Should you let friends plan your trip?

New friends shaking hands

Making friends. Photo: Slava / Flickr

Seems like the ideal setup: you’re about to visit a country that one of your friends has already been to. Naturally, you ask your pal for advice on where to go and what to do.  What could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out. The Tnooz tech travel blog had an article called Why the social travel model will never truly work.  When you entrust your trip to someone who has no other qualifications besides your relationship, things can go south very quickly.

In the article, a guy named Jack describes a recent vacation to Hawaii with a buddy of his.  Both were single guys.  They followed the advice of a female friend who’d gone the year before. While the pair enjoyed the excitement and fun of Waikiki, they were thoroughly bored by another section of their trip.  The reason: two single guys might not necessarily want the same travel experience as a married woman.  This passage summed up the problem:

Your friends, no matter how well meaning, are not travel experts. They’re not going to ask you the right questions or make the right assumptions about what turns you on.

They’re just going to tell you what they like, which may be miles from anything you’d enjoy.

I can relate a similar anecdote.  When I was at a hostel in Malaysia, I became friends with a group of English backpackers.  In a lucky coincidence, they had just come in from Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  That was to be my next destination.  I asked for their recommendation of a good, inexpensive hotel.  Not only did they name the hotel, they even gave me the business card!  I thought I was set.

Turns out I was wrong.  The hotel was a rathole, with a weak shower and a dirty bed.  My mistake was not considering the travel style of the person giving me the advice. When I said “good” hotel, I should have been more specific by what I meant. As in clean and comfortable, not just cheap.

I do like staying in hostels and cheap places, but I’m willing to spend a little more for the nicest one I can find.  Those English backpackers were hard-core budget types.  Neither is better than the other, but things can go wrong when you follow advice from someone with a drastically different travel style than yours. At the other extreme, an investment banker might have recommended a four-star hotel beyond my price range.

Here’s a checklist of the right friend to give you destination advice:

1) They’ve actually been to the place.

2) They’re someone you know and trust.

3) They have a similar style of travel–as in budget, trip length, interests, etc.

It’s factor number 3 that I forget sometimes, especially if it’s a good friend that I like a lot. How do you solicit travel tips from friends? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (4)  | December 16, 2011
Category: Backpacking, Notes from the collective travel mind, Vagabonding Advice

4 Responses to “Should you let friends plan your trip?”

  1. Dave Says:

    Yah, that’s were asking a lot of questions and the right questions can be very beneficial. Asking if a hostel is nice will usually result in a yes unless the person was really put off by it, but asking if it was clean or whether the rooms were big, or what was the bed like (hard, soft) and did it come with sheets will likely give you a better idea of whether or not you’ll like it.

    Also, the question of whether or not a town is worth visiting is really subjective, as it typically depends on whether or not you met some other backpackers who were fun to hang around with. If you did, than the place is great, if you didn’t, than the place is boring or not worth visiting. A town can be a boring crime ridden cesspool, but if you met some cool travelers and didn’t notice the crime, as far as recommending it goes, you’ll say it was great. Happens all the time when backpacking.

    Good post.

  2. Davis Says:

    No. Take your own trip, not someone else’s.

  3. Vitor Vicente Says:

    I agree with David. Absolutely! =)

  4. Vitor Vicente Says:

    I mean, with DaviS…hehe