Started in 1999, VirtualTourist lists 1 million members in 220 countries, and it claims 7 million unique website visits per month. It is very well organized and easy to navigate, offering information on over 2 million destinations. Many of the members on the site seem to be frequent travelers who share reviews, photos, videos, and tips about the places they have visited.
Membership & Travel Guide
Signing up for the absolutely free membership on VirtualTourist enables you to create a Home Page where you can add travel maps, videos and photos, and a network of travelers. To explore a destination, simply type the location.
Travel guide pages include 13 categories of information about hotels, popular spots to visits, transportation, nightlife, shopping, local customs, sports, tourist traps, etc.
Each broad destination guide includes several reviews written by VirtualTourist members about various tourist sites. So for example, if you’re planning a road trip to California, your search might begin with San Diego, CA as your destination, and then you might narrow your search to a particular tourist spot or simply explore what tourist sites have been written about.
VirtualTourist keeps member reviews separate from business sponsorship information. So reviews are personal, often providing a candid assessment of various destination spots, hotels, and travel conditions.
Hotels & Vacation Packages
As you might expect, VirtualTourist includes links to sponsored listings of hotel, travel, car rentals, and vacation packages. While this information can be accessed independently through any Google search, it’s useful to access it in a single place.
One great category in the destination guides is the Packing Lists, which includes site member recommendations in the form of reviews and photos of things (e.g., clothing, technical equipment, food) you might consider bringing for your trip.
Warnings & Dangers
Similar to Packing Lists, there’s also an important category called Warnings and Dangers. It also includes tips and photos about driving and traffic, local laws and rules, weather, fires, etc.
If you’re not finding the information you need, you can also post a question to other members on the destination guide page.
With such a large and growing membership, VirtualTourist provides what you can’t easily get using Google Maps – the ability to network with other people who have either visited your destination or who may actually live there.
As a VirtualTourist member you’re not even required to pay a fee to contact members on the site.
As you might expect, VirtualTourist is supported by lots of advertising, but in visiting the site I don’t feel as though ads are obtrusive. As with nearly all social networking sites, VirtualTourist can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. However, as of yet, there is not a mobile app for VirtualTourist. Hopefully one is in the works. For possible travel apps, check Steve’s 10 of the Coolest Map Apps for Use on Bing Maps.
The mapping features of VirtualTourist are of course not as advanced as Google Maps, but nearly all its other offerings could possibly help you to get the most out of your next travel destination.
Let us know other sites and resources you use to plan your road trips.
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