Crowdsourcing a Travel Itinerary

Do you ask questions? All the time? Like a 4-year-old riding a Skittles’ high? It’s a habit I developed at a young age, along with a rather unfortunate character descriptor: “Cathy? She’s like a dog with a bone.” However, this inquisitive tendency serves me well on the road. People respond to questions with generous amounts of information. Who doesn’t want to tell you where to go? Occasionally you feel like the locals are trying to take you for a ride, as if you’re a city slicker in an episode of “Green Acres“, but generally you’ll garner priceless insider tips.

I thought I’d take this one step beyond and cleverly assumed I could advance scout the natives before my arrival in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I floated some inquisitive tweets, hashtagging the location, and sat back waiting to collect my travel treasure.

Going to #OBX for first time. 16 people. Tips from vets for provisioning? Meals for a crowd?

Driving to #OBX. What time should we hit the bridge to avoid traffic? Ultimate destination: #Corolla.

Is there anybody out there? Desperate in #OBX.

I received ZERO responses. No helpful hints or suggestions. Was my pithy prose lacking? Perhaps the tweet should have read: “Heading to hell in a handbag. Want to come?”

Pig and Man BBQ

Whatever the question, BBQ is always the right answer. ©The Open Suitcase LLC

So then I posed these questions and many others to my friends who had actually been to the Outer Banks. Their responses were immediate, practical, and personal.

Order your first night BBQ from the Pigman and pick it up before you head to your rental.

Hit the bridge early. I mean early. You can diddle around until the house is ready but you do not, I mean, do not, want to get stuck in Saturday traffic.

If heaven has a supermarket, it’s the Harris Teeter.

Buy more beer than you think you can ever drink. And then buy more.

Wright Bros. Memorial statue

Visiting the Wright Bros. Memorial reminded me that airplane travel could be worse. A lot worse. ©The Open Suitcase LLC

My friends spout knowledge like a whale spews phlegm. In an age when everyone is ready, willing, and able to follow the advice of the herd, we sometimes forget that the best resource is the clan who have seen you naked – your family and friends.

I launched another friend-sourced initiative for a weekend visit by my sister and her Polish co-workers who were visiting NYC. I asked my sister, “What do they want to see?”

“They’re flexible.”

“What’s the budget?”

“Poles are notoriously thrifty.”

Ayeesh. So I launched an email to my nearest and dearest who either hail from the Big Apple or who have lived there so long that I’ve forgotten they’re originally from Boston. Almost. To my query – What would you do in New York City with someone who’s never been to town? – I received the following suggestions:

High Line, if it’s not too cold. Off-Broadway play in a small theater. Dim sum in Chinatown. MoMA. Top Of The Rock. Times Square. Village Vanguard. TAO. Architecture tour by boat around Manhattan. The Library at Joseph Papp Theater. Circle Line. Guggenheim. Shake Shack. Chelsea Market & a gallery. Brooklyn Art Library. Mast Brothers Chocolate. 911 Museum. John’s Pizza.

Chinatown dragons

Wandered into a New Year celebration in Chinatown. Literally. Heard the drums, turned the corner, and imagine…dragons! @The Open Suitcase LLC

Impressive, eh? Each one of these could be the standalone anchor for a great itinerary.

So the next time you’re planning a trip and before you turn to TripAdvisor, Twitter, Yelp, and the rest of the faceless internet, consider soliciting the opinion of your intimates. They’ve been by your side when you’re rolling in the mud so it’s safe to assume they’ll help you reach for the stars.

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