Blogs, classic travel guides can prove helpful to vacationers

Rachel Perlmutter

On a recent trip to Paris with my family, we chose to stay in an apartment rather than seek the usual hotel experience. Between the three of us, we had no French proficiency, no concierge and because of the costs involved in using American phones overseas, no smartphones. A family of iPhone addicts marooned on an island of meager Internet connection from our living room, we were forced to survive off the grid for a week for the first time in years.

Others looking to travel abroad, especially those looking to stick to their budgets, are likely to face similar reductions in their Internet access. What this means for tourists is a lot more true, unassisted spontaneity (actually finding a café on a whim, not Googling one on the go) and a little more advanced planning than is usually necessary. While you can use travel books, the Web proves most helpful for making your trip truly memorable.

Using a classic guide such as Frommer’s or Rick Steves will ensure that you hit all of the highlights and avoid any traumatic food incidents, if that’s your goal. They provide detailed maps of each neighborhood with dining recommendations for varying price points.

As comprehensive as these guides may be, they are not very personal. They leave little room for creating your own travel experience, and you run the risk of embarking on a formulaic journey through countries with enough cultural stock for 20 vacations. Even the recommended restaurants, as charming and authentic as they may be, offer English translations on their menus and seem booked entirely by tourists each night.

While using these guides (particularly in their book form) can be a vital navigation and informational tool out on the streets, travel blogs can provide helpful ways to personalize your experiences. The firsthand experiences provided by reputable bloggers can create a sense of comfort and ease when trying to find the best pizza place in a country known for its beef tartar.

Like “paris (im)perfect” by Sion Dayson, the antithesis of tourist guidebooks. Dayson’s blog provides a much needed balance to usual stops such as the Louvre and Notre Dame with offbeat restaurants, art exhibitions and other cultural treasure troves.

And, Meg Zimbeck’s self-titled blog on eating in Paris proves a great alternative if you’re looking to branch out of your tour book. The author samples cuisine from all over the city and provides a comprehensive take on the fair, including cost.

All that said, travelers using the web should be discerning when choosing which sites to take advice from. Essentially, be sure to check a site’s credentials, or if it’s a blog, the writer’s. What kind of experience do they have with the country they’re writing about? Have they actually been there? How many followers do they have on social media platforms? These just a few questions to ask before taking their advice.

Finding travel blogs for the destination of your choice can be the difference between a good trip and one that seems perfectly crafted for your tastes — be it food, museums, nightlife or any other area of interest. The old-school guides will get you to the things you can’t say you missed, but the travel blogs will help you score the meals and shops you won’t forget.

Printed on Thursday, August 4, 2011 as: Blogs, guide books prove helpful to travelers needing suggestions