Tell the truth about your last vacation

Tell the truth about your last vacation. Christopher Elliott, author

It’s time to tell the truth about your last vacation — the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Was that hotel or vacation rental overrated? Did that five-star restaurant only deserve four stars — or less? Was the place too crowded, too expensive?

“Dad, it’s time to tell your readers the truth,” my 15-year-old son Aren exclaimed after a recent trip.

“What do you mean?” I asked incredulously. “Haven’t I been doing that all along?”

“No,” he said, “I mean the truth.”

Ah, the truth.

At a time like this, getting all the facts would be helpful. People are planning their summer vacations, consulting social media, review sites, travel agents and friends for reliable recommendations. But relationships seen and unseen prevent these sources from telling it like it is. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the truth?

Tell the truth about your last vacation.
Iden Elliott at Voodoo Donuts in Portland last year. The pastries were fine, but the kids preferred the Blue Star Donuts.
I guess I should start

“What truth should I tell?” I asked my son.

“Portland, Oregon,” Aren replied without hesitating. “You wrote stories about Portland. You said you liked it. And you didn’t.”

I scrolled back in my mind to the summer trip to Portland. OK, so Portland wasn’t my favorite place. I failed to mention the city’s homeless epidemic in my coverage. I didn’t say anything about the times I felt unsafe when walking through the city.

How do you write a travel story about a place you don’t like?

“And you forgot to warn people about Voodoo Donuts,” said Aren. “Voodoo donuts are awful.”

Alright, he didn’t use the word “awful.” He used another word that 15-year-olds do.

“You should have told them about Blue Star Donuts,” he said.

True, Blue Star is superior. It’s a small regional chain of donut shops, and they specialize in exotic flavors like Blueberry Bourbon and Cointreau Crème Brûlée.

But after the sugar buzz wore off, I should have written more honestly about Portland, too. It’s not for everyone. Yes, there’s a significant homeless population — more than 4,000, according to a recent count.

Travel journalists constantly leave information on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, the omission is inadvertent. Other times, it’s because we don’t want to offend the residents of a place we’re covering or the friends we know there. I failed to tell the whole truth about Portland because it would have taken more time to explore the dark side of the destination. I didn’t have the time to write a hit piece.

Tell the truth about your last vacation.
Erysse Elliott at the Magic Kingdom in 2013. We lived in Orlando 12 years and know that many theme park vacations are far from magical.
Your friends don’t tell the whole truth, either

If you can’t trust a travel writer to tell the whole truth about a popular destination, consider the advice your friends give you.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why would a friend lie to you? If you ask about that last theme park vacation — how did it go? — you could be putting your buddy in a bind. If the vacation was terrible, he might be reluctant to admit it. After all, your friend just spent thousands of dollars on a family getaway.

People lie about their vacations.

I know. We lived in Orlando for 12 years, and for most of that time, I had an annual pass to all of the theme parks. I saw the meltdowns, breakdowns, and vacation failures firsthand. Some of them were my own.

The truth? Some people come to Disney World and don’t have a magical time. When that happens, they don’t run home and tell everyone to avoid the Happiest Place on Earth. Instead, they use euphemisms to describe their experience.

“It was great,” they say, “We had a few bumps in the road.”

Tell the truth about your last vacation
Aren Elliott at Seattle’s Museum of Flight in 2017. It’s true, we had a travel agent who tried to send us everywhere we didn’t want to go.
Want the truth? Question everything

Not to be cynical, but you have to question every source, no matter how reliable they seem.

The internet is filled with review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, which promise you the truth about a destination or travel product. My family has tried them, but we stopped. That’s because the sites are easily compromised by reputation management operatives, disgruntled former employees, or vengeful guests.

Sites that self-host reviews are even less reliable. I’ll never stay at another Airbnb after one particularly negative experience that started with a series of too-good-to-be-true reviews for one property in Colorado Springs, Colo. Let’s just say sites like Airbnb have a vested interest in keeping things positive — too positive to be of any use to the average guest.

How about travel agents? Not all of them tell the truth, either. Some do, but I’ve run into a few who put commissions above customers.

In other words, you might ask your trusted travel advisor to plan a long weekend in Seattle. But your agent might push back and try to persuade you to book a week at a Sandals all-inclusive property.

Always follow the money

Who is compensating your agent? That’s a fair question. If your advisor can’t or won’t answer, move on.

Check with multiple sources before you make a vacation choice, but never make a decision based solely on the recommendation of a single source, even if that source is your travel professional. Or your best friend.

I agree with my son — it is time to tell the truth. But this raises a question: Is anyone telling the truth?

I’d like to think I am, my friends are, and my trusted travel agent is. But who am I kidding?

I’m sorry, Aren. I should have written something about the Passion Fruit Cocoa Nibs at Blue Star. Next time.

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.