Plan your trips online

Tags: Knowledge
The year’s main holiday season may be well and truly over, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, but it’s never too early to start planning for next year, especially if you want to travel abroad.

It is possible to plan a really great holiday without ever leaving your computer screen — and what’s more, early birds could snag great airfare and other deals. The web holds a surfeit of information and there are literally hundreds of forums filled with people who are more than happy to share their experience and knowledge.

Where to Go and What to See

This first and critical question is often the most difficult to answer! The earth is a fascinating place, and the chances are we could travel our entire lives without seeing all its wonders. Budget, of course, can be a huge constraint on how far or how deep one can go, but it shouldn’t stop you from dreaming big — there are surprising deals to be had in the ‘expensive’ places if one is prepared to look.

The easiest way to get inspired is to surf around and look at travel websites. Try Fodor’s (Fodors.com), Lonely Planet (Lonelyplanet.com) or National Geographic Traveller (Natgeotraveller.in), for starters, where you will find destinations, guides, local information, accommodation reviews, a forum and plenty more. Befriend Google and search like mad till you zero in on your destination. Once you know where to go, it will be easier to find local information. Don’t forget to check out the official tourism websites — they are often the most reliable source of information.

How to Get There

Online travel bookings are fairly commonplace today, so this is a no-brainer. Makemytrip.com, Cleartrip.com, Expedia.co.in, Yatra.com are some of the well-known online ticketing agents, and you could also try sites like Farecompare.com and Tripadvisor.com that let you compare fares from different sites. Don’t forget to try the airlines’ sites directly — they are often cheaper and have deals you may not get anywhere else.

For internal travel in your holiday destination, the official tourism sites are the best source of information. In general, if you book early, you are likely to get attractive discounts on bus and train fares, and even very cheap airfares.

Where to Stay

Unless you have chosen a truly out-of-the-trodden-path destination, finding and booking accommodation online shouldn’t be too difficult, whether you are looking for a luxury hotel or a budget hostel. Tripadvisor.com is a great place to look for hotels and read up user opinions. But don’t book just yet — window-shop for the best rates first.

Hotels, rented apartments and bungalows (for bigger groups), bed and breakfasts, and hostels are your most usual choice of accommodation available (unless you’re planning a camping holiday, of course), in decreasing order of budget. Don’t blindly book the cheapest possible deal — find something that is located conveniently even if it is slightly expensive as that may prove cheaper in the long run.

Don’t dismiss hostels outright — some offer private rooms at reasonable rates as well as cheap dormitory beds, with breakfast thrown in. The website Bookings.com lists hostels that have free cancellation. Also try HIHostels.com for the international youth hostels network. If you get a membership (open to all ages!) from the Youth Hostels Association of India, you are eligible for a discount.

Finally, if you’re up for a bit of adventure, join Couchsurfing.com and stay with locals who generously offer to open up their homes for you — for free. In fact, by joining the network, you could also host travellers from other countries and get many more ideas about where to travel next!

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