Plan your vacation using social media
Young adults today are smitten by the travel bug. They suffer from wanderlust and can't hold themselves back when nature beckons them to peek into her myriad shades of glory. For the traveller who is willing to backpack every long weekend and still manage the disappearances at work, the World Wide Web unravels itself to become the impeccable holiday planning instrument. Here is how:
Finalising the destination
The whole wide world is on offer if you want to go exploring. Yet, when it comes to finalising your destination, nothing seals the deal like a good reference or review. When planning a holiday, reviews from friends on social networking sites are just the place to begin. "For me, the Internet is my lifeline! In modern times, this is the most useful tool a traveller has to plan his trip to a location, totally unknown!" says Mihir Rawal, a software engineer based out of Hyderabad. He admits to itchy feet and every extended weekend sees his Facebook activity soar with real-time updates of his journeys. Armed with those status messages, many of his friends planned vacations to the same locales.
For more adventurous vacationers, travel-specific websites such as Lonely Planet are a great source to dip into. Sagar Rajgopal, based out of the Philippines, swears by the Thorn Tree Forum -- "Browse through the relevant thread, sorted by continent and country to get a feel of the latest and greatest in the country you are heading to. You're sure to find other travellers asking the same questions you're mentally asking yourself."
Get the best deals on tickets
Once you have zeroed in on the location, it's time to book tickets. Here's where the Web is a blessing in disguise. "Planning and booking online means that one doesn't have to stand in a queue or haggle with a travel agent. Booking online gives complete control of your bookings, especially if there are modifications or cancellations to be made," says a triumphant Mihir Rawal.
The trick to snatching a steal-deal is to subscribe to as many newsletters and Twitter feeds of budget airlines, which are all great channels to get updates on sales and limited time offers. "Snagging a cheap ticket usually involves checking into the airline website early on during the promo period and then patiently searching for the dates on which cheap deals are available," says Sagar Rajgopal.
Sorting out accommodation
Tourist spots are screaming with places to stay and food to eat. Most hotels also substantiate their claims of hygiene and cleanliness by uploading pictures of the rooms. Yet, it is highly possible to be misled by some of the information. So, it is best to do your background research -- read reviews and feedback from fellow travellers. "This includes experiences -- good and bad, hotel reviews, places to visit and almost everything about the place. This helps me avoid the bad and make the maximum of the time that I have," says Mihir about planning his vacations online.
Increasingly, tourists are opting for home stays over hotels. They provide one with the comfort of home and the luxuries of a hotel. Younger couples or single travellers also opt for hostels. Given that the plethora of options is wide, research becomes integral. Sagar usually visits www.hostels.com to pick a decent place to stay; however, sites like www.yatra.com and www.cleartrip.com also provide a good selection to choose from.
Image: Gorbandh Palace Hotel, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Check weather conditions
Always make it a point to check the weather during the time and duration of your stay -- it helps decide your wardrobe. Also, read up a little about the destination. It ensures a better travel experience.
"Knowing how to respect local traditions as well as local taboos, plus a smattering of useful local phrases will help you in many different situations, from charming a bargain out of a shopkeeper to finding your way back to your hotel if you get lost," says Sagar.
So, you've finalised the location, snatched a dream deal on tickets and accommodation, read up about your destination, packed you bags and arrived for your holiday. The next best online tool to use to ensure smooth, trick-free local travel is Online Maps.
Use GPS and maps on your phone to search for places, find routes and ensure that your auto/taxi is following the correct path. Mihir swears by this tech tool. "Online Maps is heaven! Lying in my bed, I can check the geography of the place I am visiting along with all the possible routes. This helps me understand the distance I need to travel and the fare I should expect for local transportation. Club this with GPS and maps available on cell phones and it is an awesome combo! It instills great confidence and security at an unknown place as you can avoid autos/taxis taking you for a ride literally," he says.
Finally, never cram too many things into too short a stay. At the end of the day, it's a holiday. Use technology to plan the best vacation you've had in a while.