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How to Read Travel Brochures

A humorous look between the lines of travel brochures

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hurricane

Why would travel brochures mention a hurricane guarantee? Because they describe a place where it may rain. A lot. Pack galoshes.

Image by Susan Breslow Sardone.
Endless beaches... pink-gold sunsets... white-washed resorts populated by tanned, deliriously happy couples: If you've been vacation shopping and collected a stack of travel brochures or surfed the Net, you've no doubt seen several variations on this vacation fantasy.

In many cases, that's simply what travel brochures promote: A fantasy, designed to build desire and get you to choose one place over another. It's not that the destination doesn't exist or the words inside travel brochures are untrue; it's more that they tend to embellish reality.

While pictures in travel brochures don't lie, they do depict models chosen to make you think their life is far more fun and adventurous than yours. That may be the case. But at least the two of you like each other, which is probably more than the models can say.

Taken together, the words and images in travel brochures paint a picture of a heavenly hideaway. But is the place you're interested in really? With a tip o' the sun hat to Mad Magazine, here's how to decipher some of the language found in travel brochures.

What Travel Brochures Say...and What Travel Brochures Really Mean

"beach nearby" — to get there, prepare for a two-hour ride seated behind a family transporting chickens on a non-air-conditioned bus.

"constant breeze" — we have no air-conditioning. Also see: "hurricane guarantee."

"cozy" — two people will not be able to stand up in the room at the same time. This being a romantic getaway, we didn't think you'd mind.

"elegant decor" — according to our standards. Yours, mine, and even Ted Kaczynski's may be somewhat higher.

"free breakfast buffet" — it's only free if you're not a guest in the hotel. Otherwise, it's built into the price.

"friendly innkeepers" — we're lonely. We're nosy. And we're going to rifle your drawers when you go out.

"gourmet dining" — our cook washes his hands before starting work. Unless he's in a really bad mood.

"garden view" — the last thing you want (also known as "dumpster view.") You came here for the beach, and it's what you should see when you look out the window.

"get to meet the locals" — you certainly will, since the plumbing rarely works.

"guaranteed upgrade" — offered to make you think you're special. Guess what? Everybody gets it, since we only have one such room advertised.

Read Between the Lines of Travel Brochures

"hurricane guarantee" — it rains here. Sometimes it floods. But in the last 500 years, it's never been wet all day, the condition that entitles visitors to receive our guarantee.

"kids eat free" — expect to be serenaded by screaming babies at each meal.

"no-tipping policy" — something our staff confuses with "no-service policy."

"old-world atmosphere" — it's dark, so we don't have to clean as often.

"rack rate" -- the highest possible rate a hotel can get away with charging, as in, "stretch him on the rack and torture him until he overpays."

"romantic dining" — there will be candles involved, and entrées with indecipherable names. Also, the meal willl cost twice as much and take twice as long as a normal one.

"semi-private bath" — our guarantee: There will always be a stranger in the bathroom when you need it most.

"sophisticated ambiance" — kids don't eat free.

"spa treatments available" — both you and your wallet will be pummeled.

"unspoiled tranquility" — there's absolutely nothing to do here, and within 48 hours you are likely to go out of your mind with boredom.

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