Guidebooks and YouTube videos can be helpful when you’re daydreaming about future travel plans, but a good well-written trip report can provide especially useful insight into a journey or destination. I have gleaned many excellent tips from the skilled writing of other travellers and thought it might be worth compiling a few resources.
The inspiration for this topic…
I was recently reading some old emails I wrote to friends and family from internet cafes while travelling in Europe many years ago. These were lengthy stream-of-consciousness messages that included all the highlights and lowlights of the previous few days. They are a window into the trip that a memory or photo can’t quite capture with the same level of detail and feeling.
I am astounded at the energy of my younger self:
I guess I was trying to get my money’s worth out of that pass.
Nowadays with FaceTime, texting, etc I don’t spend much time on long emails home that I can look back on years later.
However, there are many people out there with the self-discipline required to keep a detailed journal or voice recording of their travels they can later use to write a thorough account of their trip to post on a travel forum or blog.
These trip reports can not only be an wonderful reservoir of tips and info for itinerary and logistics planning, but a source of entertainment as well. There are many gifted storytellers out there who freely share their experiences online. The key is how to easily find them.
Before I go over the options below, do note that it still takes some effort to find the trip reports that suit you best. I like when the writer gets right down into the random minutiae. It makes it more real to me, I guess. Others don’t have tolerance for the minor details and prefer writing that sticks to the most interesting and useful bits.
And remember that older trip reports should always be read with the understanding that some of the content will be out of date. Even a relatively recent one can contain information that no longer applies today. For example, short-term apartment rentals in Paris are now regulated and one must look for a valid registration number when searching for that type of accommodation.
Fodors Forum Trip Reports
The Fodors website is one of the best places to find trip reports, in part because of its user-friendly search function. You can narrow the scope to one region or travel type and then filter the display further to show trip reports for a chosen country, state, province etc. (The little airplane symbol indicates a trip report). On the cruise forum you can also limit the search to a single cruise line.
You can also click on the person’s username to access a link to all of their other trip reports – some forum members are very prolific writers.
FlyerTalk Trip Reports
There are a huge number of subforums on FlyerTalk under a myriad of topics. The trip report section is kind of inconspicuous on the main page but if you scroll down far enough you’ll see it under the Community tab.
A number of these will focus on the flight and not so much on the rest of the trip, but others provide very detailed accounts of the entire trip. Although you cannot search by username to see trip reports specifically like you can with Fodors, some of the regulars will include links to all their other trip reports in the first post.
Rick Steves Travel Forum Trip Reports
The Rick Steves brand is associated with Europe guidebooks, organized tours and a show on PBS, but there is also an active online discussion board that includes a designated forum for trip reports. Unfortunately, you can’t filter them by destination and a few wayward questions find their way into the forum occasionally.
With a few exceptions, these are of course mainly Europe trip reports.
Disboards Trip Reports
Be warned that trip reports on a website dedicated to all things Disney are going to feature some hardcore fandom. But if you want a glimpse into that world, the trip reports forum on the Disboards is your opportunity. It might take some time to find one that aligns with your travel style and preferences, but if you’re seeking practical advice for a future trip, that forum is a bottomless pit of Disney travelogues.
In addition to the Disney parks, there’s a separate spot for Universal Orlando trip reports as well.
If you’re looking for trip reports for other Disney parks (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo) you can check the discussion forums for each of those.
There are other forums where you can find trip reports but they’re not often segregated into their own area like those above, which makes it harder to track them down. TripAdvisor is a heavy traffic website for travel questions but there is no ability to filter specifically for trip reports. However, in certain destination forums you might find a pinned thread with links to trip reports.
Of course you can always go on a googling spree to find blogs with trip reports but watch out for any sponsored content that might influence the writer’s view. I don’t believe it’s possible to be truly objective if one has been gifted a free trip, but they can still provide some useful information.
In my opinion, the best trip reports are the ones that share all the hiccups and wrong turns as well as the high points. I recall reading an Italy trip report where the fellow described accidentally putting gas in his diesel rental car. Yikes. No trip is perfect and it’s kind of reassuring to read about the true life experiences of fellow travellers. During this period of no travel due to the pandemic, enjoying the tales of a good writer is a nice escape along with the chance to pick up some valuable tips for a future vacation.
I’m certainly no travel writer, but going forward I’ll try to make an effort to document my adventures more like I did in the past. In those old emails there is stuff that I hardly even remember:
Wow. All those capitals and exclamation marks. I must’ve really enjoyed that. Glad it was worth the walk.