Travels May 2008

The Trip Advisory: Tune In, Turn Left

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Our correspondent visits Seattle with only the hive mind of the Internet as his guide.

Dozens of social-networking and user-generated sites on the Web cater to travelers. Here are some that I used in Seattle:

Google Earth is available as a free download for Windows and Macs. Travel information is embedded in many of the overlays created by various Google Earth communities.

TripAdvisor.com, which is owned by Expedia, has exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) user-generated reviews of hotels around the world, along with comments on attractions and restaurants.

Chowhound.com has active message boards for more than 50 destinations and topics (such as “kosher food”), with reports on dining spots that offer everything from $200-per-person wine pairings to $2 hot dogs.

Yelp.com is a general-interest board with postings on restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, bars, and the like in dozens of U.S. cities. Judging by the preponderance of exclamation points, the site attracts a younger crowd.

Ning.com is a social network in which users can create their own communities. Search for the place you’re headed, ask questions, or just listen in on local chatter.

VirtualTourist.com organizes posts by tidy categories (“off the beaten path,” “restaurants,” “local customs”), with dozens of user reviews for many of the most popular spots.

IgoUgo.com is owned by the same people who own Travelocity and has an active community of 350,000-plus members who contribute well-considered reviews, many written in the manner of traditional guidebooks.

Wayfaring.com is a map-based Web site where users can annotate destinations and upload photos of their travels, descriptions of their favorite restaurants, and so on. The interface can be aggravating.

TripWiser.com offers handy templates for creating trip journals and posting short reviews; registered users can organize their itineraries based on recommendations from other travelers, or just follow in their footsteps. Recent offerings include “4 Days Around Jackson Hole” and “10-Day London & Paris Oooolala!”

RealTravel.com has a more global orientation than many other sites, and permits browsing of posts by destination or “things to do” (e.g.,“diving & snorkeling,” “food & wine”).

MyTripJournal.com does as it suggests: provides a place to post accounts of one’s travels. The interface is designed more for the writers and the people tracking them than for strangers seeking information.

43Places.com is a social-networking site that allows users to “share stories about places in your city and around the world,” but the site architecture results in a fairly random grab bag of facts and opinions.

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Wayne Curtis is an Atlantic contributing editor.

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