Journeys begin long before we arrive at our destination. From dreaming about your ideal vacation to choosing the company to take you there, you’ll have to make dozens of decisions based on accurate and helpful information. How can you make that process easier?
Read reviews from other travelers using sites like TourMatters and TripAdvisor to be sure you’re choosing operators and properties that specialize in what matters to you. In particular, read reviews that fall in the middle—they tend to be the most balanced. Look for keywords, details, dates, and trends. (I also like to read a few of the poor reviews, just to see if the complaints are things that might upset me, too.)
Read Your Materials
Most group tour operators will send you trip information in the mail or by email. Details on what to pack, what to read, and whether you need immunizations or visas are always in there. You can read the handbook “cover to cover” (tablets are great for this!), or search for key words that matter to you, like “laundry,” “single,” “tipping,” or “hair dryer.”
Please, Help Yourself!
Use the self-service tools operators provide as your first step. Not only are the resources available at any time of day, but they are usually the most consistent. Companies invest heavily in their websites, not only for marketing, but to keep you informed and inspired, always reminding you that traveling with them was the right choice. Making payments, updating your profile or account and other transactions are usually most efficient when resolved online.
Sending your questions in writing is the best way to keep track of the responses or ongoing issues. A short overview of your situation provides context for the agent who may be helping you, and concise questions will help the agent give you specific responses. Email is especially helpful when your need isn’t urgent. Companies can take anywhere from 24-72 hours to respond, so if you need an answer faster than that, calling in might still be your best option.
The most fun, of course, is using online tools to share photos or reviews once your trip is over. Review and forum communities rely on ongoing contributions to be useful, so if you have an opinion that could help another traveler, share it!