I had drinks with my mate Jack (name changed to protect the innocent) at the weekend.
He’d just returned from eight days in Hawaii and I was keen to hear how it went. To be honest, I was pretty sure what he was going to tell me, but let me give you some background before I get to that.
Jack is thirty-something, single and as red-blooded as the next guy. Outdoorsy without being a jock, enjoys a drink and loves a good restaurant, etc. etc.
His travelling companion was an old schoolmate of his from the UK, they’d travelled together before so there wasn’t going to be any issues of them wanting to go in different directions.
Eight days of surf lessons, sun, seafood, cocktails and etc. all surrounded by girls in bikinis, they hoped. So far so good.
Neither had been to Hawaii before, so Jack’s mate had a long call with a friend of his in New York who had spent a few months there last year.
Apparently an Hawaii expert, she was quick to suggest what sounded like a pretty good plan: four days in Honolulu and then four days on the neighboring island of Maui.
The boys were excited, bookings were made, bags were packed.
The Honolulu part of the trip went well, with well-earned hangovers each morning, washed away by noon thanks to the surf lessons on Waikiki Beach.
Plenty of bars, great food, people to meet (see “bikinis”, above) and generally all the sorts of things the boys were looking for.
Day five, and they’re off to the airport, vaguely wondering why they are leaving paradise and hoping that it was just going to get better. It didn’t.
And that’s not to say that there’s something wrong with Maui… it was just the wrong place for these two guys, who simply couldn’t recreate the Waikiki experience they had come to enjoy so much.
“Everyone was a couple! We could see ourselves coming back here in ten years with our families, but as single guys… No, it just wasn’t for us.”
The heart of the issue
That’s the problem with the whole social travel model, right there.
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.
[The boys' Hawaii expert, it turns out, is a botanist who loves long walks with her husband while listening to Enya on her iPod. Vive la difference!]
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating you forget your real friends, your Facebook friends, your family or your colleagues completely, nor am I suggesting you traipse down to see a travel agency instead.
Save for the minority of agents who are truly experts on something (see Conde Nast’s annual list for what I mean) there’s as much bad advice to be found there as there is good.
What I am suggesting is that relying on your friends is as likely to result in just plain awful advice as it is in good advice. There’s no getting around it.
Instead of building your plans around input from others, blend their suggestions with lots of your own research.
Academics who study happiness will tell you that the anticipation derived from researching an upcoming vacation will be every bit as uplifting and energising as the vacation itself. And it will ensure you have the best vacation for you, not the same vacation your friends had.
So what about all those companies we’re seeing emerge with sites that channel advice from friends, all to help your planning process?
They’re good fun, and sure to provide some great ideas that will enhance your trip. Just don’t rely too heavily on them: the very best person to plan your next vacation is still you.
NB: This is a guest article by Rod Cuthbert, founder and chairman emeritus at Viator and founder and CEO at Qewz.
NB2: Image via Shutterstock.