So you’ve spent all kinds of money on planning an awesome city vacation. You research the restaurants, the attractions, the shops. And finally, travel day comes, and you’re full of excitement and anticipation. Yay!
After a long, cramped flight, you land at last, drop off your bags at the hotel, and set out to indulge your wanderlust.
And the city sucks. It’s just plain ugly, or you’re getting constantly hassled by vendors. Ugh, not again!!!
If this sounds like your frequent travel nightmare, crack a smile, ’cause I’ve got an awesome solution, and it’s free.
The Problem of Hype
I think one of the main reasons this happens so often is hype, both from your friends and the travel industry.
Let’s start with your friends. I don’t know about you, but rarely (if ever) have I had a friend tell me “we just got back from vacation and the place was terrible”! Even if it was, I think there’s a natural human tendency to emphasize the good and talk a place up, even if the actual experience was bad. No one wants to admit they wasted a bunch of time and money, or that they didn’t know how to plan a trip. Kind of the same reason people tend to recommend restaurants they went to, even if they actually stank.
Second, the travel industry has a vested interest in selling you on a destination. So, they produce all sorts of slick brochures, videos, and other promotional materials that highlight the best of a place, and omit the worst. I’m not gonna pick on a place and name names, but you can see it for yourself: think of most any failed state, and run a search for “[name of failed state] tourism”. Most of the time, you won’t have trouble finding a slick website making the place look like heaven on earth.
Yup, not great; you spend your vacation days and dollars to visit a city, and it turns out to be a complete flop, despite what you heard from your buddies and saw on the Internet.
So, how do you avoid this? Well, here’s an idea on how to plan a trip: you take tours, for free, from the comfort of your own home. And I don’t mean just any tours. I mean a real, un-hyped virtual tour on YouTube. Check it out:
Visit A City By Taking A Virtual Tour With Keezi Walks
Keezi what? It’s a YouTube channel, but it’s special. Keezi (whoever he or she is) has a big library of videos where he simply walks around a city for a long time, with a camera showing what he sees. The amazing thing is that he does not speak; all he does is walk. If you put this up on a big screen TV, it’s an incredibly engrossing, immersive experience – you really feel like you’re there. And because there’s no narration or interruptions, it kind of slowly sinks you into the city he’s exploring, and gives you a true feel for where he is. You can take tours of tens of cities, all over the world.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
Buenos Aires, Argentina:
Keezi isn’t the only YouTuber that does this, though he seems to be the best-traveled. Here are some others to visit a city and take tours with:
For A Virtual Tour in Japan, Look at Rambalac
For Japan only, my favorite is Rambalac. He records a lot in 4K (better than Keezi), and seems to use a higher-placed camera. Like Keezi, Rambalac doesn’t speak or otherwise interfere with your virtual tour.
Here’s an example video:
How to Plan A Trip to a US City: Wind Walk Travel Videos
To help you in choosing US cities to visit, take tours with Wind Walk Travel Videos. They’re also narrator-free walking tours, often in 4K. For example, here’s a virtual tour of Los Angeles:
For Europe, Make Your Travel Plan with Watched Walker
Watched Walker seems to focus on shorter videos, in Europe. Take tours of many cities, such as jolly old London:
Take Attraction-Specific Tours with ProWalks:
ProWalks seems to focus each virtual tour on an attraction, and does so mainly in Europe (like Watched Walker). Here’s the Roman Forum:
Summing It Up
I love to take tours like these because not only are they free, but also I think they give you a real idea of what a place is like, without hype or spin. You’re basically a direct eyewitness; the only thing missing is the smells.
To find the tours, turn to these channels, or just search, in YouTube, for “walking in [name of the city]”. That should bring up the place you’re looking for.
So after taking a virtual tour of a city, I know that I have a much better idea of whether I want to spend my time and money going there. I’ve probably seen a big part of around ten of these videos, and have ruled out some places that I don’t think I ever want to go to. For others, I’ve confirmed that I definitely want to go. I hope it does the same for you.
Have you ever taken a virtual tour before you visit a city? What’s your favorite tip on how to plan a trip?
Thanks for the tip! I might do this for Miami as I plan to visit there in the winter. It’s a great tool to plan ahead and solidify your vacation destinations if you’re trying to narrow things down. And YouTube videos are much better than reading about a place because you may have biases/different prespectives.
The Rich Miser says
Yes, it definitely gives you a good “feel” for a city, without hype or spin. It’s absolutely helped me narrow down my list of places I want to visit.
Tom @ Dividends Diversify says
It’s good advice Miguel. We have never had much luck with urban vacations. So we tend to stick with day hiking in scenic parts of the country and look for mid size towns in the area to stay in that offer nice amenities. For example we are heading to Fort Collins Colorado this summer. Tom
The Rich Miser says
Yup, urban vacations can be hit-or-miss. I think this method is useful to increase the chances of a hit 🙂
We love Colorado! We’ve been to Vail, but have lots more places to explore.
The Luxe Strategist says
I never thought about using videos to scope out a place! I’ve had a few dud vacations, so maybe using something like this would have prevented them. Actually, we were watching Parts Unknown yesterday–the episode when Bourdain was in Vietnam–and seeing all the colors and the food and the people really made us want to go there. Similarly, I never was interested in Mexico City, but seeing it used as a backdrop for a TV show I watch really made me want to go!
My husband and I are going to Miami this weekend. We’re probably going to mostly chill, but let me know if there are any must-do’s!
The Rich Miser says
I hadn’t either, and kind of just stumbled on these videos while browsing YouTube (I have a fascination for “virtual travel”). I’m a big watcher of travel shows, too. I really like Andrew Zimmern’s food shows and think Josh Gates’s Travel Channel show is fun.
In Miami, don’t skip eating at Pubbelly!
cool thanks for mentioning me
There is also IcelandHotSpots on youtube 🙂