Caribbean sunshine

Caribbean sunshine
Photo by: yinance (Stock Exchange)

Howdy, Disabled Travelers fans!

Welcome back to the blog!

As the Web gets bigger and more and more people out there start providing news and views for the disabled traveler community, I’ve found myself including a resource that used to be quite rare: discussion forums.

I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to these, because they can be a mixed bag.

But more and more high quality forums are popping up, so in today’s visit we’ll be talking about how to get the best travel insights from your favorite forum.

There are a few general rules for navigating a forum successfully …

Check the dates of posts. Often, when disabled travelers look for info on a trip, some of the first links that come up are from forums. Unfortunately, search engines don’t make any distinction about the age of the post; that link could be from last week or last year. While some of the advice folks give on discussion boards doesn’t go out of date too quickly, there are situations where things change quickly: for example, I recently came across a raft of posts about how safe and secure Cairo is – from before the revolution.

Check out the folks who answer. Every once in a while, travel forums on even the best websites will be infiltrated by biased parties. They might not be scammers, exactly, but they’re always sure to promote the same product, service, trip, or guide – probably because they’re getting paid to do it. This becomes obvious after a while, and the average spammer will have to move on to new accounts on a fairly regular basis. If a user just joined the boards, take their advice with a grain of salt until you get to know them.

Pick your boards carefully. Likewise, some forums are “sponsored” by travel companies. This is fine if you’re interested in signing on to their tour or staying at their hotel, but competing services might not get a fair shake in that kind of environment. There are some boards that are so big and well-established that you can pretty much expect fair treatment, though. Both the age of the website and whether they have community standards – are there moderators? Do they keep folks in line and on topic? – count for something. The older the site is, the more it’s had to do for its visitors to stay relevant over time.

Ask good questions. The more specific you are about your question, the more others can help you. “Tell me about Madrid” is a pretty huge topic and one that’s probably better served by the place-specific internet guides out there. If you ask specifically about hotels, attractions, the weather, and so on, you’ll probably get more responses, and each one you get will tend to be more detailed. Then you can start up private conversations with the people who chimed in – they’re usually more than happy to give you the skinny.

Start with local or regional forums. Posting your question in the right place makes it a lot more likely to get a good response. If you’re visiting one of the larger travel forums, such as TripAdvisor, start in a forum dedicated to where you’re going. If your question is about accessibility issues, such as disabled hotels, then see if there’s a forum especially for accessible travel information. If there is (and they’re around more and more these days!) post your question both there and in the local forum.

Thanks for dropping in! See you next week for more Disabled Travelers!

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