Interview with Rod Cuthbert, author of Vacation Rules

Community Highlights Working in Travel Interview with Rod Cuthbert, author of Vacation Rules

In this industry interview, we talk with Rod Cuthbert, founder of Viator, current CEO of Rome2rio and co-author of a great new little book called Vacation Rules.


What inspired you to write this book?

I had a period of three years where I spent a lot of time on the road, doing tours and sightseeing and talking to a lot of my fellow travelers. I was always surprised at the broad range of responses people would have to experiences and activities, and wondered why that was the case. As I asked questions I began to see patterns and from those patterns I formed some theories. One of the first observations I made was that when people told me that they were weren't enjoying a particular place or attraction, it was invariably not a reflection on the place, but on the state of mind of the individual. That was a good starting point for more research!

Are there any situations in your own past travels where one of these rules would have really helped you out?

Certainly the first trips I did when I was younger I tried to do too much. So "Do less. Enjoy more." would have been a good lesson to learn a little earlier in life. Really, 36 hours in Venice is stupid, you'd be better off saving your money, but you don't realise that until you are a little more experienced. And "Goals are better than escapes" would certainly have helped; I've definitely been guilty of going places with no real goals in mind beyond "getting away" and that type of trip generally ends up being less successful than one where I've had a goal, even something as ethereal as "recharging my batteries."


Do you think there are ways that the travel industry could maybe help people travel by these guidelines and in the process have happier customers? Or maybe some good examples of companies already doing this?

I think travel companies have a lot to learn from the research that underpins the book. One example is understanding the "peak-end rule", which says people have a tendency to remember clearly the peak and end experiences of their trip, while the rest is often somewhat blurrier. If I was a hotel or resort operator I would put real effort into the last day or two of a guest's stay, offering them complimentary drinks, activities, transfers, whatever, and generally paying attention to them as their stay comes to an end. Another example, and perhaps the biggest opportunity that we touch on in the book, is getting people off planes and onto trains in Europe and other parts of the world. If I was a travel site-- an OTA or an operator--I'd be looking at how I could make money selling rail, and how I could promote rail to an audience that may think the best way to get from Barcelona to Madrid, for example, is on the plane!

One of the rules I particularly like is to "worry about the right things". With adults often worrying endlessly about their kids going off travelling, is this book maybe going to be a good present for the parents?

Well, parents will always find something to worry about! I hadn't thought of that, but it's a good point. Your kids go to South East Asia you worry about a tsunami. Not much chance of that happening, but there is a chance that they'll get some sort of tropical disease, so why not ensure they understand those risks, have some basic understanding of water purification, whatever. Focus on stuff that's likely, not stuff that's one in a million.

Who you travel with matters more than where you go

There is a good part of the book focussing on relationships in travel. This is frequently brought up in our forums as a point of discussion - people whose travel partners have bailed for example leaving them wondering what to do. How does the concept of solo travel fit into this? Maybe making new relationships on the road?

First of all I'd say our rule "Who you travel with matters more than where you go" is SO important. Some BFF's are lousy travel companions! True fact! Keep those friendships safe at home, don't sacrifice them on the road.

An unexpected thing is that we've had plenty of "private feedback" from people who say their love their partner dearly but they don't enjoy traveling with them! This is a hard topic to bring up with your partner, but I suspect if people could bring it up they might find their partner agrees, and we'd see a lot more women heading off with their girlfriends in one direction, and guys heading off with their mates in another, doing entirely different (and perhaps predictable!) things, completely separately. That seems odd when you first say it, but we've heard it enough times now to know it's real!

As for solo travel and making new relationships: it's so personal, any advice we give on things like "try a solo trip" would be as useless for some as it would be useful for others. But most of the rules are good for solo travelers, especially "Meet the locals." I think the Travelerspoint community know that one already!

What we think


The book is not your average travel book. Instead of delivering tips on how to get from one place to another or ideas on what to pack, it is written to help you think differently about your trips and achieve happiness when travelling. I think we're all familiar with the feeling of returning home from a trip more tired than when we left. The rules outlined in this short book are based on psychological principles that help achieve happiness.

I found it a great little read and would happily recommend it to anyone heading off on a trip, no matter how short or long. When you think of the amount of time and money invested into organising a trip - a little investment (it's only $5) in understanding how to make it work for you is well worth it. It's worth re-reading a few times to really let the concepts sink in. Or if you're a young person and have some worrywarts for parents - buy this for them to help them understand a bit better what you're going to do.

You can buy the book through Amazon *


Some other posts in the Industry Interview series you might like:

Industry Interview with Travel Photographer Richard I'Anson
Industry Interview with Anthony Asael from Art in All of Us
Industry Interview with Alexis Grant of The Traveling Writer
Industry Interview with Colin Wright of Exile Lifestyle
Industry Interview with Stuart McDonald of Travelfish

* note, the Amazon link is affiliated and a small commission from any sales will support the Travellerspoint Foundation.

By Peter

Posted Fri, Mar 08, 2013