How many of us fantasize about visiting a destination, or booking a hotel based on the travel pamphlet or website?
Buyer beware. All of the digital tools available to even amateurs these days makes it very easy to exaggerate the positive qualities of any place or feature. Some hotels or sights don’t even resemble what the brochure is selling.
For instance, in past few months, I have experienced a few examples I’d like to share with you.
On the island of Hawaii recently, I was given brochures to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The pamphlet photos looked like this:
In reality, most visitors don’t see lava this active, if at all. Most of the time it is just captivating black rock. Sometimes if the lava is flowing, visitors aren’t allowed closer because of potential danger. I have heard mixed reviews that a helicopter tour allows you see too more lava, but I can’t confirm as I haven’t done it.
The point is, this is an all day trip, a good 2.5 hour drive from resorts near Kona airport. There are fantastic hikes, and ethereal scenery to see, but if your heart is set on seeing lava, you’d better weigh if it is worth it to you to give up a day on a beautiful beach, and pay for a rental car.
Another example occurred when I went whale watching.. There are many places in the world you can watch the migration of these beautiful creatures from cold to warm waters. This form of eco-tourism can be absolutely thrilling… when you get up close to a whale.
A misleading card I received recently after a whale watching journey looked like this:
But in reality, one would be EXTREMELY lucky to see something that close up, or that bold. The boats are forbidden from getting closer than 200 yards to a whale that is seen… the whale has to come to the boat. And not every whale shows it’s tail – they each have their own style of swimming. The photos from the journey more often than not look like mine:
Whale Watching in the Marina del Rey, Ca
(Cue the music: Wa wa waaaa) Yep – that little beige spec is a whale.
Moreover, it requires a lot of patience to spot a whale. They come up for breath typically every five minutes, and you don’t know exactly where they are if you are even near one. Five minutes is a rather long time looking at nothing. This is good to think about when you are bringing young children.
A few ways to ferret out the truth in a misleading photo is to use trusted websites and social media:
Websites like Oyster.com offer true photos of various hotels taken by objective scouts for Oyster. Also Gogobot.com is a community that offers reviews on places. Trip Advisor and Yelp also offer reviews, but you can’t always trust them to be objective. Some hotels are offering upgrades in exchange for positive reviews. Finally – Ask around to your own trusted friends on social media. Be a savvy traveler!