For a happier travel experience, sometimes you’ve got to stop listening to your friends

by Janice Hough on May 28, 2010


These days most travelers if anything face information overload with the number of review and information sources for cruises, hotels, even what seats are best on a given plane.

Having all this planning information available is a good thing. Too much can make choices difficult and confusing when there is contradictory advice. Beware, some of the worst difficulties and confusion come from listening to friends.

A recent example with the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel illustrates my point.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, originally a RockResort and the first luxury hotel on Hawaii’s Big Island, is a lovely property. It was closed recently for a complete renovation after engineers discovered significant damage after an earthquake.

In the process of renovating the rooms, some rooms in one wing were torn apart completely. Three rooms were combined into two, making those rooms huge by any standards. Other rooms were renovated and spruced up, but not as extensively.

The end result is a very wide variety of rooms. There’s an older beachfront wing with views that can be partially obscured by palm trees. The main building has smaller rooms but with better views. Finally, visitors find the more expensive super deluxe rooms with both good views and more space.

The details are almost irrelevant, except that every friend my client talked to told her something different. She heard, “You’ll wish you were closer to the water,” from one friend. Another told her, “You’ll wish you were in the main building.” Then after booking one set of rooms someone else noted, “You’ll wish you weren’t looking at those trees.” She changed rooms again and then was told, “You’ll LOVE the new rooms, but how much time do you spend inside, you’ll wish you saved the money for other things.”

In the end, after at least five room changes and some agony, she chose the beachfront wing. This was her first choice based on the information I sent her, and she and her husband should be happy. All the rooms have some advantages and the Mauna Kea also has great service that results in a lot of repeat guests. But she would have been happier – and wasted less time – had she just booked her first choice, based on my recommendation, in the first place.

It’s not that friends don’t mean well, it’s just that most people have definite ideas about what is and isn’t important during travel and about what a reasonable price is. (Don’t even get most travel agents started on what friends will say about what they paid for their flight or hotel. Not only is it often apples and oranges, we also often find the friend was either or mistaken or flat out exaggerating the deal they got.)

Sometimes too, listening to friends can do more than waste time or make you feel buyer’s remorse about your vacation.

Another client this week wanted a four country Eurail “Select” pass (Austria, Benelux, France and Italy), which a friend had told her about based on her proposed itinerary.

Upon getting more information as to what the trip entailed, I discovered that they were planning to take a train from Paris to Milan. Which goes through Switzerland. A country NOT on their list. Which would have meant their passes were invalid for that train.

Before I get nasty emails on the is post, taking what your friends say with a grain of salt doesn’t mean completely relying on what your travel agent says either. And once you’ve done your research, or had a trusted agent do it for you, often the best choice is simple what feels right to you.

If your final choice is not the choice your friend might have made, that’s okay. Tell them they should make a different choice next time.

Photo of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel by imotov/flickr.com/creative commons

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  • sue

    Janice, I totally agree with you. When friends offer advice about vacations, I ask questions to clarify why they feel the way they feel. More importantly, when I offer advice it is almost alway solicited and I always explain why. A friend just asked me about my experiences with Sandals because she was looking for a specific relaxing vacation. I told her that it was not a place for an active vacation or a nightlife, it was a place for sitting on the beach and drinking at the beach bar. I told her in the Bahamas, my boyfriend and I preferred the villas, which involved a walk to everywhere but offered nice privacy. A person nearby overheard and chimed in to complain about couples only, which led me remember the excellent point that there are no children and no pressured pickup culture. I’m not promoting Sandals here or anywhere as a vacation – my point is, I told her about the whys, which is really what she wanted to know (and what she wanted – a quiet, all inclusive, beach vacation with her partner). If she chooses not to vacation there or to stay at the main property instead of the villa, I will in no way think that’s a reflection on what I said and she knows that, which is why we are people who can exchange vacation tips. As with anything, you have to consider the source and ask good questions.

  • Annie

    People have to decide what’s important to them. For some it’s privacy, for some it is being closer to activities, for some of us it is not having to walk far due to physical limitations, therefore, I choose an ocean front room in an ocean front hotel with an ocean front pool located just a few steps from the lobby.

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  • http://www.citadeladvantage.com Richard

    It can be worse than just choosing a hotel room. I wanted to take my wife a wonderful romantic weekend to Zurich. Now I too wouldn’t want to spend a 2-week holday in Zurich but for 3 days, there’s tons to do and it’s a wonderful city. However a friend of my wife told her there’s nothing to do in Zurich and she wouldn’t like it. How dare such advice be proffered but it became a lost cause and we did not go to Zurich for a weekend. Just a few months ago we had a long transit in Zurich and were able to get into Zurich for a few hours. My wife saw for herself that sometimes it’s indeed better to ignore friends’ advice entirely.

  • PauletteB

    I love my friends dearly, but I wouldn’t dream of traveling with them. Our definitions of “relaxation” and “vacation” are totally different. While they would enjoy going to a resort and just hanging out or talking a cruise, both of those options are anathema to me. Unless I come home emotionally relaxed but physically exhausted, I haven’t been on vacation.

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