Top ten travel lists: helpful or hindrance?

17:00, Jun 25 2014
TOP TEN: Infamous 'Spring Break' destination Cancun in Mexico frequently makes the top 10.

We love lists. They provide order in an uncertain world and lend a sense of hierarchy, which, let's admit it, we humans crave.

You know who really likes lists? The travel industry.

It's one of its primary modes of communicating while trying to seize the attention of travellers and travel media. Nearly every day, another list arrives in my email. Sometimes I get five or six in a day.

They most often come in the form of "Top 10," of course, and in every context imaginable - "Top 10 Most Gorgeous Gorges" (they're in Turkey, Serbia, Arizona and New York, among others), "10 Beach Must Haves," "10 Most Luxurious Cruise Ships in the World" and "Top 10 Must Ride Roller Coasters in the World" (No. 1 is Expedition Ge-Force at Holiday Park in Hassloch, Germany - who knew?).

Some are quite useful ("10 Surprising Ways to Get Flagged at Customs"), intriguing ("10 National Parks That Are Better in Winter" - Utah's red rocks are well represented) or infuriating ("10 Most Ridiculous Airline Fees," which included a fuel surcharge of $1,500 on a ticket between New York and Johannesburg).

But most are none of the above.


Some are unique to time and place ("10 Must-Know Phrases in Sochi Right Now" - when will we ever need that again?), incredibly specific ("Top Five Reasons to Visit Lake Placid, NY, This Holiday Season") or strangely alluring ("Top Five Ghost Towns").

Some seem strange and slightly uninformed (among the "Five Breathtaking Honeymoon and Romantic Getaway Vacation Destinations" is Africa, a rather large place that, in many pockets, is less than romantic or breathtaking).

Some are genuinely interesting thought exercises ("Top Five Sleeper Cities For Deep Savings During Labor Day" suggested visiting Reno, Nevada, over Las Vegas, Toronto over New York and so on) or genuinely useful ("Top 10 Hurricane Season Hot Spots" with the least risk of actually seeing a hurricane reveals that Aruba is hit once every 28.2 years, while the Bahamas is struck every 5.64 years).

And some, I'm not sure how they arrive in my in box ("Five Tips for Breast Pumping After Returning to Work").

But they're not all Top 10 or 5. There's the "Top 17 St Patrick's Day Party Towns" (only one is in Ireland; go figure), "Nine Worst Hidden Travel Fees" and "Eight Reasons to Visit Nantucket This Fall" (they couldn't find two more?).

Before long, I fully expect to find the king of them all: "The Top 10 Top 10 Travel Lists."

Chicago Tribune