A few years ago we commissioned some research on how consumers think and feel about travel. The report categorised people into a series of demographic profiles. One of these groups was the 'excited travellers' – people who enjoy the task
of planning a holiday almost as much as the trip itself.
That described me to a T. In the months leading up to a big holiday, I'm happy to spend my evenings and weekends researching everything from the best seat on my flights to where to get the best coffee.
Digital tools have made this so much easier. Even a decade ago, trying to find a holiday rental in a foreign city was a challenging and risky task. You had to place your faith in the owner's photographs and description, with no way of judging their accuracy. Now, there's a plethora of booking sites, some with large volumes of reviews from other travellers.
And those opportunities extend to the on-ground experience, with apps and websites that can help you find everything from a meal to a masseuse.
But it doesn't always work.
At the end of a family holiday a few years ago, I picked a restaurant based on the hundreds of positive reviews. This was to be our last, special meal before the long trip home. But from the moment we walked in, I knew I'd made an error. It had all the hallmarks of a tourist trap – English menus with large coloured pictures of dishes, tacky cocktails and disinterested staff. And the food matched that first impression.
Since then, I increasingly go old-school when I hit the ground in a new place.
Rather than following instructions from Google Maps, I just head off in the general direction I need to go, only checking a map if I get lost.
Instead of picking a restaurant based on online reviews, I pinpoint an area that looks good and then choose a place based on the ambience and whether it seems to be packed with locals.
If you're looking at your surroundings rather than your phone and making decisions based on what feels right rather than what others have recommended, it makes for a more memorable experience.
Even if you have a dud meal, you can chalk it up to the adventure.
And surely that's what travel is about.
So if you're heading off somewhere this summer, I encourage you to go rogue. You might have a few surprises but the adventure will be worth it.
Alan Kirkland, CHOICE CEO