Ever since I have been living on the coast, people have asked me for vacation advice. Often I would spend hours writing suggestions for friends and sometimes for people who just happened to stumble across my blogs. It was a challenge because I never had enough time to do it right.
Now I hope to sell a travel guide that has become a labor of love for us. While we published a version last year. It ended up being a learning experience showing us many things that we could do the next time. This year's version is hard to compare to last year's. The pressure was there to make our information more valuable, more convenient and better than the first version and what might already be available from others. The result will have to speak for itself as visitors try it out.
Our A Week at the Beach-The 2013 Emerald Isle Travel Guide, is now available and I think we have done the best possible job at providing quality information in a format that lets readers stay up to date on their destination. At only $4.99, it is a reasonable investment that lets you experience much of the area virtually before you even arrive.
I came at the problem of creating our travel guide from a couple of different perspectives. First there are plenty of books and maps where the information provided is there only because someone has purchased an ad. The visitors hoping to gain some insight through the information still have to personally try the restaurant or service provider. It is trial and error at best. They might have a good experience and they might not. Even really bad restaurants buy advertising and it might even be the case that they buy more advertising than some really good restaurants.
I wanted to be different so I have turned down requests for advertising in our book. At the same time I wanted my readers to have useful information that actually made their experiences very positive. So we included a list of restaurants where we have enjoyed meals in the last year. While we cannot do every restaurant, we can provide a very good sampling. If our meals were good enough for us to want to come back, we mentioned the restaurant. If we had a bad experience or felt the value just was not there, we left the restaurant out. That meant that a lot of restaurants did not make the cut this year. We worried a little that some new restaurants would show up or some others might work their way back into our hearts. To solve that problem we included a link for our readers to a web based list of restaurants that we will update during the year. Since at the end of April at least three area restaurants are either still under construction, being remodelled or not open for the season yet, it gives us some flexibility in evaluating those as the year progresses.
In looking at the most recent "official" North Carolina guide to the area, we found at least one restaurant listed which closed it doors long ago.
While our approach works well with restaurants, it is impossible for us to try all the houses that are available for rental on the Crystal Coast. We provided some links to reviews of homes, but really the best we could do is to arm our readers with information about the differences in locations where rental homes are available. We have either stayed in all the local motels or had friends stay in them, so we are on a little firmer ground in including them in our recommendations.
When it comes to the area's beaches, I have been on them all multiple times. I am in process of walking all of Emerald Isle's beaches once again. I hope to finish sometime in June. We are fortunate to have great beaches. Our book contains many very current pictures of Emerald Isle's beaches so I think it would be hard for others to provide better information.
A good example is the Point at Emerald Isle. Even if a travel guide mentions it, it is doubtful someone would have taken the time to walk the almost five miles required to get a real taste of the Point. I generally do that once a month in the spring and more often in the summer. In fact my GPS maps of the Point are more accurate than Google's since theirs are infrequently updated. While a Google map might show be walking on a water, I am actually walking on sand. I also have a little history with the Point since I first fished from it in 1969.
One of the ways that I hope to differentiate our guide book from others is the quality of the highway information provided. Most of us know how to use Google maps but once again the shortest route provided by Google might not necessarily be the best one to use in getting to the beach during summer beach traffic. With many years of experience of monthly travel to and from the beaches from the north, south, and west, I am comfortable that what I suggest in our travel guide provides the best travel experience with the least amount of hassle. I am also just an email away if someone want a little more unusual way to the beach perhaps avoiding interstate highways as much as possible.
To enhance the experience further I have carefully drawn several maps with very simple directions. Some of the maps can even be easily printed. An example of one of our maps is this one to Harkers Island from Cape Carteret. The book version has simple written directions to make it even easier to follow. I also have included links to trips which have photos attached to locations on maps. That is well beyond what can be found in most area information.
Another important direction in our book is information filtering. There are plenty of things to do at our area beaches, but we have tried to provide some suggestions as to what is appropriate and most fun.
It is not easy standing out from the crowd, but we are hoping that people take advantage of our free book days on May 1 & 2, and provide some reasonable reviews of our efforts. We have incorporated a lot of the suggestions we got last year into this year's edition and we hope to do the same next year. I want our travel guide to be a living document and the best that it can be.
I doubt there is another travel guide out there which has a way for you to see almost daily pictures of the area you plan to visit. Allowing my readers to be Facebook friends is a new concept. Listening to locals talk about the area and the weather before you visit is a great way to remove a few surprises that travelers sometimes get. Hopefully with all these eforts our travel guide will not get lost in the trees.
Actually I am hoping that I have created a prototype of the next generation travel guide. I certainly would love to hear feedback.