trips, I grimace inwardly thinking about all they missed, but they are happy. They did what they want (even if it is nothing). So I bite my tongue - mostly - and irritate her when I don't.

We've traveled twice with them. Once was quite successful, but the second - not so much. Neither couple has suggested a third. We just don't match - I'm an obsessive trip planner, and she is the complete opposite. In the end we are both happy with our trips.

I think if someone is asking, give them a little info, even if it is a referral to a book. At least they are trying. The only reason I don't offer more advice is that I know others on this forum have much more experience to offer.

PS - we work together at a public library, so she has easy daily access to as much info as she wants.

Posted by
11573 posts

I don't mind answering certain questions either but I'm frankly baffled and annoyed with the, "We're going to (city/country/continent) for (__ days/weeks). Please recommend an itinerary, where to eat, where to stay and what we should see?" posts. Why would one ever choose to go somewhere they apparently know nothing about? At the same time, why would they leave it to people they've never met to make to plan their entire trip? It's really frustrating when they don't give you anything to go on, such as budget, interests, special circumstances (mobility challenges, traveling with infants) etc. Our style - longer stays in fewer places - may also be completely different than someone else's. 'Il dolce far niente' doesn't work for everyone, although I personally feel that's unfortunate.

Basic Information has never been more available via guidebooks, local tourism websites, hotel review and booking sites, travel forum histories and so forth but one has to be willing to spend TIME with them. If not, then best to take a tour where the details are taken care of and choices/itineraries are made for you.

I do have some sympathy for the transport questions as I struggle with foreign transport myself. Here in the U.S. many of us don't have any experience with buses, trains and metro systems so sorting those can be intimidating. LOL, idiot's guide, please? :O)

CJ, I'm a big believer in the "give a man a fish" approach as well. I'd rather give them the tools (usually best websites) they need to make the best choices for them and to stay current on unexpected changes, such as temporary closings. What we may tell someone is true today may not be true for a trip next year!

I must admit - there are times when I think of hopping a plane and just going somewhere on a whim just for the heck of it. It could be either a miserable or fun experience. I have been around long enough that I would have a fun time of just pure exploring with no schedule, no plan. Just go somewhere and see what's there. It would be an adventure and why not?

Posted by
9421 posts

SunBaked I feel that allure occasionally too, and for experienced travelers that may be OK. Same for Emma’s approach as an experienced traveler. But if someone can not figure out where to go, or deal with some of the basic logistics, a guidebook is a great place to start.

On a related note, I love reading travel articles (Conde Nast I’m talking to you,) but find some of them, when they concern places I know well, come off as very shallow and not good guidance, especially for an inexperienced traveler.

It’s fine to go off with no agenda, itinerary, or knowledge if you have unlimited time and money. But people coming here are usually adhering to budgets and time limits.

Posted by
12103 posts

In planning my first trip, obviously way before the appearance of the Internet, I used travel brochures. In SF I went to a few travel agencies to see if they would part with some of their travel brochures plus I went to the German Tourist Office located in the Union Square area to pick up free travel brochures, they were super helpful.

The standard book then was "Europe of $5 a Day, " which I never used. I picked London, Paris, Vienna, (west) Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Versailles for the first two trips for the obvious reasons.

I agree that one should not expect to have all questions answered by the internet. Answers are not always there, then what? I don't use Trip Advisor at all, only booking.com but still not exclusively.

All in all traveling in Europe nowadays is far easier, simpler than it was 45 years ago, cities/towns are much more tourist-oriented. Part of it is due to the present technology, eg, electronic boards in the train stations and in the trains themselves, AC on the trains, etc.

Posted by
1455 posts

I'm always puzzled by the ones that want you to plan their itinerary. I can understand and sympathize with those who need help with transportation, ATMs, immigration, even those concerned with safety; it means they've at least done some kind of research. But, planning someone's itinerary is beyond me. I wouldn't want someone planning my itinerary. If we've chosen a travel destination, we know generally why we want to go there and what we want to see. Bless you to all who help plan those itineraries for people.

Posted by
2388 posts

And honestly, if you want some one to plan your itinerary, hotels, and food, there is an entire industry devoted to doing that-it's called group tours!

In planning a trip to Italy - I cheated. I knew I wanted to go to Italy, but had no idea where things were located. So, I just looked up a RS itinerary for his group tours - modified it, decided number of days per place, then filled in the sightseeing last.

Posted by
5029 posts

I had to explain to a young person the other day, how to look something up in a phone book. Its just not done anymore. Reading a travel guide would be equally baffling. I don't know too many young folks who ever read a book voluntarily. It takes too long. Yes, they want instant answers, and travel because they saw someplace in a movie, not because they read literature and history that sparked their imagination.

Other than complain, I'm not sure there's much you can do. The internet just makes it too easy to get someone else to think for you.

Hey Stan,
You don't think watching a vampire movie in Volterra, Italy sparks the imagination? ... Just joking with you.
Society and culture is forever changing. With the computer age - everything is accelerated. Over time - various languages and cultures will disappear with globalization. Distinctive societies developed when groups of people were isolated from each other more or less. Now, the opposite is happening. Like it or not - the beehive mentality and behavior is developing.

Posted by
255 posts

What baffles me is the people that do their research and have an extremely planned itinerary of museums, churches, castles, but no time to just wander around, and have a feel of the place they're in!
I remember seeing a forum post from a man complaining about a city (don't remember which) pass that lasted x number of days, and he was complaining that in that number of days it was not possible to see all the museums in the booklet...
What I love the most about visiting a brew place is to see the city, how people live, the little streets etc!

Posted by
12103 posts

The basic factor is that "they" had better read the history and literature otherwise "they" won't know what "they" are viewing and won't be as discriminating in their choices, will they?

Posted by
7146 posts

“I don't know too many young folks who ever read a book voluntarily. It takes too long. Yes, they want instant answers, and travel because they saw someplace in a movie, not because they read literature and history that sparked their imagination.”

Quite a negative generalization of “young folks”. This is not true at all in my experience. I know tons of people under 30 who love to read books, including my 28 yr old son. He is extremely well traveled. Grew up w me taking him to Europe often. Since he turned 20 he’s been travelling all over the world on his own and loves it. Travel is his passion.
He and his peer group do not read or use travel books. Not because they can’t read, not because they’re too lazy or want instant answers... it’s because they do things differently. It is not better or worse than the way many of us choose to do it.
My son is very intelligent and capable, he works for Apple Corporate, where you have to be highly intelligent, capable and think outside the box.
Just because a younger generation chooses to do things differently than older generations does not mean it is wrong. I do not admire that way of thinking.
In fact, it might actually be better than how old people do things.

Posted by
1094 posts

I am not a "newbie traveler", but am planning my 6th trip to Italy, to some places I have not been to. I love this forum because I don't feel stupid for asking questions, e.g. taking a bus or driving a car to Assisi. If I didn't ask I never would have known about Eremo dell Carceri and driving into Spello. I truly appreciate all the people who answer other's questions. I have have learned so much here, besides reading books (showing my age)!

Posted by
11573 posts

I have have learned so much here, besides reading books (showing my
age)!

Me too, Charlotte. I also have a lot of paying forward of advice to do as I'll be looking for some wisdom when next we plan a voyage into the Great Unknown! :O)

Susan, I guess I'm fortunate as well to know some lovely, intelligent young people who have more than passing acquaintance with the written word. Gotta love those young folks!

Posted by
82 posts

I am the kind who plans down to the hours of each day for my vacation. There are two main reasons for that. First, I have too few vacation days and too many places I want to go and see, hence the urge to "maximize" the time value of a trip. Second, it is FUN to research and plan for a vacation, figuring out where to go on what day by what means. I have a plan A for good weather, and a plan B for rainy days. Those who rely on other people to tell them what to do on their vacation really miss out on the opportunity to "extend" their vacation from days/weeks to months. The joy and anticipation that comes from doing my own research makes the whole vacation that much more satisfying. That being said, our vacation days often start off with the starting point I planned and then veer off because we end up wanting to spend more time there or something else get our attention. I don't get upset about not following my plan, as planning itself has been so much fun. Plus nothing is wasted really, I can recycle what I learned for a return trip.

But everyone is different. Some would rather spend their time gardening, working on a house project, whatever. Some simply don't have the time for planning but still want to have a nice vacation. Or maybe some just want to take a picture in front of colosseum and show it to their friends, been there done that kind of thing. I get that. Regardless, I will help answer specific questions if I can, but will ignore the completely clueless kind simply because I don't know where to start.

Posted by
714 posts

along with a guide book I would say buy a good map of the region or country. Get a basic idea of the geography of the country, where the cities are located, railways etc. Google maps and other sites are great for towns and cities but you need the large format of a map for initial planning.

Posted by
5029 posts

I apologize if I ruffled some feathers with my overgeneralized comments on young people. I perfectly agree that there are many young people who do read for pleasure, and have different ways of getting things done. I do respect that many have effective researching skills and resources beyond mine. My mistake was in attributing lack of interest in reading to younger people, when it really applies across the board.

The original post was about people not doing basic research by reading a guidebook before asking anonymous strangers to give them the most basic guidance on where and what they should do. My observation has been that many people (including my extended family, friends, and co-workers) just don't think of reading an actual book as a the first step in research, and turn to the internet for the quick and easy.

Posted by
9421 posts

Stan, I agree with your last statement. Statistics on book reading show an alarming lack of interest by both grads and non-grads, college educated and not. I find it sad. I still say " you don't know what you don't know" and it is difficult to plan a trip simply by asking questions.

Posted by
30971 posts

I'm a bit late getting into the discussion but I also find it a bit annoying that some people don't seem willing to do any research before posting questions on the forum. A good example is questions along the lines of "Europe for 2 weeks, where to go" and of course the "Want to visit 10 countries in 2 weeks" questions. Many of these posters don't provide any details on their interests, what they want to see or what prompted their desire to go to Europe. I'm less likely to reply to these types of questions, but will sometimes do that just to get them started or to ask for further clarification on their plans.

However, there are others who at least make an attempt, and usually start out their post with, "I've searched the forum but can't find the answers I'm looking for". I'll generally try to offer some comments to get them started or show them where to look to find the information.

Especially with newbies, I always try to mention that they should read ETBD to begin with, and then follow that up with the country or city-specific guidebooks.

Interesting discussion......

Posted by
834 posts

This really the most absolute rubbish, elitist crud, or maybe a marketing exercise for Mr Steves books.
If you were at a gathering and someone drifted out “we are thinkig of a trip to Italy but have no idea where to go”, the responses would be along the lines of “we liked this place. That place was stinking hot in August”. You would happily help expand their knowledge.

No way would you say “go read a book and then come back with your questions”.

Unless you were very rude.

Posted by
20632 posts

Unfortunately, Peter, there is a HUGE difference between a forum like this and a live conversation with someone in a group who can respond to questions. It is not being rude at all to suggest a little reading when trying to offer some help with limited background information from the OP.

And I have encountered similar questions in public and have offered the suggestion that a trip to a local library with travel books and DVD is a good starting point.

Posted by
9421 posts

I assure you, Peter, I am not conducting a marketing exercise for Rick Steves.

If a friend, or even an acquaintance, ask my help with an itinerary, I go all out to help them. I send links, toss up ideas, make referrals, and everything we do on this Forum. After we talk, I still recommend a good guidebook because they don't know what they don't know.

We just see so many basic questions that indicate no desire to research. I believe a lot of new travelers assume things will work like they do where they live (primarily the U.S. and Canada for this Forum). Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, how many people would be spared the angst of traffic tickets 8 months after their trip if they had read and paid attention about the ZTLs?

Of all the books I read, Mr. Steves does the best job of logistics for a newbie.

Posted by
5318 posts

Even at a party I would probably encourage the asker to check guidebooks at the library, look at TV travel shows (and/or online videos by Rick Steves, Rudy Maxa, Burt Wolf et al) Yes, I would probably talk about my favorite places, train rides, funny experiences ... but if I got too many "Yeah, but..." responses I would excuse myself to go to the ladies' room and move on to another conversation.

Posted by
16847 posts

My approach is not as Peter describes. If a friend of mine is planning a trip to Europe, I not only recommend books, I loan them books if I have something pertinent. Plus files of newpaper/magazine clippings. And I send them other travel information in electronic form. I'm a total pest. Not too many folks mention a second trip to me.

Posted by
11573 posts

No way would you say “go read a book and then come back with your
questions”.

Hmmm. I don't know as most forum respondents put it that tersely? I'm also not sure why suggesting a good tool for starting a plan is any different (ruder?) than providing the website for an attraction? LOL, I'll sometimes follow the book suggestion by telling them that I could go on about churches in Rome, art museums in Florence, hiking trails in Utah, etc. all day but if they don't LIKE any of those things, that sure wouldn't be helpful, would it? :O)

Just loaned our DK Amsterdam guide to the same nephew yesterday that I loaned our DK Rome book to 5 years ago. He put that last loaner to very good use!

Posted by
1655 posts

This is an interesting conversation. It makes me think of how blessed we’ve been.

My wife and I met on a high school trip to Europe in1966. Our chaperone, her science teacher and my best friend’s mom held monthly meetings starting six months before we left. We were each assigned a segment of the trip and had to make a presentation to the group about where we were going and what we would see. There were 8 of us and the entire tour was 64 high school students. We were the only ones who had a clue.

That instilled in us both a love for travel and a way to approach planning. I try to have patience with those who are new to overseas travel. I think a lot of the newbies are just overwhelmed. They also see this as a once in a lifetime chance and don’t want to goof it up. That leads to trying to do too much or planning paralysis.

Posted by
1843 posts

Laurel,
The way I see it, the Forum is just one tool. If someone has a quick question, it's easy for them to ask it, and we as helpers should welcome that. Afterall, it means they have gone to the trouble of finding the Rick Steves' web site, and there is a lot of great info on this site (including the Forum).

But, let's step outside the topic of travel:
Would one's broker say: Go read a good guidebook about investing before asking me?
Would a doctor say: Go read a good book about health or medical topics before asking me?
Would a rep at an auto supply store or mechanic say something similar?
Would someone selling new cars suggest someone buy Consumer Reports or consult auto review instead of asking them how a car compares....they likely would not make many sales!!
Would the guy at the meat counter suggest someone go and buy a cookbook instead of asking him how long and what temp to cook a standing rib roast during the holiday season? Why does Butterball have the Turkey hotline on Thanksgiving....they don't have a recording saying: Questions: consult a cookbook!
And, then the biggies: Would the person who sells personal computers or a helpline for software say that someone should consult magazines or tutorials (granted, I am sure they would be tempted to)?

Or the person who sells/provides support for cell phones? (We likely wore out a few reps as we were learning our new smart phones, YES in addition to trying to read the manuals and Google. We'd never felt so stupid in our entire lives!!).

And the dear souls at Home Depot....the plumbing department or the garden department.......would they dare tell a customer to go read a How-To book on plumbing or to read up on what plants will perform better in various micro climates before asking them questions? Of course not....they might not stay employed very long. I'm a big gardener, and I continue to get amazed at just how little the population at large knows about that topic, but I patiently answer questions when asked.

And, guys, how many of you showed up a jewelry store when you were young knowing very little about diamonds when you were preparing for the question of a lifetime? Did the jeweler tell you to go to the library and read up on diamonds? Likely he/she educated you patiently as you learned about the C's of diamonds.

Would it be better if everyone consulted guidebooks before engaging in conversation/asking questions.....well, I guess. But, is the population at large going to do that? Do you do that for all the topics (and many more) above? Nahhhh.

Not every traveler is even aware of guidebooks, so we can gently make them aware.

People come here looking for help. Just as we might ask questions on all sorts of topics from all sorts of providers that are likely asked over and over by many others, and we usually find that they are patiently answered. Let's hope we can show the same patience as we go about that for what we are asked re: travel.

Posted by
1352 posts

Maggie, the big difference between us on this forum and most of your examples is that none of us are paid employees! Most of us spending the time to answer questions are paying it forward as we received help when we were planning our first trips (and subsequent trips). I totally don't mind - and enjoy answering questions about things which I have first hand knowledge as I've been there - done that. But - before I asked my first question here more than 10 years ago, I did a bunch of research on my own first! I do see posters here who have done zero research on their own. I've recently seen posts where people say "I've decided to go to x. What is there to do there? Where should I stay? Where should I eat?" They literally want others to do their research for them. Nothing wrong with asking for recommendations, but I don't really want to do all of someone else's work for them.

The exception to my first assertion is that there are an amazing amount of contributors who live in Europe and are EXTREMELY generous with their time and knowledge!

Posted by
6412 posts

sales people doctors lawyers stock brokers etc. just want your money that is why they do not say go read a book
we are just promoting information literacy when we refer people to read guide books

Posted by
11573 posts

Not every traveler is even aware of guidebooks, so we can gently make
them aware....

...that there are very helpful books which are excellent resources for starting the process! 😉
(Gosh, isn't that where this whole thing started?)

Remember the days before the internet? Books and tourist-agency brochures were really all we had to work with back then. Yikes, in some ways it doesn't feel like that long ago!

Posted by
228 posts

I agree with most comments so far regarding 'lazy' travellers (though I wonder if those who ask for everything in one post are genuinely planning a trip but rather 'day dreaming').

As for research, I never buy books any more. The internet has everything I need and is easy and fast, even while travelling. I don't even buy novels any more, despite being an avid reader who chomps through book after book (mostly historical fiction) - I use a Kindle, the best invention ever for voracious readers who love to travel!

Posted by
834 posts

But I wonder if an internet search would bring up things like this:

Veice, Campo San Polo. Check out the pharmacy, look for an oval plaque on the wall to the right of the door. It reflects trademark infringement about four hundred years ago.

In San Marco, there was a well known and respected pharmacy, the Due Colonna, the Two Columns.

Pharmacy operators in San Polo opened a pharmacy, aloso called the Due Colonna, a clear infringement of trademark.

The Commune decreed this to be not proper, demanded the San polo guys changed their name,which they did.

To Uno Colonna e Mezzo, a Column and a half. You can see it on the plaque.

Also in San Polo, in the Sacristy of the church, a brilliant confronting Stations of the Cross by Tiepolo, the crucifiction told in fourteen frames. There is no Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild here, more a political prisoner being done to death. Also the ascention is a great piece, Jesus ascending, leaping towards the heavens. Worth the three euro admission.

Another one. Standing on the Rialto, look towards San Marco, to the building high on your left. You will see a golden head hanging from the side of the building. There used to be a famous pharmacy there, the Testa del Oro, the Golden Head. Sadly now it is just another shop selling the ususl stuff.

And yet another. At the Rialto fish market, at the Grand Canal end and outside, you will see a plaque on the wall listing the minimum size of various fish species allowed to be sold. Plaque dates from about 1910.

Also at the fish market, the side remote from the fruit and veg, outside, stairs lead upstairs. There are a pair of closed gates, wrought iron, bearing the inscription translated from Greek to Latin by Erasmus in the 16th century, “piscis primum a capite foetet”, (fish begins to stink from the head), a comment about the stench of corruption starting at the top.

The Rialto bridge took some four years to construct, and the merchants and moneylenders who were funding it (What news on Rialto, Shylock) started to get grumpy. The word got around that the bridge would not be finished until “the male member grew fingernails, and flames burst from the female equivalent”.

Antonio da Ponte, builder, had the last laugh, and as you face the bridge on the San Polo side, to your left on the building, you will see a pair of plaques, with said fingernails and flames. Never has been a good idea to insult civil engineers.

All little details, very endearing. Even guide books are mostly mute on such treasures.

Posted by
309 posts

Peter, I'm with you. I've been posting on this forum since we took our first trip to Europe in 2010. I've received invaluable advice. But it's always a bit scary when I submit a new topic with my trip questions because I'm a bit unnerved by this crowd sometimes. Usually I try to have my questions so well framed, where I can't get questioned for not doing something correctly, that I've spent too long crafting the question. On my latest post about three weeks ago, I sought advice for my 17 year old son who would be accompanying me on a business trip to Paris and thought I'd get some tips from this crowd (who might be parents or grandparents of teens) who could give me ideas to share with him. Mostly it was super helpful. Truly. Of course there was the judgmental stuff, too; "Why isn't he on here asking these questions?" - Um, because he's 17 and he's not really in the RS target audience? "He's 17, let him plan it for himself!" -Oh, okay, forget I asked, and why are you replying again?

With newbies I see a lot of responses to them that go like this,

"No, we can't give you recommendations, because we don't know what you like"
or
"You don't say what your budget is"
or
"you like food, culture, and beautiful scenery...sorry, but that doesn't narrow it down for us" Saw that one today.

Ugh. You know...if you don't want to answer the questions, then scroll on by. Otherwise be helpful by answering the questions! Frankly, I think newbies just want to know what you find interesting. What did you do that you loved? Maybe they love beaches, but by learning what you loved to do when you were in the south of France, they'll discover a new thing that they'll love. When I share my travel pictures on Facebook I don't ask my friends to tell me what they want to see based on their interests. I just share! And inevitably, someone will come up to me at a later date and say, "I loved your pictures of Croatia...based on your photos, we're thinking of going there...it's not something we would have considered before."

As for reading guide books, getting informed, etc. Yes, in general more data gathering is better than less. However, this younger generation may not do it the way we do it. My older son is studying abroad in Stockholm and is traveling as much as possible. He's been to Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and the UK...in the last 2.5 months. Do they read guide books and research? No! Does he text me at each place and say, 'hey, ma, what should we see in Prague?" Yeah! And I don't mind. I love it. YMMV.

Posted by
5817 posts

I really don’t see what the problem is with asking for a bit more information about someone’s interests and budget when replying to a query. If I ask for this type of additional info it is to help me provide a useful answer.
Without budget info I am more than happy to reccomend the premier suite in the Ritz as a hotel with A/C, convenient for all the main sites but I am not sure how helpful it would be! Similarly ask me what to do in town I can provide you with a detailed thesis of the best shops and a thorough summary of all the main museums but if you aren’t interested in shopping and history I am wasting both our time. A bit of detail in a question is just helpful in a two way conversation. It’s a starting point. “What can I do in London and where can I stay?” Simply isn’t.

I totally agree that if you find a question irritating it is better to not reply than snap. I am applying that theory at the moment with the recent slightly bizarre spate of questions about the weatherin the U.K. and specifically what to do if it rains......

Posted by
11573 posts

Sorry but I have to agree with Emma, Wendy. The very same up-front information we'd expect from posters with the, "Where to go/what to do/where to eat/where to stay" itinerary questions are the same that any paid travel agent would ask. "Just share" works for blogs but not so well for travel forums when you know zero about the person posting questions. Shoot, just time of year can make a difference as can specific circumstances, such as mobility challenges.

I learned early on (13 years with a combo of 4 travel forums) how frustrating it is to waste time on an itinerary of destinations, hotels, restaurants and attractions only to have an OP come back to tell us that they're traveling with two toddlers, want to do 6 locations in 6 days, don't like museums/ churches/hiking/etc., only eat vegan, and want hotels during high season for $70 a night. No, they really weren't interested in the trip I would take if it were mine. That's why we ask the questions we do. Just as frustrating? No response from an OP at all.

Editing to add: better to coach the best use of the tools (forums; guidebooks; etc.) than to just leave them hanging?

Posted by
694 posts

Bottom line is that people on this forum and in day to day life are going to irritate you.
I completely agree with OP's original statement.

I don't agree that research has to be a book to be valid. I don't agree that all young people are a certain way.
I read recently that "old folks" were blaming the invention of the telephone and young person's overuse of such for the troubles of the world. Sounds very similar to some of the statements here.

I participated in Wendy's thread about ideas regarding her son. I would not have followed some of the advice given and I thought that some of it was a bit cavalier. On the other hand, it is great to have the opportunity to hear what a lot of different people think. It is good to consider other points of view, otherwise why ask the question?

I have learned a huge amount by visiting this forum. Most of it was about travel : ). Another thing I learned is that other posters here are not your true friends or family. Most are very helpful and mostly friendly. You ask them a question, they are going to answer, frequently without regard to your feelings. This is truly a good thing. But it is best not to let your feelings get hurt by it, consider what they are saying as it may be very good advice, and then make the decision whether to take the advice or not.

Posted by
1720 posts

Bottom line is that people on this forum and in day to day life are
going to irritate you. I completely agree with OP's original
statement.

I know what you mean, vandrabrud. Kinda like the way Kathy irritates me... :)

Have to say that lately--maybe the last couple months--instead of replying I have scrolled by a lot of the queries about the same thing (e.g. 'where should I stay on the Amalfi Coast?') with the thought 'P-L-E-A-S-E do a search within this forum for answers to your question!'. I take pride in forming my questions to start a new topic to elicit thoughtful responses from a wide variety of posters, and I damned well do a search to make sure it hasn't been covered before.

If it's a specific question concerning an opinion (not fact) about a city or town or attraction, I will usually PM one of the forum vets as it seems they all have their specialty, and sometimes the back-and-forth discussion will break down into nuance & minutiae and 'what I'd do vs. what you'd do' from a different perspective, where there's really no right answer but fun dialogue nonetheless, just not on a public forum most times, though.

Still and all, I truly believe this is by far the best forum around for travel in Italy. People here love to help and share their expertise but need to have the important constants provided upfront by the OP before we can give them intelligent variables.

Posted by
1979 posts

One time I replied to a question so basic and artlessly posed that it left the impression that the OP had never been to Europe. I suggested a couple of books. The OP responded that s/he had been to Europe several times and offered me "feedback" - actually used the word - that my response was worthless since I had no personal experiences to share.

Since then, I only respond to the more targeted questions.

Posted by
5029 posts

Sometimes the most helpful answer you can give someone, is to "read a guidebook". I think that is the point. And an e-book is a book, in my book. The original post was not complaining about questions, even silly questions. Even those get helpful and usually polite answers. The complaint was about overly-general and un-thoughtful questions, to which a bunch of anecdotes about personal experiences is not likely to be useful.

Yes, if someone asked a question like that at a cocktail party, you're darned right I would suggest a guidebook or two. I've done that, even given away books to people who would not know where to begin. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I see my doctor, she doesn't spend a lot of time guessing what I want if I can't be more specific. She is more likely to hand me printed brochures and suggest I read them and call if I have specific questions. So will a paid travel agent.

Posted by
11573 posts

I know what you mean, vandrabrud. Kinda like the way Kathy irritates
me... :)

Aw c'mon, Jay. You know I love ya almost as much as my 24" two-wheeled Travel Pro THAT I CHECK, doggone it. 🙃

Posted by
1720 posts

Ya see, the never-ending debates on personal preferences. Two-wheelers or spinners? Train or car? Best way to combat jet lag? Urban or rural to get the 'most' out of Italy? Again, no right or wrong answer.

It's what makes this forum go 'round.

Posted by
12103 posts

In the past as late as 11 years ago, I used a travel agent to set up the flight. That was in 2007 the last time on that month long trip to be exact. Since I don't believe it's necessary, true using the travel agent saves you the time and energy of having to find and track down the info and flight possibilities yourself, now I plan the flight myself. Which do I go first for info on where to go, research , etc? The internet or a guide book, or books in general? ...about 50/50 depending on the specific query.

If asked, I tell what I myself would do, then leave it up to that individual to decide if my way fits his/her travel style and all the other factors...totally a matter of choice and priorities.

Posted by
133 posts

Wow, this topic is getting really long. I agree with everyone who says do some research first, get a feel for things, then come to us.

I have a philosophical thing about people who think going to Italy is about sights—churches, monuments, museums. Okay, part of it is. But I'd counsel people to go to Italy to BE in Italy, not just to SEE Italy. Slow down. Watch people. There is nothing like hanging out in an outside bar at aperitivo time and watching friends gather after work. Or families walking around. Or standing at a bar counter in the morning with a cappuccino and a cornetto. Or listening to Italians complain when a train or bus is delayed (they will be delayed at some point and Italians bond with each other in common misery, then somehow make the best of it.)

Some years ago, my family and I took a side trip to Greece. We got back to Rome in the early evening, got our car, and started to drive to Perugia. We desperately needed coffee, so we stopped at an Autogrill, went in, had our coffee bought some snacks and walked back to the car. We got in, I started the engine when a man walked up to my window and knocked on it. "Look," he said in Italian," the road is blocked. There was a bad motorcycle accident 5 kilometers away. No one is going anywhere right now."

So we gathered with some other people, and chatted. Shared snacks and cigarettes. We shared our life stories. They heard our accent and we talked about New York. Of course, some had relatives or friends, or they'd been there on vacation. An inconvenience turned into a nice evening. Then someone shouted, "look, it's moving!" We soon all got into our cars and went our separate ways.

That's life in Italy.

Posted by
9421 posts

This has become quite the discussion! Thank you all.

Stan has brought us back to my intention. I don't mind answering questions of all types, and if one makes me a little crazy, I pass it by if I cannot be constructive.

And Jay is correct about searching for prior answers. I am not reluctant to occasionally pull up a recent pertinent thread and post it as an answer with the sub-text being "your question has already been answered."

The subject line I chose is intentionally demanding in hopes a new traveler will take a moment to reflect on the value of a good guidebook. And I will continue to recommend that be a part of preparation. I am always searching for and devouring guidebooks, no matter how many times we have been somewhere. Usually, they are on my Kindle. Thank Amazon for THAT invention!

Posted by
8293 posts

The reality is that new travellers, the type who do not do any previous research, will not have read this thread and will just continue to expect this and other forums to plan their trips.

Posted by
301 posts

Laurel, I am thankful for the advise offered to me on this forum. However, if you are annoyed by some questions, ignore them . I believe you have helped me. Perhaps some new travelers weren't aware of the purpose of this website. Now they know. Hopefully I will be seeking advise a year from now as I will be planning another trip to Italy.
Thanks again.

Lorieann

Posted by
13968 posts

I like Maggie's response. Here are some thoughts:

I see threads from veteran travelers that "no one understands why I want to travel." Well, if the newbie has a lot of friends who travel, s/he probably wouldn't post "clueless" questions. If not, s/he has to start somewhere and for many people (including me, who is technically challenged) the internet is the first step.

Why get annoyed with a poster or a question? Just move on. That's what I often do.

I love the forum because I get to tell people what to do! My friends get a little touchy when I attempt to run their lives, here people never make me feel bad, I can just move on. Hey, sometimes they are even grateful, and the positive feedback just encourages me to continue :-)

Posted by
1720 posts

I love the forum because I get to tell people what to do!

And they all listen, Chani, my dear... :)

True dat. I love giving advice on travel to Italy, or other European venues of which I can speak intelligently, from personal experience. I've found, especially when in debate with forum vets on some esoteric topic, that our job is to provide newbies (or 'second-bies') to Italy various right ways to do things, but to gently steer them away from the wrong way to do things. As in 'no, you shouldn't backtrack if at all possible unless you're already boxed in with a round-trip flight' (as so often happens), or, as has been discussed upthread, steering them away from the requisite checklist of things to see as a major accomplishment. What apaonita said above should be a sticky at the top of this forum:

Slow down. Watch people. There is nothing like hanging out in an
outside bar at aperitivo time and watching friends gather after work.
Or families walking around. Or standing at a bar counter in the
morning with a cappuccino and a cornetto. Or listening to Italians
complain when a train or bus is delayed...

Yepyepyep. Waiting longer than expected for the #60 bus in Rome, we got a lot of the shrugged shoulders, eyes-to-the-heavens and then a resigned laugh. I say 'Inglese?' and then we're off & running. My wife says 'you'll talk to anybody'. Well, why not? I love that stuff. That's why I go to Italy.

Posted by
309 posts

People here aren't going to recommend the Ritz. The target audience here are those who Rick aims for in his book. And he doesn't recommend the Ritz. This is quite different than the random person calling up or walking into a travel agency.

My point is: recommend what you like. Sometimes those recommendations get people to think outside the box. But when people reply with, "no, we can't help you because you haven't told us XYZ" then it seems like a wasted opportunity.

Posted by
5817 posts

Wendy I was exaggerating for effect when I mentioned the Ritz........
But I think my point still stands. Unless I have an idea of a budget or requirements how can I make a sensible suggestion? You might be happy in a shared room in a hostel. It might be a special trip and you are looking for luxury. I really struggle to see how politely asking for a little more info from someone asking a vague question is a bad thing.

Don't assume everyone on here is a "follower of Rick". As a local I think his hotel recommendations for London are dreadful. Alot of people seem to like them so that is fair enough. Thankfully i dont have to stay in them, but I am still going to recommend other places if I think they are appropriate which I can only successfully do with a tiny bit of guidance.

Posted by
12103 posts

The place that RS recommends to stay at in Berlin is all right located in a nice neighborhood, I knew of the Pension prior to its remodeling and refurbishing. But I never stayed there back then and would not now as it's his recommendation. In that neighborhood, Savignplatz, are numerous small hotels and Pensionen. I stay in one of them instead, which financially, if that is one's paramount concern, is cheaper than that recommended by RS.

The "WHEN" referred to above aptly describes traveling in Germany and Austria insofar as accommodations are concerned. If you happen to go to Munich in Sept, ie, at Octoberfest or a convention is in town, and manged to luck out on getting a room in a small hotel/Pension, chances are that room at that time will cost 10 to 20 Euro more than normally. The same applies to those cities in Germany in Sept that trade fair cities, ie Messestädte.

The opposite is going in August, considered there as the "slow" season, by us as "peak" season. Proprietors in Germany and Vienna have told me that to get the cheapest rates in the year I should come back in August, if that particular hotel offers different rates at all based on the time of year.

Posted by
248 posts

There is no substitute for experience. I spent 40 years traveling and lived in Europe before that. There isn't a single book that covers what you will learn. There are lots of books that will tell you far more than you need to know and especially if you are a "rookie". Ricks books are a good starting point if for no other reason than that they provide a fairly broad overview. There are maps, some history, highlights, a few places to eat, information about how to get around...it's not a bad beginning...but that's as far as I would take it. I don't always agree with Ricks advice...and I do find that I can get more current information from the internet. This site can be helpful if you can read between the lines and separate the wheat from the chaff....there are plenty of self aggrandizing posts that appear and there are the folks that must have the final word, even when there has been plenty enough posted. What is far more annoying than questions asked out of ignorance are the folks that ask a question but don't return after answers are provided.

Posted by
309 posts

I agree, Mark....that annoys me, too! Fortunately that doesn't happen too often.

If you're on Rick's travel boards, making comments, and making suggestions to read his guide books, or read more in the forums, that pretty much makes you a RS follower, does it not? Have you recommended ETBD? Have you suggested watching his videos or listening to his podcasts? I think Rick's suggestions in England that somehow exclude the entire Peak District are ridiculous, but I'm still a follower in that I buy his guidebooks, advocate his travel style, listen to his podcast, etc. And frankly, I never would have considered staying in a hostel until I read here about the hostel in Solvorn, Norway or the tallship hostel in Stockholm. So I'm really glad that they were mentioned on this forum and I chose to step outside (and in this case spend less) of my traditional budgeted amount and comfort zone to try them.

You're making my point for me: not all is found in guidebooks. Not all is found by being a follower of RS and using only his suggestions.

I think we're getting too far into semantics here. I would also say that not all comments asking for more information are friendly. There is the underlying tone which is often apparent in the "No, of course we can't help you until you tell us..." Not all replies are like that, but many are. I don't have a problem with asking a friendly follow up and saying, "I liked staying in this BnB...the price was around X...not sure if that was in your budget, but it was good for us because..."

All I'm saying is, just be nice. If you don't want to answer the question asked, scroll on by. If you're annoyed about a newbie not having read a book, and can't make a nice reply with your experiences, and a gentle suggestion to read a certain guidebook, then scroll on by.

Posted by
11573 posts

First opportunity to irritate Jay today. HA!

I would also say that not all comments asking for more information are
friendly.

I do hear you, Wendy. It costs nothing to be nice, and patience is always advised. At the same time I think we run into all sorts of communication styles, and some are just more direct than others? It doesn't mean that a respondent means to be needlessly terse but an OP could take it that way.

Also, I've found that culture can sometimes come into play? On other web forums I belong to with broader international activity, I find a much more direct style to be prevalent amongst citizens of various other countries. It took me awhile to understand that some of the most helpful are "nice" folks indeed but, well, just VERY direct. We'd even had a few conversations around the subject, and they'd expressed puzzlement and suspicion about American "nice". We can be so over-the-top compared to what they're used to that it doesn't feel genuine to them. They also think we smile too widely and too much!

A dear friend from England expressed some confusion after a trip to the States. Convenience stores, restaurants, shops, etc. she was greeted with "Hi! How ya doing!" or similar. She said, "I'd no idea what do with that. Did they really want to know?" 🙂

Addressing strangers as "Dear" or "Dears" (frequent among some Asians) took some getting used to as well. Anyway, some of our differences can make things interesting?

Posted by
834 posts

I think that some of the problems stem from the
Known Knowns
Known Unknowns and
Unknown Unknowns. The Unknown Unknowns are the tricky ones, because then you don’t go looking for information.
For instance, tipping for service in the USA is standard practice, not tipping is just plain wrong, and it is wrong to not tip the proper amount. Travellers coming from a place where there is no ingrained tipping culture maybe won’t even know to ask about tipping. Australia does not have a tipping culture, it’s more of a rounding up the bill thing, so for many Aussies, tipping is an Unknown Unknown. By contrast, American travellers to Europe do know about tipping, and will ask how much should be tipped (answer: not much if at all), so for Americans tipping is a Known Unknown.

To discover the Unknown Unknowns for a traveller and assist them, there needs to be a dialogue, some sort of conversation, a bit of to and fro. If the Original Poster, the OP, just asks the question and then does not engage with the responders, then advice will possibly be flawed.

So the OP has a responsibility to tap the conversation along, even if the first responses maybe are not so helpful. Like the question, “Whats a good hotel in city x?”. The response “what’s your budget?” Chances are the OP has no idea of budget, and a more sensible response would be to do with how they travel and what they need.

A piece of info often missing is WHEN a trip is being planned for. Spring or Fall does not mean so much, and nominating a month helps a lot. Also, when people suggest prices and costs in dollars, it makes it tricky for non US people to answer. Thinking in euro from the start really helps.

Posted by
1961 posts

Very interesting discussion. My first trip to Europe was in 2014. I made extensive use of print and electronic resources, including spending a lot of time on this forum. I ended up asking one targeted question on the forum because most of my questions were answered using the Search bar.

My vote for most bizarre comment on this thread was the one that compared forum members saying "Read a book" to a doctor, financial advisor, and around 14 other professionals telling clients to read a book. Excellent analogy for a travel agent. A real head-scratcher of an analogy for people generously volunteering their time to help make others' trips better.

As one who is relatively new to travel in Europe (and who tries to do his homework before asking questions), I would like to thank all the travel veterans who share their experience and advice on this forum. My travel to Europe is definitely richer because of what I learn here.

Posted by
1843 posts

For Dave,
What I find so bizarre is the point that BECAUSE answering questions here is totally voluntary, then why do people complain about HOW posters ask questions or what research those asking questions have not yet done?

If someone does not like the fact that the person asking the question is too vague or does not appear to be self-educated enough on the topic, just CHOOSE to NOT answer the question. No need for the group "pile on." Just move on. There is no requirement to answer.

But those who choose to draw out the person asking the question, by inquiring about budget or their personal interests........or even gently suggesting a good guidebook for starters, they are kind volunteers and would likely appear welcoming and helpful to the poster (who often seem to be first-time posters). We all started somewhere when we began traveling. Maybe someday that same person with the vague or unresearched question will be a 5000 helpful poster on this very site. If the poster has gone so far as to even find the Rick Steves' site, they could be doing much worse. Welcome them, encourage them, help..............IF you CHOOSE to do so.

Maybe the "no-grumps" policy should apply?

If researching and consulting a guidebook were a pre-req to posting a question, then that would be outlined in the Forum guidelines...right?

Posted by
1720 posts

Maybe the "no-grumps" policy should apply?

If researching and consulting a guidebook were a pre-req to posting a
question, then that would be outlined in the Forum guidelines...right?

Nah, Maggie, we'll listen to anybody, grumps included. :)

Guidebooks are all fine and well, maybe for research in the category of visiting this place vs. that place, but they are static, even the books written by RS and his minions. Me? I'm consulting people that have actually been to a place, recently, and can provide key experiential advice in real time. That's where this forum shines.

I like that the veterans here (kind of subliminally) hold the posters to a little bit of a higher standard. What's wrong with querying an OP to be a little more specific? The Socratic method, ya know...

And I really don't remember anybody in a response being out-and-out mean, either. I try to follow our dear departed patron member Zoe for the way to conduct myself in this forum. And...have fun with this, for crissakes! Life's too short, and our last two awesomely-planned do-it-yourself trips have been with the invaluable help of the folks here.

Posted by
273 posts

"Seasoned Travelers - Please read the Community Guidelines!"

Doesn't that sound presumptuous and bossy? I think many of the posts in this thread violate guideline #2. I could understand complaints about newbie questions if expert participants were required to respond to them but you needn't deign to answer. It's so easy to simply browse forward.

I sense a confusion in this thread about "new traveler" issues vs. "new forum user" issues. Will every "new traveler" or "new forum user" consult the "Italy" threads? Perhaps you should petition the Webmaster to institute forum-wide "new traveler" competency qualifications (minimum number of "books read" or countries visited) before they are allowed to participate. "New forum users" might be required to demonstrate proper skills in posting questions. Participants may be more likely to follow official forum-wide guidance than posts from other individual travelers in one single forum. For instance, several years ago I wouldn't have had any reason to browse the "Italy" topics.

I'm a retiree with plenty of travel under my belt but I haven't used the forum as often as I would like because my profession required 24x7 support and I tired of looking at my laptop and frankly some people in the "longtime participant clique" were rather snide and snarky. "Experts" may mistakenly assume that I am a "new traveler". You know what they say about assumptions. I simply stopped consulting this forum for a long periods of time because of several unpleasant interactions. I think "direct" responses are certainly acceptable but this "us vs. them" interaction here is unproductive.

I'm glad that many Europeans are savvy with mass transit by the time they enter their teens but it's really unfair (and unkind) to criticize Americans who haven't had the same opportunities. I was driving on 12 lane freeways when I was 16 and across the Mackinac Bridge in windstorms when I was 19 but I certainly wouldn't disparage those who don't possess those skills.

I don't understand why anyone would assume that a new traveler is only interested in Venice, Florence and Rome because they have never "heard" of other destinations. Participants whose "fixation" is V-F-R may in fact possess that interest because they have studied books such as Gardner's "Art Through the Ages" to obtain their BFA's and MFA's, or were well prepared by humanities programs in college. Some people are of a lineage (myself included) that encouraged college graduates to do the Grand Tour of Europe. Many if not most "unique" travel destinations may have been considered but the more popular sites may indeed offer the opportunities desired by the traveler. The advice to "be here now" in Italy works for some people. Others may just as rightly feel that they can "be here now" without traveling and spending thousands of dollars. I have no interest in sitting on an iceberg because it's not packed with tourists but will gladly spend time with "The Oath of the Horatii".

I really dislike these "New Travelers - _______ !" threads and many of the assumptions inherent in them. I will definitely browse past them in the future.

Posted by
11573 posts

we'll listen to anybody, grumps included. :)

Jay, over a foot of white stuff yesterday and still snowing so we're a tad grumpy today in the North Star State!

There is one instance where posters ask for a little straight talk? It's the first-timers who come here with the long, livid "BEWARE!" rants about fines when they've unwittingly broken a law. It's fine to be unhappily bewildered but to accuse the authorities, or in some cases the entire population of a country, of being a den of scammers and thieves is a bit much. It can also cause new travelers a fresh heap of anxiety when they're already plenty nervous. Sad, that.

Posted by
8631 posts

I have been on these boards a long time and have seen a lot of "This is how I travel--my way is right and you are wrong." "Don't go to see what you want to see, go see what I want to see."

Now we expanded that to trip planning. "This is how I like to plan and I'm right and you're doing it wrong."

We all travel differenlty and plan differently. We like to see different things. One person's interest is another person's dread.

We are all volunteers here. This board does not belong to any of us. Anyone can post as long as they follow the guidelines. Lack of research is not part of the guidelines. If you don't like someone's question, move on. No law says you have to answer. (Except for those who feel the need to answer everything even if others have already answered.)

There are some here who pick up the guidebook, follow it religiously without deviating, and fill every minute of their schedule. If the guidebook guru says go to A they go to A. If he says skip B, they skip B even if it is something they want to see. Whenever a guidebook author rates places on what to see and what not to see, they are basically saying this is what I like and don't like and you should be the same.

Then there are those who use guidebooks as guides. As suggestions. It's just one tool that is out there. They are not perfect. They are sometimes wrong. There is also the internet. More up to date and you can find almost anything you want.

I just started a lengthly trip. I did a quick look at guidebooks and decided my basic itinerary. Then I look to see if there is anything I want to do that needs to be booked in advance. I do that. Then I book hotels and some transportation. After that I learn what there is I want to see and make a note. I don't have to go see the church with the stained glass window because the guidebook author loved it. I plan when to do those things I want to do or see when I arrive at the location. I leave extra time for new or unexpected discoveries.

That's how I roll. It's now how I would expect anyone else to travel unless that is how they like to do it.