The Outside Explorer's Guide to the Brave New World of Trip Planning

Blogsploitation

Illustration by 500gls    

Blogsploitation by Michael Behar
Thanks, or no thanks, to blogs, everyone is suddenly a travel writer. The kinds of tales once shared among friends ("the cioppino went down easy but unfortunately came back up even easier") are suddenly public domain. Too many wannabe Brysons can be annoying, but the upshot is that you get a chance to learn painlessly, drawing on the lessons of those who've bravely (or foolishly) gone before. As a research tool, blogs are revolutionary. For travel outfitters with zero control over the candid reviews, they can be terrifying. "A lot of companies are scared out of their minds," says Sean Keener, cofounder of the travel-blog hub BootsnAll.com. "But the smart ones are responding to what people are writing with an improved product." Here are a few tips to better your blog time. » Browse a little, search a lot: Use sites' search tools to find pairings of, say, "Mongolia" and "fly-fishing guide," and try meta search engines like Google's Blog Search (blogsearch.google.com) or Technorati Blog Finder (www.technorati.com/blogs) to sift through thousands of sites simultaneously. » Get backup: Blogs aren't fact-checked—don't rely on a single source claiming that a renowned trekking guide serves only rice and ketchup for dinner. » And know your blogger: One traveler's dreamy bungalow is another's mosquito-infested shack. Seek out profile pages for personal tidbits and travel experiences.

Get Your Clicks

1. blogs.bootsnall.com
Some 800 independent travelers with blogs organized by region.

2. www.gadling.com
Browse 4,300 adventure blogs by topic and activity.

3. www.travelpod.com
See before you go: Hundreds of bloggers offer photos and videos.

4. www.escapeblog.com
Slogan excerpt: ". . . making sure you don't piss off the locals is where the excitement begins."

5. www.gridskipper.com
Travel tips for savvy (iPod subway maps) and daring (best fried chicken feet in L.A.) urbanites.

What's Out There
"In this day and age there are no new surf breaks in Bali, but I know for example that places like Jasri in East Bali do sometimes get surf, with not too many other people around."
BaliBlog.com, "Surfing in Bali: The Modern Age"

"Magic mushrooms + Thai girl that turns out to be a post-op lady boy who then goes crazy on the mushrooms!!! Worst night of my life."
BootsnAll.com, "Brett's Travel Blog of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and the USA"

Talk to Me // Online Discussion Groups
Like blogs, Web forums offer unfiltered reports from the field. And because forums allow you to join running conversations or create new threads, they're better than blogs for specific info ("Who makes the best mango lassi in Kathmandu?"). All operate with the conviction that the best source of advice is your fellow traveler. Here are three of the best. Thorntree.lonelyplanet.com: A frenetic mind meld of some 290,000 adventurers. www.fodors.com: 100,000 sophisticated travelers swap know-how in a brilliantly organized forum. www.igougo.com: More than 350,000 members share destination reviews, trip journals, and photos.—A. M.

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