Joe and I have certainly done our share of traveling over the years. We’re admittedly creatures of habit, and we know what we like, so we frequently go to some of the same places over and over again (NYC, Japan, Schlitterbahn, etc.).
But we also like to expand our horizons and try out new places. With COVID, we wound up doing that several times, since we’ve been limiting ourselves to places where we could drive. And although we had been to Key West and Dollywood in the past, Helen GA and Hilton Head were new destinations.
When we’re planning a trip, we probably use many of the same references that others use – Roadtrippers.com, Visitacity, TripAdvisor (although with a grain of salt), etc. And we use this site to ensure that the hotel(s) we’re interested in are really what they appear to be. But we use another reference that some might not consider.
Before anybody mentions it, I’m well aware of the “evils” of Facebook. However for me, the pros of reconnecting with people such as former co-workers, and my best friend from high school (who now lives in New Zealand) are worth the cons of what FB knows about me (like that my dog’s name is Dobby, I had no cavities on my last dental visit, and I prefer Jello brand sugar free instant pudding. Meh.). However beyond socializing with people from my past and present are FB groups, and sometimes more than one, for just about every travel location out there.
Of course, when we’re trying to learn about a new location, we start with our own FB group, Travel: Disney, the US, Points, Miles, Savings & Everything Everywhere Else.
We talk about “general travel” there – travel tips, hotel and airline reviews, travel advice, airport, restaurant and trip reports, ways to save money on travel, lots of stuff about points & miles, etc. With over 21,500 members from all over the world, we’ve found it’s a great way to start our research. This is what I posted there when we had just begun researching for our Iceland trip:
SO…back story doesn’t matter, but we have time off, we’ve gotten our COVID vaccines, and Joe and I going to Iceland for a this July!
Iceland was never really on our radar, so we have little idea of what to do. I’m Googling RIGHT NOW, but y’all gave some GREAT suggestions when we were planning trips in the past, so…
– We start and end in Reykjavik– We’re middle aged, no kids.– Rent a car? Or no? (yay, they drive on the same side of the street as us)– We like nature but are not really in shape so although we’re OK with hikes, it can’t be anything strenuous (figure no worse than “mildly-to-moderately” strenuous).– We like quirky and yes, the Penis Museum is on the list– Speaking of which, museums are cool. Natural history, art, etc.– More personalized interests: I love stained glass, old churches & cathedrals, and waterfalls (I hear Iceland has 1 or 2 of those LOL), Joe is into Sci-Fi, and we both love science and medicine topics (we went to the Pharmacy Museum in NOLA and loved it!)– We’ve been told to consider a tour…any you can recommend?(we’d consider 3-5ish days, so we’d still have some time on our own)– RESTAURANT recommendations!
Please and thank-you!
As I said, there’s a FB group for just about every country, state, city, town out there, as well as for nearly every (usually medium-sized or larger) attraction or resort you can think of. There are also “general travel” groups like ours, as well as niche groups like cruising groups (general cruising or specific cruise lines or even ships!), traveling with kids, people who own certain brands of timeshares, Black travelers, Brits (or Canadians) going to Walt Disney World, the specialized travel concerns of people with disabilities, food allergies, who are female seniors, traveling solo, etc.
How to join a FB group
To find the FB group that will help you best, just search from FB’s home page. TRAVEL JAPAN. NYC TRAVEL. GLUTEN-FREE TRAVEL. TRAVEL FOR FAMILIES. You get the idea. The “About” section of a given group should describe what the group is about.
Once you apply to join a group, the group administrators may have a couple of questions to help ensure that you’re a good fit for the group. I suggest you answer the questions – some admins will let people join whether they answer the questions or not, but others might not let you in if you skip the questions. Anyway, once you’re approved, you’ll get a notification of the same.
Tips, tricks & what to look for
Of course, not every FB group is perfect or will fulfill the questions you’re looking for. Groups are only as good as the Administrators and Moderators who run them, and the goals of some groups might not be to answer questions. So for example:
- An admin team that’s hands-off (or just not present) may have a group with lots of spammers or general toxicity
- An admin team may also think that running a group gives them the right to be a warlord of sorts. So they run their group with lots of rules, some of which may be more ridiculous than others (but it’s their group, so it’s their rules, so…)
- Some groups are made for sharing pictures of the place in question, or advertising from people who work in the area, much more than for people to ask questions
But there are plenty of FB groups that are very welcoming to newbies who have questions.
If you do join a FB group with the intent of learning about a vacation locale, you might want to keep a few “housekeeping” things in mind:
- Several other people have probably asked anything that you want to ask before you. Before you ask, use the group’s search function. If doing so doesn’t answer your question(s) (and it happens. FB’s search function in groups is not perfect and is sometimes pretty glitchy), then by all means ask. But mention that you searched and couldn’t find the answer you were looking for.
- Don’t ask about something that a simple Google search can cover (i.e., “How’s the weather in Orlando in August?”). Granted, some groups are fine with that, but in others, not so much. And really, it’s probably faster to Google WEATHER ORLANDO AUGUST than it is to type out your question and wade through 17 answers that all say, “Hot, humid, rainy in the afternoon and it’s prime hurricane season.”
- Don’t ask too many questions in one thread (i.e., “We’re going to London in October. How’s the weather? What should we see? We’re staying at the Hilton – has anybody stayed there? Should we rent a car? Is the cost of West End shows worth it? Where should we eat?”); spread them out into several smaller threads, so the one thread isn’t potentially hundreds of replies long, with lots of tangents.
- Be specific with what you’re asking. “We going to NYC. What should we do there?” is WAY too open ended. My question for someone asking a question like that would be what are the ages of the people going? How much can they physically do in one day? What are their interests? History? Entertainment? Museums? Tourist attractions? Etc? How much time will you be spending there? Have you been there before and if so, what have you already seen? How important is the cost? How willing are you to take the subway?
- If you do get some good responses, make sure to thank people. They took the time out to help you; acknowledge it.
Because of our travels, and using this blog in general, I’m in a lot of FB groups and can help if you’re looking for specific ones for specific places. Just let me know.
FB groups can be an excellent way to help you plan your vacations. It sometimes means joining a different group when the first one isn’t as helpful as you’d hope. But in the end, you’ll have lots of help from a wide variety of people.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary