Travel Planning. Expert Advice.


August 14, 2013

Discuss: Is There a Right and a Wrong Way to Travel?

Can you say you've been to a destination if you don't leave the indistinguishable beach?

While most people like to travel, the concept of an ideal trip varies wildly from person to person. While some people like staying in glamourous all-inclusive hotels and sitting on the beach all day, others prefer to wake up early and see as much of the area’s sites and culture as possible.

What I want to know from you, is if you think there’s a right and a wrong way to travel.

I’m assuming that the majority of you reading this site fall more into the second camp, preferring to spend time interacting with locals and seeing the sites instead of sipping margaritas on the beach (though you may like to do that from time to time).¬†For me, as I’m guessing is true with many of you, if I don’t come back from a trip thinking, “Man, I need a vacation,” then I didn’t fully experience the destination.

If I’d asked this question last year, I think that I would have emphatically said that there is definitely a wrong way to travel; however, having worked as a travel agent for a few months earlier this year, selling mostly high-end, all-inclusive vacations and cruises, I actually have slightly changed my mind.

So, while I don’t necessarily believe that there is a wrong way to travel, I do think there is a huge difference between going somewhere and experiencing somewhere.

The majority of vacationers who go to all-inclusive resorts or take cruises don’t ever get out of that bubble. Even if they go off the resort briefly, they are still with their group, meaning that they are getting manufactured culture at best.

Back in April, I visited Ocho Rios, Jamaica, for a work conference. While I may have spent my time differently than the customers staying in the same high-end resort, I don’t think that I experienced any less culture than they did: none.

This experienced really opened my eyes even further to the reality of these types of vacations. After all, while the resort was nice (though definitely not a 4.5-star property as claimed), there really wasn’t anything to distinguish it as Jamaican. I could have had the exact same experience in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or even Florida.

I often had people come into my shop and say, “I want to go to an all-inclusive, but I don’t want to go to Jamaica. I’ve already been there.” Had they really though? If you get more culture in the airport than you do during your vacation, can you really claim to have been to a destination?

I think not.

What do you think? Is there a right way to travel and a wrong way to travel? Or is there only one way to actually travel in the first place?

Let me know in the comments section below.


  1. Definitely agree with your perspective. Saying that you experienced a place by staying in a 4-5 star resort is like saying that you have been somewhere by having a layover in the airport. Although some tourists will disagree, I still believe you must immerse yourself in local life or you have missed the point.

  2. TOM

    The best and only way to travel should be the sustainable way. If I am able to have the luxury of travelling through a country other than my own I feel I should be putting money into the local economy and helping the locals live a better life.

    I’d rather my money didn’t go to big multi million dollar corporations. This means I try my best to avoid eating at McDonalds, drinking at Starbucks and 9 times out of ten avoid All Inclusive.

  3. I agree with Tom, but how you travel is up to you. Personally speaking I travel by my own rules. These prioritise the least carbon intensive modes of transport, and staying in B&B’s, Gites or Agritoursim. I also try to understand the culture I’m visiting and be respectful and do thinks the local way.

  4. What an interesting question – I would have to say that I call out travellers all the time for globettrotting in such a ridculous manner, but come to think of it if we start saying there’s a right or wrong way to travel I really think we’re taking away the freedom of it all.

    Travel allows you to be whoever you want to be and go wherever you want to go, so if someone wants to do it a certain way then why not. Obviously there’s a line when it comes down to having a detrimental affect on the place you’re visiting, but really travel should allow for freedom, not restrictions.

  5. Great discussion Jim. I agree that traveling to all inclusive resorts defeats the purpose of really experiencing the country.

  6. Helen

    In response to the comments about getting immersed in the culture, to me someone constantly on the internet posting on social media and contacting people back home is missing out on the experience too. If you don’t disconnect and look around you instead of at your phone/tablet/laptop, you aren’t travelling just logging on from another free wifi location. It’s ok to just, you know, BE there. If you don’t share it online it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!

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