Looking back at my favorite vacation spots, several have one vital thing in common: they were suggested by friends.
Ten years ago, a tip from my good friend Amy allowed me to experience Tulum well before the crowds arrived. And my husband’s former roommate Will, a finance executive who worked in Tokyo for a while, deserves credit for the best sushi dinner of my life.
My friends, in turn, have followed the itineraries of several of my favorite vacations in places like Vieques, Hanoi and Holbox, an island off the Yucatán.
It’s no surprise that travelers tend to trust the advice of people they know. Now, several new travel sites are trying to put those inclinations to use by allowing travelers to use social media sites for targeted trip advice.
Take Gogobot.com and Afar.com, which both made their debuts last year. Each allows users to post specific questions about upcoming vacations to both Facebook friends and users of the sites: Where are the best family-friendly restaurants in Paris? Should we hire a personal driver to get around El Salvador?
“It’s not who you know, it’s who you need to know,” said Derek Butcher, chief technology officer of Afar Media, which also publishes the two-year-old travel magazine Afar.
Gtrot.com, which focuses on users’ immediate network of Facebook contacts, operates on the premise that 10 recommendations from friends you trust are better than 100 suggestions from people you don’t know.
Planning a trip to Ecuador, I signed up with these three sites to see what kind of travel insights I could glean. For the most part, they offered advantages to simply posting a question on Facebook or Twitter. Below, an overview.
AFAR.COM An interactive extension of the travel magazine with the same name, this social networking site offers personalized recommendations from travelers, locals who share your interests, and editors and writers at Afar.
An initial travel personality quiz is designed to connect you with people with similar tastes. Based on my answers, I was dubbed an “active adventurer” who likes to get outside as much as possible, avoids tourist haunts and doesn’t mind roughing it a little. (Not too far off.)
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