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April 26, 2013

STAWAR: Vacation planning: Then and now


When we were planning our last trip to the New York area, we found a website that purported to have up to date information regarding the last report of bedbugs at a number of hotels and motels. We were surprised at the number of bed bug reports from very famous and expensive hotels. Although the status of a hotel can change with every new guest, we relied on the information provided and seemed to do fairly well in picking a place to stay.

People may still rely on word-of-mouth to make vacation choices, but today it’s usually strangers’ reviews posted online at websites like, which publishes thousands of user reviews on hotels, restaurants and attractions. I’m surprised how often the reviews contradict each other, which only encourages us to seek out further information. 

Rod Cuthbert is a travel industry veteran and co-author of “Vacation Rules,” a book advising you how to plan your vacation. He says, “It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the vacation research and booking process …” 

For some people, the search may become more fun than the vacation itself. Studies by a Dutch tourism researcher and scientists at the University of Washington and Northwestern all found that people reported the greatest amount of happiness in the time leading up to their vacations, rather than during the vacation. According to Cuthbert, “People enjoy the process of searching for destinations, looking for deals, planning activities and booking everything online.” What they often forget is to establish an overall goal for the trip, resulting in a vacation that is “good, but not great.” 

According to “Vacation Rules,” one of the biggest mistakes in planning trips is including too many components. My father was certainly guilty of this. He never wanted to stay anywhere for more than one night, so most of our summer vacations were like being on the lam for two weeks out of each year. 

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