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Weekend Getaway Guide

How to Decode a Travel Brochure

Travel expert Rick Steves shares insider tips on cutting through the clutter of travel brochures.

By Kathleen Squires
Illustration of two women holding up travel brochuresGreg Clarke

 

  • Be skeptical when reading travel brochures, because they are designed to help you spend money. They're propaganda—paid advertising—for a business.
  • Look for a straightforward, up-front price. (It's better than having the tour company trying to pry money out of you over the course of your vacation through various sales gimmicks.)
  • Keep in mind that a brochure is designed to make the place look really good. If it's not showing me a wide shot of a hotel, I assume that the wide shot is ugly. If it's just showing me the garden in the back, that means the front is ugly.
  • With hotels, words like "deluxe," "luxury," and "Superior" (along with a checklist of facilities, like a shoe-shine machine in your hallway) do nothing to quantify the character, ambiance, friendliness, and convenience of the place.
  • The word "area" should send a red flag: If the brochure says your hotel is in the "Florence area," right away you know it's halfway to Bologna in the middle of nowhere.
  • If you're taking a tour of some kind, keep in mind that the more sights that are packed into a short tour, the more time you're spending on a bus and the less time you're spending seeing them.
  • Bragging that a place is a member of the local tourist board may mean only that it paid to be included. Similarly, if a place points out that it is  on UNESCO's World Heritage List, they have nothing else to talk about.





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