Why your travel guide is leading you astray

Staten Island Pizza
The pizza at Errigo's Restaurant in Stapleton is well worth a detour to Staten Island. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

NEW YORK — I buy travel guides, I will readily admit. In fact, I just bought one for the Big Apple.

I’ve done a lot in New York and like to think I am familiar with the metropolis, but I thought it might be handy to peruse. If nothing else, it’s a reliable way to read about neighborhoods and opportunities outside of the major tourist zones.

What I don’t do with any travel guide is view it as the Holy Grail of information about a particular destination. It should be considered solely as a resource or a guide for inspiration.

Such publications often highlight the obvious. Many of the top travel websites are even more egregious, offering nothing more than a handful of suggestions.

The Statue of Liberty is great, but it’s far from the only thing to see and do in the City That Never Sleeps. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of museums in most major cities; find one that looks interesting.

While publishers might not want to admit it, there is no guarantee a travel guide is even accurate. Just look at how often restaurants come and go in your hometown, or, worse yet, falter when it comes to quality.

While these companies try to stay up-to-date on the news, it is somewhat challenging. So, writers and editors tend to rewrite and update these guides on an annual basis.

That means if a restaurant was noteworthy in 1996, it must still be good today. Besides, it’s in the book, so it must be true.

There is nothing worse than following the advice of a travel guide only to show up somewhere and be utterly disappointed.

When it comes to guides, follow Ronald Reagan’s advice. “Trust, but verify.”

In my experience, perhaps the best way to find the hidden gems in any destination — restaurants, for sure — is to ask the locals. Start with the concierge at the local hotel, but remember he or she may be compensated for sending tourists to a particular restaurant.

Another great way to source must-experience eateries is by reading the local paper and local blogs. There aren’t many food columnists anymore, but there are plenty of sources for reliable information.

Just remember to take everything with a grain of salt. In today‘s world of too much information, just remember everybody has an angle they’re pushing.

Be an individual. Find the places you’ll enjoy and remember. Travel is fun, so don’t feel like you must follow some random books itinerary just because it’s at the local book purveyor.

For better or worse, the onus is on you, the traveler. We have so much information it is easy to overthink a trip. That’s why it’s important to take a moment to research. Look several places. Check and double check reservations.

You will be rewarded. If you’re not, there’s always Help for venting about your experience.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 89 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.

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