We’ve all been there. After several connecting flights, a bus ride on a road seemingly unfit for a vehicle wider than a scooter, and a hotel check-in experience conducted with the charm and warmth rivaling that of an episode of ‘Locked Up Abroad.’
But your relief is short-lived when you soon realize that “suite” may be a stretch. And “ocean view” apparently is a subjective term.
There’s nothing worse than being disappointed in the first few moments of what you had hoped would be a stellar trip. As Oyster.com, a website geared to savvy travelers, says on its homepage, “you can’t return a bad vacation.”
“Our special investigators visit, photograph, review and rate each hotel. We uncover the truth, before it’s ‘uh-oh’ time,” Oyster promises on its site.
In order to avoid that “uh-oh” moment, it’s important to do your research before embarking on a trip into the unknown. There are hundreds of sites and apps for the traveler that shed light on the far reaches of the globe. Here are just a few sites and tips that are sure to help you avoid some common traveling mistakes.
Pearl of a Site
Oyster.com provides actual photographs from thousands of hotels around the world. It allows you to sidestep the hotel’s carefully crafted marketing photos and see how things really are, good, bad or otherwise.
“Oyster strives to be as transparent as possible. When you’re looking at a hotel on our site, we clearly differentiate each room type so that you know whether an upgrade is really worth it,” Oyster says.
The site also includes a section called “photo fakeouts,” which compares the hotel’s own photographs to a more realistic view of the grounds and your fellow vacationers.
Warning: Some of the actual photos show some not-so-limber folks doing yoga on a Caribbean beach, and European dudes wearing what are apparently little European bathing suits.
Another cool site to check out before planning a trip is Trippy.com.
“Trippy is the place for you to collect and share travel ideas, and collaborate on your travel plans with the people in your life who know you best – your friends! It’s a full-circle travel experience that takes you from Dreaming to Doing,” Trippy promises on its site and app.
You have to sign up for Trippy and connect through Facebook in order to share photos of where you’ve been and peruse quality traveler photos of where you’d like to go.
Trippy definitely creates some wanderlust, and it was described as “travel candy for the eyes,” according to a quote in The New York Times Travel section.
Ex Marks the Spot
A great resource for travelers can be found on forums where expatriates discuss their new homelands. You never know what type of vital information you may uncover, and visiting these forums is a good way to get a sense of how things really are in paradise.
I once found driving directions from the mountainous center of the Dominican Republic to the country’s north coast. Since there are very few (if any) street signs in the DR, one courteous expat posted a photo of a particular road that was lined with bright flowers, and wrote, “if you’re on this road, you’re going the right way.” Sure enough, we found the road, and eventually, the coast.