Being there is always better than hearing about it, there is no denying that. But there is nothing better than a personal reference – pro AND con – when considering future vacation spots. You don’t have to pretend you were there too to get the most of someone else’s vacation.
One of the most misleading things about travel and hotel websites are the ratings. Let’s say you book a hotel with a 4.5/5 stars. Amazing pictures, modern room, beautiful beach. No mentions of clothing optional… You’re sold. But you get there and everyone is much, much older. Or kids. Or swingers. Or college spring-break-orgy-holders. Or whatever isn’t you. The rating wasn’t relevant because the raters weren’t like you.
You know who’s like you? Your friends!
When you’re considering a vacation, ask your friends of their previous travels. But don’t stick to what they “liked,” and what they didn’t, dig deeper. Why didn’t that vacation work out? What had they hoped to find/do/get out of it that they didn’t? A “too quiet” location might be perfect for your “I need to get the $#^% out of here!” long weekend. A coworker’s “most disappointing country” might actually be perfect for the getaway you’re planning for the inevitable stir-craziness of another February in Michigan.
So ask questions and listen to the stories. Try not to get jealous. And remember, it could be worse. At least you won’t have to sit through the three-carousel slide show. Or you shouldn’t anyway. They probably have all the pictures on Facebook already.