Gone are the days when you planned your holiday by flicking through a glossy brochure, hoping the printed prices were still valid and the pictures weren’t taken 10 years ago when the hotel had seen better days.
Booking through a travel agent can have its advantages if you’re planning a particularly complicated route for a large group, for instance, or you need specialised advice about an unfamiliar destination. But the beauty of Internet is that it has given us access to many of the same tools as travel agents, and many more.
Most of us now start our research with TripAdvisor, then move to Google once we’ve read the ‘real- people’ reviews. First-hand reviews from travellers can shape and guide our plans in directions we may not have considered. The idyllic images of resorts hotels, tropical islands and shimmering seas on a website can have a hypnotic effect – a frank review of the same resort showing the service was substandard and the island infested with mosquitos by a recent visitor can have a sobering effect.
Connecting with Local Culture
Airbnb has brought incredible clarity and choice, and travellers can now decide how they want to experience a place, and connect with their prospective hosts before arrival. By the time you’ve reached your destination, you’ve already built a relationship with a local who can give you tips on where to eat, the closest parks and attractions if you’re travelling with children, and what number tram to take to get to the centre of the city.
Sites like Airbnb and Poshtels enable travellers on a budget to take themselves off the beaten track and stay in suprisingly affordable yet glamorous hostel accommodation. For example, backpackers can stay atGoli & Bosi, a designer boutique hostel in Split on the Croatian coast, with stunning sea views and overlooking ancient Roman architecture, for as little as $AUD14 a night. Or if you’re traveling to Japan, why not spend a night in one of the world’s tiniest hotel rooms at the capsule hotel 9hours that will gaurantee you a good night rest with their ambient lighting system designed by Panasonic.
To get to know more about the city you’re travelling to and its food culture, you can even make reservations online to dine at the homes of locals via EatWith. And if you’re into wine (who isn’t?) there are organic wine trips to Italy, walking tours of boutique vineyards in France or self-directed wine vacations in Germany – all at the tip of your fingers on your smartphone.
You can now see on one page the best flight deals with sites like I want that flight, Skyscanner or Expedia. With online check-in, tickets are scannable on your mobile device or printable at home – meaning you no longer have to call the travel agent back home should you misplace your ticket.
Savvy travellers can bag a great discount when booking a restaurant through Yumtable or a ride to the airport through Uber. Yumtable offers discount meals when you book a table at a listed restaurant through the site. Uber drivers have their own vehicles and drive people places for a fee agreed between the two parties.
Planning and booking travel online is now incredibly easy. Deciding where to go and what to do is still the hard part!