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With the onset of summer one is inundated with dreams – dreams of far-off shores, exotic destinations and the promise of perennial sun……

Sun, sea and sand seem to become a prerogative. Overseas holidays, however, usually have to be booked well in advance – with the exception of late-availability bargains. These often offer fantastic value – financially – but can one be sure that one can secure one’s preferred destination?

It’s claimed that many people book their summer holidays in January. For what has that coldest and most cheerless of winter months got to offer? Maybe little that is tangible but much that can be imagined! Sand, sea and sun can seem particularly alluring when viewed against a back-drop of ice, sleet and snow! Some people, of course, elect to exchange the ice, sleet and snow for immediate, sand, sea and sun in January, and are ready to travel to foreign climes and horizons far in order to achieve this climatic metamorphosis. Others settle for other dreams – dreams of a summer holiday in the sun, which they will take during the so-called British summer months!

Who has not actually ‘felt’ the warm caress of the sun on his or her skin while perusing the pages of a travel brochure? Who has not been transported in time – to the past and to the future – at the flick of a page, and the turn of a picture? And who has not seen that yearning translate itself into temptation – to which he or she has ultimately succumbed?

A large section of the population wait until January before confirming their holiday booking abroad. Perusing through the pages of a summer travel brochure is, after all, the perfect antidote to the effects of cold, dark January afternoons.

But do travel brochures influence members of the public in their choice of holiday destinations? Or have these people already formed a preconceived notion of the destinations they seek, and, by browsing through brochures, are simply searching for details of holidays that fulfil such expectations?

Is it possible to be brain-washed by pictures – and does the reality often turn out to be less than the pictorial image? By the same token, can a picture ever do justice to a scene?

Like almost anything in life, a holiday booking can be a gamble. Be it at the drop of a dice, or by the stroke of a pen, the concept is similar, for the outcome is not totally predictable. But are there ways of gaining immunity from the glamour of the glossy pages? The needs and desires of the travelling public vary with each individual. After all, one man’s meat is another’s poison, and Utopia takes many forms!

The aim of almost all travel firms and travel agencies is to provide the service that the customer wants. And many tour operators take an almost vicarious interest in the holidays that they book for their clients. They really seem to car, and are rarely too busy to proffer advice, give tips and make constructive suggestions.

Consultations with the travel agents or the tour operators themselves are therefore a ‘must’ if the prospective holidaymaker has any doubts about his or her choice of holiday destination. And the relevant National Tourist Boards, too, can be extremely helpful. The potential traveller can also undertake to conduct and individual programme of research.

Being a ‘travel addict’ myself, I always used to start planning my ‘next holiday’ while on the plane travelling home from my previous holiday. Planning an annual holiday abroad could almost have been described as my main ‘hobby’!

While my family always used to travel with me, I always had a ‘carte blanche’ to choose the family holiday destination each year – within certain financial limits of course! No-one questioned my choice because hitherto every holiday I’d planned for the family had been an unqualified success. I suppose if there had been any ‘disasters’ my family would have ceased to have come with me quite so willingly!

I almost became an ‘unpaid holiday consultant’ where my friends, neighbours, colleagues, and acquaintances were concerned! People used to ask me for advice regarding certain holiday destination, and used to visit places on my recommendation.

I used to research my holiday destinations very thoroughly indeed. One holiday often followed onto another, and sometimes while I was on holiday at a specific resort I would even select the following year’s holiday destination before returning home! I tended to follow a particular pattern. First I would select a specific destination that captured my fancy. Then I would amass every single travel brochure featuring this destination that I could lay my hands on! And by a process of elimination, mainly involving ‘comparing and contrasting’ I would accumulate a ‘short list’ of accommodation possibilities. Then I would cut out all the descriptive material relating to these places, file them under each subject matter and study them further to see if there were any pictorial discrepancies.

A hotel, villa or apartment could look isolated in one brochure. In another it could be seen surrounded by buildings. Some people might well like a centrally placed location; others sought isolation. The main thing was to make sure one was getting what one wanted. Having determined the location and selected the type of accommodation and the actual premises – be it hotel, villa or apartment – I would then go to the local library and take out every available book that I could find that described that particular area. I would also make a point of buying various relevant paperback travel books at book shops.

Then I would start interrogating friends, neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances to try to find someone who had actually stayed at the place that I was planning to visit. At parties and functions I would question total strangers – who were often startled to say the least! But eventually I was always successful! Each year I always managed to find someone who had stayed at the exact location and place that I was planning to visit!

Roberta Crookes has worked as a newspaper journalist throughout most of her life, writing news stories, editorial features, advertisement supplements, and reviews. And in the course of her work she has interviewed many famous people from all walks of life. She has also managed to combine parallel careers in both journalism and acting, and, being Welsh speaking from North Wales, her main television featured parts have been Welsh language roles with BBC Wales.

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