Cultural homogenization and globalization are nowadays so widespread that traveling off the beaten path, exploring authentic local culture, and finding hidden gems sounds like a fairy tale. The internet is not helping: with the information overload that we experience, planning the perfect trip is like looking for a needle in a haystack. In the age of infinite possibilities, the freedom of choice we so cherish can quickly turn into a nightmare of decision paralysis, buyer’s remorse, and mental fatigue.
Luckily, travel technology is now finally addressing this problem, as new services start to offer personal concierge online. Since personalized vacation planners are a relatively recent phenomenon, we decided to show you how they can help you become a chooser, beat standardized consumer culture, and move towards more meaningful travel experiences.
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1. Avoid decision paralysis and travel FOMO
As Hugh Morris, a travel news editor of The Telegraph, writes, much FOMO – an acronym for the Fear Of Missing Out – is connected to travel and all the available options travelers face when planning the next trip. If you book a room in a fancy hotel, you will be missing out on the cultural authenticity of staying with a local guest family; if you choose a homestay, you won't be able to enjoy the architecture, design, and comfortable amenities of a good hotel The more options you have, the more opportunities you will give up once you decide. The high emotional cost of these trade-offs is what we today call travel FOMO. But why does excessive choice – something we were told was a good thing – cause us distress? And how can personalization help us overcome it?
Although having an abundance of possibilities can be great, the old saying “everything in moderation” also applies to the freedom of choice. In 2004, American psychologist Barry Schwartz published The Paradox of Choice, a book on the psychology of choice that shifted our perception from the “freedom to choose” to the “burden to choose”. As Schwartz argues, the more options we have (and thanks to the internet the number of possibilities is infinite!), the more effort a decision requires. There is even a group of people, the so-called maximizers, i.e. those who always try to identify the no-less-than-perfect option, who are more susceptible to decision paralysis: the exhaustive process of analyzing hundreds of reviews, lists, and guide books overwhelms them so much that they can't decide... and might stay home instead!
According to Schwartz's research, we are happiest when we spend time with our friends and family, meaning that investing great amounts of energy to navigate the choice overload robs us of the moments that truly matter. This is why holiday planning and related research are so exhausting and frustrating for many.
Fortunately, with modern problems also come modern solutions – an online vacation planner tailored to you being one of them. You can simply enter your travel details – such as destination, arrival date, and the number of days you want to stay – as well as your personal preferences – budget, interests, and special requirements like food restrictions – and your trip will be tailored exactly to your needs and taste! By reducing the choice overload to only what is relevant for you, a personal vacation planner saves your time and energy, affected by travel FOMO or the infamous decision paralysis.
2. FIND AUTHENTICITY DESPITE CULTURAL GLOBALIZATION
A personal travel planner can also be a great tool to navigate popular destinations that are becoming increasingly homogenized. In her paper "Destination Culture: How Globalization Makes All Cities Look the Same", Sharon Zukin, a sociology professor specializing in urbanism, argues that cities worldwide engage in a cultural competition by copying each other and standardizing the consumer culture in order to attract visitors. Phenomena such as McGuggenisation, i.e. building the same cultural institutions – like the famous Guggenheim museum – all over the world until they lose their uniqueness or the Disneyfication, i.e. making a consumable spectacle out of previously culturally authentic areas such as Times Square, perpetuate homogenization.
While globalization undeniably brings some great advantages, it does result in global cities turning into cultural hybrids that are strikingly similar to each other. This complicates cultural tourism and requires travelers who want to experience cultural authenticity to put in hours and hours of research before setting out on a trip. For some a nuisance, for others busy with work and other obligations a sheer impossibility! However, a good vacation planner can help you explore the hidden, authentic corners of your chosen destination – all you need to do is to let the service know that you want to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Cultural immersion is long known for its many benefits for personal development, be it faster language learning, freeing yourself from stereotypes, or building up your confidence. Visiting authentic local places on your holiday rather than standardized, branded areas can then have a big impact on your life at home as well. For those interested in the past, heritage tourism might also be an interesting option and something a personal vacation planner can easily organize.
3. TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY
Personalized travel is not just convenient for tourists – it also supports the local communities and helps to steer tourism in a more environmentally and socially sustainable direction.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals in 2018 increased by 6% worldwide. While the rapidly growing travel industry brings various advantages to destinations, many urban and even rural regions experience overtourism, which is causing problems for locals and travelers alike. In urban destinations, local communities suffer because as their neighborhoods become overcrowded, waste, noise, and rental prices increase as well, often driving out the locals. Travelers suffer because instead of enjoying a relaxed, enriching vacation, they spend hours waiting in queues, are unable to appreciate landmarks due to crowds, and have to pay more and more as the number of arrivals skyrockets and tourist taxes soars. As a result, travelers pay more to stay in places that have lost parts of the original features and charm that made them desirable in the first place.
As Mercedes Hutton from the Post Magazine writes, the main culprits behind overtourism are travel agencies, airlines, cruise lines, tourist boards, and the media, since they all funnel tourists to the same hotspots. Nonetheless, tourists themselves also have their responsibility. By engaging in mass tourism – choosing cheap flights, package holidays, and joining big organized groups – travelers contribute to the pollution and overcrowding of popular holiday destinations, aggravating the already critical situation.
A personalized travel planner, however, can help solve this problem. Taking travelers’ tastes, interests, and preferences into consideration, a personalized concierge service disrupts the tourist flow, breaks it down according to individual travelers’ profiles, and relieves tourism congestion. As a result, tourists are not only distributed to different popular neighborhoods, attractions, and landmarks but also to the off-the-beaten-path areas that might not be well promoted by local tourist boards and travel agencies but fit a traveler’s personal travel style. Through personalization, travel can become more sustainable and enjoyable for everyone involved!
4. REDUCE TRAVEL STRESS
While it is proven that going on a vacation helps us live longer, happier lives, travel can also become stressful, leading to family crisis, anxiety, or, astonishingly, even travel burnout. To combat travel stress, you first need to identify which stressors are triggering your travel anxiety.
According to the Simplemost Travel Study from 2017 that asked almost 8,000 people what part of traveling stresses them the most, holiday planning and coordinating travel logistics while in a destination made it to the top 5. Thankfully, a good personal vacation planner can easily diminish both triggers. The service can not only plan your holidays but also thoroughly research your destinations and provide you with a personal itinerary you can easily manage while on the road.
However, you should beware of online travel planners that only cover logistics - and not the quality of the recommendations - and those that try to fit as much as possible into your vacation schedule. Hurrying from place to place will not only make you feel stressed but also negatively influences how much you remember from your trip. Jenni Avins from Quartz interviewed Marc Wittmann, a cognitive psychologist and author of Felt Time: The Psychology of How We Perceive Time, about over-planning and what he calls a “classic holiday effect”. As Wittman explains, we perceive a period of time as longer, if we spend it doing something novel and unique because new, exciting things evoke strong emotions. In turn, the more emotionally engaged we are in the moment, the more it will stick in our memory.
This is why we usually remember what happens in the beginning of our vacation better than what occurs in the end – after a while, every destination loses its novelty as routine sets in place. That being said, you will not recall your holiday more vividly if you strive to fit as many different activities as possible into your schedule: it is the quality not quantity that makes a vacation memorable.
5. GET PERSONALIZED EXPERT ADVICE
The quality of any trip itinerary can certainly be enhanced by recommendations on how to explore the local life, hidden gems and local hangouts. Personal travel concierge services can help ensure that you make meaningful travel memories.
Locals are by far the preferred source of information not only because they know all about the hidden gems but also because they are independent individuals who genuinely want to share local favorites rather than trying to sell you something out of portfolios like travel agencies do. But it is even better to get tips from local experts – artists, baristas, chefs, historians, and so on. These people have the needed knowledge and experience in their field that allows them to handpick truly unique activities and local spots.
However, even the best local tips won’t do you much good if they don’t match your interests, lifestyle, and taste. Thus, personalization, a recent trend made popular by services such as Netflix, Outfittery, or Stitch Fix, is what the travel industry needs. What is meant, though, is a truly personalized travel service – or travel hyper-personalization – as opposed to persona-based vacation planners catering to generic customers like “business travelers”, “honeymooners”, or “family vacationers”.
If you made up your mind and are ready to take advantage of the growing personalization trend, we would like to recommend you the best possible virtual travel concierge out there. Yes, it’s us – but we have a lot of good reasons for claiming so!
The Trip Boutique is a unique personal travel advisor that goes beyond persona labels. Instead, we look into each and every traveler individual's profile and, based on that, offer a realistic trip itinerary of locally-curated recommendations. In contrast to other digital concierge services, we use innovative travel technology that allows us to deliver your personal itinerary with a high accuracy rate: our algorithm takes all your travel preferences into consideration to pick the best suggestions for you from our locally-curated database.
However, we also preserve the human touch behind every recommendation – our service is powered not only by AI- and ML-based travel tech but also by real people, travel experts and locals qualified in their field of expertise. You can count on us to deliver personalized, transparent, and unbiased recommendations of supreme quality. Ready to start your journey?
Set out with The Trip Boutique and get one full day of recommendations for free!
About the author: Denisa was born in the Czech Republic but lives in Switzerland where she studies English Language and Literature at the University of Zurich. When she is not working on developing content for The Trip Boutique, she enjoys writing short stories and reading.