Traveling in the Age of the Net

26 Oct

“You don’t have to know anything anymore” exclaimed my brother this past Saturday as he asked his phone a question and quickly had a string of websites to read with correct answers.  Never mind that he knew the correct answer and without a basis of education, you will be quickly led astray on our world-wide web.  That being said, I spend a lot of my time researching on the internet and you learn quickly the language of veracity.  Some websites and authors are trustworthy, others are paid or looking for retribution for a wrong.

I absolutely love using the net for travel research.  No longer do you have to pick a destination, a hotel, a flight, a restuarant, or a particular drive on a little guesswork and that two-line review in the AAA guide.

“Yay, the hotel has a swimming pool and HBO!”

That was about the extent of the reviews available to you twenty years ago.  Now with sites like Tripadvisor I can easily find out that the pool has four slides, but the height requirement on all of them is 40″ and my two-year old couldn’t ride.  There are two pools with one heated and the other one closing annually on November 1st for the winter.  There are three restaurants across the street and I can easily read reviews on all of those places.  Plus, a major grocery store is within walking distance with a RedBox so I can cheaply rent movies while I’m there.  I can also read that the hotel is getting a remodel and when checking in, I need to ask for a renovated room so I’m guaranteed a 42″ HD TV and a DVD player.

Road trips are no longer a mystery either.  I remember taking family trips where we ventured randomly from one city to the next on no particular route, just seeking out each specific destination.  It was fun and rewarding, but all you really had was word of mouth reviews on where to go and what route to take.

I had my first significant road trip a few years ago with a drive to Lake Tahoe.  I tried asking around and seeking friends and strangers’ advice on whether to take the 395 or the 5 up from San Diego.  Generally with mixed reviews, most were in favor of taking the 5 and not getting stuck on the 395 with our newborn.

Thank God for the Road Trip America forum.  With the conversations and information in the forum, I chose the more difficult route up the 395 with suggestions for a great places to stop plus advice from hundreds of parents on tips for traveling with little ones.  Although the ride up the 5 was faster, the ride up the 395 in April, just as the snow on the mountain tops melted, meant that not only was the route unbelievably gorgeous, we had rushing rapids right next to the highway for several hours during our last leg of the drive.  It was beautiful and a great road trip, because I went into it prepared.

I think, in the end, that’s my favorite thing about the internet and travel.  I can go prepared.  There’s still adventure in trying new things and new places and I don’t seek out reviews and research on every place we stop, but gathering info on at least 50% of our activities ensures an enjoyable trip.

Right now I’m planning and preparing for a trip to Las Vegas with two little girls.  Most people would think that a waste of time and money, but with a little research you find out which places to avoid (the Bellagio pretty much hates strollers and may bar you from entering), there’s beautiful places for day trips and hiking (Red Rock West, and oh yeah, The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam), and where the best playgrounds are in the city.  I’m going to go prepared and it’s all because I have the wealth of knowledge and experience at my fingertips.  I love living and traveling in the age of the net.

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