The other day I overheard a conversation between two women discussing their summer holiday plans. One was telling the other that she had gone to her local travel agent and asked for a cheap package holiday in Spain. The agent had quickly managed to find a holiday that suited and the lady booked it immediately.
The other woman said that she wished she could do the same but had been unable to find a travel agent who could help. Apparently, someone she knew recommended Northern Cyprus to her. The description of its climate, fabulous beaches, beautiful scenery and welcoming local people deeply appealed to her but she had been unable to find any travel agent offering package holidays there. The person who recommended Northern Cyprus to her explained how it was possible to book flights and accommodation online but she felt apprehensive about not going through a travel agent.
I was quite taken aback at hearing this admission of total dependency on travel agents and ignorance of Internet travel sites. After all, this was 2008 in the U.K. where traditional travel agents have long since been marginalised by online travel sites. Yet, as the conversation developed it became apparent that neither woman knew anything about what resources the Internet offers in this respect.
It got me thinking about how many other people there were around who need tips on organizing travel online and when I got home I decided to write down the following seven steps for them.
- Step 1: Finding out about the travel destination – Open Google and type into the search box, the name of whatever country or general area you want to holiday in, followed by the words “travel information” or “travel guide”. For example; “Spain travel information”. Browse several of the sites your search throws up and then decide which ones give you the best travel tips relevant to your holiday needs.
- Step 2: Deciding on the actual resort – Use the best sites you find from step 1 to decide which resort or locality offers you most of what you want for your vacation. For example, localities with secluded beaches or beaches with lots of facilities, resorts that have plenty to keep the children occupied or quiet villages in scenic locations, etc. Having familiarised yourself with all that you want to know about the resort or locality, ascertain the nearest airports (or other relevant transportation centres).
- Step 3: Finding suitable accommodation – When you have found some resorts that satisfy your criteria, look for suitable accommodation in them. This may require typing a new search term into Google because the sites you have looked at so far may not have sufficient detailed information about specific accommodation in a given locality. They may however have some links to other sites that do. If so, check the links out before starting a new search. If you do need to do a new search, the best search term to use would be something like; Name of resort or locality followed by the word “accommodation”. For example if after researching southern Spain, you had decided you liked what you had read about Mojacar as a holiday resort, you would type; “Mojacar accommodation”. Here’s a tip worth remembering: you may need to refer back to the other website pages that you have already opened so keep them open by doing your accommodation search in a new tab. In case you don’t know about using tabs, take a look at your browser tools options and learn how to set your browser up so that you can open new pages in new tabs.
- Step 4: Checking cheapest flight availability – When you have ascertained that accommodation exists in your chosen locality, the next step is check out what flights (or other transportation) is available to get you to the resort. Open another tab on your browser and this time type in the search term, “cheapest flights” followed by the name of nearest airport. If there are other, more distant airports that you would be prepared to consider, you might want to run separate searches for each airport. Spend time on checking for flights because quite considerable variations in ticket prices exits, not only from flight operator to flight operator but also from one airport to another even when they are more or less the same distance from your departure airport and operated by the same company. Very significant price variations will also be found by trying different departure and arrival dates.
- Step 5: Provisionally book accommodation – Assuming that you establish the availability of flights (or other transportation) at the time you want and within your budget, you will be in a position to provisionally book accommodation. Return to the browser tab you left open with the websites providing accommodation details and follow the instructions for contacting the person or organisation offering the accommodation. Sometimes this will be an automatic online process and sometimes you will need to send an email. Submit the dates you have decided upon from the flight availability research. You will not normally be asked for a deposit at this stage but if you are, inform the accommodation owner that you want them to provisionally hold the dates until after you have booked your flight.
- Step 6: Booking your flight – Having received confirmation that the accommodation is available for you between the selected dates, return to the website where you found the cheapest flight deal and book your outgoing and return flights. Very occasionally you might be unlucky and the flights on the selected dates are no longer available. If so you will need to select new dates and redo step 5.
- Step 7: Confirm Accommodation – Once you have your flight has been booked you are in a safe position to confirm your accommodation booking. Usually, this will require that a deposit is paid, either online or by bank transfer. Either way, the balance is usually paid upon arrival at the accommodation.