Want to know where the best playgrounds are in Berlin? How about if the streets of Rome are stroller-friendly? Wondering what to do with a 12-hour layover in Seoul? Are shops closed on Sundays in Prague?
You could Google all these questions, but that would not be the best use of your time. Instead, make fast friends with the TripAdvisor travel forums.
If you’re not already familiar with TripAdvisor, it claims to be the world’s largest travel site featuring reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, flights, vacation rentals, vacation packages, travel guides, and lots more.
The two main TripAdvisor features I use consistently when researching a travel destination are the hotel reviews and travel forums.
I like the hotel reviews because users often upload their own photos of properties. This gives me a more accurate view of the premises than the professional advertising photos which are designed to present the grounds in the most favorable light possible. I appreciate the reality of the user photos and the chance to see if the hotel lives up to its hype.
The TripAdvisor travel forums give you the opportunity to ask questions that are often too obscure or specific to be mentioned in any guidebook, especially when it comes to traveling with children.
It’s worth noting that in my experience the TripAdvisor forum community seems to be quite friendly, so don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions! This is not necessarily the case in expat forums (such as Toytown Germany) which can also be a source of finding answers to destination inquiries.
So, how do you go about mining this information? Obviously, you’ll first need to visit the TripAdvisor home page. Type a destination in the search box located in the upper right hand corner of the page. Note that there’s another search box on the left side of the page, below the main tool bar. Don’t use it – it won’t take you to the forums. After reaching the page for your destination, click More in the tool bar to reveal several other options including Travel Forums. TripAdvisor recently changed their website layout, and it’s possible you may end up accessing a page with the old layout (I did). In this case, the link to the Travel Forums will be on the left hand side of the page. Once on the forum page, I do one of three things: search, browse, or post. If I want to get a general idea of what people are interested in seeing at a particular destination (or common questions such as available options for airport transportation), I browse for a while clicking on recent topics that are relevant to my upcoming trip.
Type keywords such as “with kids”, “with toddler”, “with baby”, “stroller friendly”, or “high chair” in the search box for advice and valuable tips from locals and travelers who have visited your destination before.
I recommend searching the forums before posting a new topic. You’ll get your information faster, and you’ll know if you need to ask any additional questions to clarify previously posted information.
Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Click the “Ask a question” button to post in the destination’s travel forum. You’ll need to be a TripAdvisor member, but signing up is free and relatively painless.
As you compose your message, be as specific as possible to get the best results. If you have multiple questions, consider separating and even numbering them. Then, sit back and wait for your personalized answers.
How long you’ll have to wait depends on how popular the destination is and how active the forum members are. For example, when doing research to visit Jeju Island, South Korea, last year, I noticed that there were several forums for the island of Jeju including a Jeju and a Jeju-do forum as well as Seogwipo and others. I had the best luck in receiving replies by posting in the Jeju-do forum (the forum for the entire island).
If you don’t receive timely responses (and timely varies from place to place – check the frequency of existing replies), try posting your question again in another larger but still destination-appropriate forum.
When planning your next vacation with kids, give the TripAdvisor forums a chance to reveal locals-only knowledge to make your getaway even better.
What about you? Have you used the TripAdvisor travel forums before? What great tips did you learn?