Recently Obtaining a Library of Congress reader ID card as a souvenir was closed because it's "not about travel". There was also some discussion of whether or not Where to look up times for shows in London? is "about travel".

By the strictest definition the only questions that are about travel are questions about how to get from point A to point B. Questions about what to do at point B or how to do something at point B are off topic as are questions about "where to do X or Y" since asking where to do something isn't about how to get from point A to point B. In fact, whole swath's of tags are off topic using the strictest definition of travel. For example,


But the Travel SE doesn't use the strictest definition of travel. And since the Travel SE doesn't provide formal criteria of what constitutes an on topic question it's up for interpretation and, imho, questions about how to do stuff in the destinations you're going to is entirely on-topic.

Maybe looking up movie show times in London is something you know how to do. Good for you - that doesn't mean everyone knows how to do it because, you know, not all of us live in London. If you think the "Where to look up times for shows in London?" question ought to be closed why should that be closed and OK we're all adults here, so really, how on earth should I use a squat toilet? not be closed?

Similarly, maybe the souvenirs you get on trips are more generic and bland. Maybe you're perfectly content with a "I (heart) NY" t-shirt as a souvenir of your trip. But maybe not everyone is and closing a question on how to get an admittedly obscure souvenir is, I think, similarly small minded. How is "getting a library of congress reader id card" off-topic and Can you still buy used panties in vending machines as a souvenir from Japan? on-topic?

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    I'd like to join in on this - my question was closed because it's "a not travel related life hack", but there are so many, many highly rated questions with the same problem.
    – fstanis
    Aug 8, 2015 at 11:11
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    The library card one, I suspect, comes from people just reading and thinking they want a library card, or possibly because he's asking why he should apply online and not in person - a procedure for a library, rather than anything with travel. If it was merely, is there another way to get the library card as a souvenir without registering online, they may not have closed it. It's picky, but we do have high standards and sometimes half-way good questions get closed as a result until they're improved :/
    – Mark Mayo
    Aug 9, 2015 at 12:04

4 Answers 4


I voted to close the 'reading card question', but I answered the question about show times in London.

TSE is a self-regulating site. It means the notion of what's on topic is determined by multiple users who visit the site at different times and different locales and have different reasons for coming here.

My own view is that we desperately need more questions on TSE and hence it serves no purpose closing out questions when there is no need to do so. So when I go into the review queue, I take it seriously.

I agree that it's inconsistent and the lines are sometimes vague. The TSE model is not perfect and 'strict' definitions do not exist. I also recognize that a question voted as off topic at high noon may be acceptable at 3 AM because a different group of voters is out there. A question that is on topic in February might be off topic in June because the mood of the voters is always evolving as time progresses. At the moment, we only have one user who close votes on a whim, the others are serious about it.

You can try to make your TSE questions have an explicit collocation to a travel theme and perhaps you'll have a more satisfactory experience.


For what it's worth I just cast the last reopen vote on the card question. But, it's pretty clear why it was closed if you look at the edit history. The part about it being a souvenir was only added two days ago, and since the review queue tends to go slower over the weekend it's taken a while for it to be reopened. Originally it had no travel aspect and was closed, then it was edited to be on-topic, and reopened. That's the system working!

As Gayot Fow says different reviewers have different standards but I think in general the combined actions turn out with the correct result most of the time -- and for those other cases it can always be discussed here. I think the rules are pretty clear, and in general it's rare for a really on-topic question to be closed.

I'm very forgiving of questions that are borderline travel related but I can see other reviewers are not. But I'm probably too forgiving, and others may be too strict. But on balance it works out. Even if it sometimes takes a few days.


To me, what is a "travel question" is all the topics that have been covered by "travel guides" for years before we came along. If it's in things like Lonely Planet or WikiTravelVoyage, then it's on topic here.

I modulate that based on precedents we've set over the years on the site, such as deciding that "factoid" questions are OK and our special category for "geek travel". I was against the library card at first but when it turned into a question about a peculiar souvenir that was hard to get info about I decided it was pretty similar to geek travel and also fit one of the SE overall standards, "What is the problem you are facing (as a traveller)?"


I think this is a particularly good question. Today, a lot of tourists are seeking authenticity in their trip and that goes through living like a resident. And therefore asking the same question a resident would ask. Other travellers favor long-term travel and therefore will also look for the same things as a resident, it being a local laundromat or a movie theatre.

So far, to make it travel-related, all that is required is to add "when visiting X" as the first words of a question, or something similar.

Honestly there is almost no difference between a travel question and a residency question. The main difference would be things reserved to residents like getting a city library card (when it is restricted to residents) that would not be a travel question.

But beyond the question of being on- or off-topic, I think that some of these questions would just be a better fit for expats.SE. Library cards, laundromats (unless they have a specific feature for travellers), movie theatres (unless it is a tourist attraction, or it shows movies that cannot be seen elsewhere). See, the difference is tiny.

The criterion to me is really to make it helpful to other travellers but asking a question that sounds random does not make it off-topic to me, just a better fit for expats.SE or just less interesting. And as @GayotFow said, that is an opinion among others, in the end to close a question there is a need for multiple people to agree to close.

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    Laundromats are a great feature for travellers - it's come to the stage where I always review laundry options prior to any multi-week trip. Screw paying $10 per item in a hotel. :)
    – dlanod
    Aug 13, 2015 at 6:50
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    Absolutely! I'm in week 5 of a 5 week trip and I've needed to find (and understand) laundromats in many different countries. Aug 18, 2015 at 7:31

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