About Me

My photo
I finally made it to the adventure of a lifetime and now I'm a citizen of the World. Indy author, blogger, in love with being an author - Mom of two grown children and widow of the most wonderful man to ever live - Devon "Pete" Hall.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Travel Tips from a Rank Amateur

Let’s face it, at less than a month out of the traveler’s gate, I barely qualify to give anyone travel advice, so we’ll just call these “tips” and I’ll take them one post at a time. Here’s the first hard lesson I learned:

Online descriptions of hotels and other tourist destinations are unreliable and Googling images of a place doesn’t work either. There are a couple of funny stories about that.

This is what the beach looked like online.

First, Vanessa and I were determined to find a beach fairly close to our hotel in Cebu (which really means somewhere we didn’t have to fly or take a ferry to) so we researched online and found that there were several resorts on Mactan Island, where the Cebu airport is located. The resorts issue day passes to use their beach, pool and whatever other facilities they might have except access to the rooms, of course.

Perfect, we thought. Well, let’s just say that when we arrived at White Sand Resort and excitedly rushed to the white sand beach we’d seen pictures of, I stopped dead in my tracks in front of a 100-yard stretch of white sand that technically counts as a beach, turned to the security guard and asked, “Where are the cabanas?” Van and I still laugh about that one. In fact, whenever we would arrive at a location that didn’t live up to its hype, she’d look at me and say, “Where are the cabanas?”

 It was the smallest stretch of sand I can ever remember seeing and totally incompatible with someone sunbathing on it. The flesh-eating ants alone would prevent that. We made the best of it by hanging out at the pool instead, although another set of tourists from Europe demanded their money back.

The actual beach is behind Vanessa from just left of the palm tree to the sign on the right. Make way for killer ants.

Secondly, we were forced to return to Manila because that’s where Vanessa’s return flight originated, so we booked a hotel that was a little more upscale than the very efficient little Red Planet rooms we had been staying in. We’d give ourselves a little comfort to make up for the fact that we were back in the town we had literally rushed away from.

Well…when our taxi driver began searching for the address in Makati (a supposedly up and coming business area in Metro Manila) along a street that literally horrified us, we both began to protest in unison that he had it all wrong. Our hotel was “up there” and we’d point to the high rises in the glitzy area we could see in the distance. But no, our driver was right. Our quite nice hotel was smack-dab in the middle of a scene from a comedy where tourists get stranded and must survive. I even went inside to check the room before we let the cabbie go. Seriously, the hotel itself was fine and I was reassured by a couple of European business men waiting in the lobby for their rooms to come available, unconcerned, but it was touch and go there for a while. We only left the hotel once – to go to the Mall of Asia. We even ordered in Shakey’s Pizza.

So tip #1 – Double-check everything by using a guidebook or with locals if you can, but be mindful that everyone is giving you their perspective which may not match your own. Be aware that if there no pictures of some aspect of a location, there’s probably a good reason. Lovely photos of lovely places are not always associated with the actual place that’s described. 

More to come!


  1. That might be some what of a hobby to take up. Save a pic that made you decide on a place...then take a pic of what you actually get. It would be nice if some of the places turn out better than expected. Perhaps even a not so great place upon first arrival, but turning out to have a diamond in the rough.

    1. You're right! I know I was surprised at a few places - for instance the terrific river cruise and buffet was an fantastic surprise. I wasn't expecting anything near to what we got and for a great price - $10. Definitely a diamond in the rough and the pictures didn't represent it well at all.