It can happen to anyone: You go off on vacation only to find it’s not what you expected. Perhaps  you found a great online deal for a beach-side island resort in June only to find out it’s the rainy season. Or maybe you booked a local tour from a tour operator’s website only to find you know more than the guide. That can’t-miss restaurant with the rave reviews? It’s in a nasty part of town with tons of open tables.

It’s today’s biggest travel issue — everything looks fantastic online and has great reviews. It’s not until you get there that you find out the truth.

According to the World Trade Organization, tourism is the largest commercial service industry on earth, and with it, the largest opportunity to get scammed or misinformed. The worst part — you can’t return a bad vacation.

Buyer beware

Start your next vacation by talking to a trusted source — a live person.

Travelers must search for reputable, trusted sources to ensure they get what they expect. Researching your trip does not have to be an exhaustive process if you take into account the source of information and rely only on trusted providers.  Unfortunately, trip reviews on websites cannot always be trusted. Research suggests that up to one-third of all reviews are paid for.

Travel begins and ends with a story, and the best way to get good solid vacation and destination tips is by talking to people who actually know. Start with your friends and colleagues. Ask them where they have travelled to and what kind of experience they had. Most importantly, ask them what is the best vacation they’ve ever had and why.

Trusted sources

Travel trade shows are another great place to find real information. At Travel & Adventure Shows, an afternoon strolling the show floor will allow you access to over a thousand trusted travel experts who are from the destination — and in some cases, actually provide your tour. They are there to answer your questions: where to go, what to see, where to eat and when to go.

Can’t get to a show? Try a reputable guide book. Rick Steves, Frommer Guides, Moon Travel Guides and Lonely Planet all are trusted sources.

Great travel agents can help you cut through the clutter, but it helps if you go to them with specific trips or tours in mind. Don’t settle — make the agent work to put together an itinerary that works for you. Many reputable travel firms offer fantastic information on their websites. Again, ask real people who you know and trust for their advice to help you find the best firms to work with.

We go on vacations to see the world, escape our everyday life and meet new people. Start your next vacation by talking to a trusted source — a live person.