Vacation! It provides memories, relaxation, and exhilaration – a time to gather experiences and stories to share with others. When planning your vacation, the Internet offers you the opportunity to explore your options – and there are literally thousands of them available. The Internet places you in the unique position of being your own travel agent. As such, you can customize a vacation that suits your needs – whether it's basking on the beach, sightseeing in an exotic place, or a family adventure to remember.
Where Do You Start?
With your keyboard as a control panel, you begin your planning by zooming in on your desired location. You can do this by following these five steps:
1. Make a list of the places you think you might like to go – at this point, do not worry about price, mode of travel, or accommodations. Just brainstorm, getting all your ideas on the table.
2. Make a list of the activities you would like to enjoy on your trip. Do you want to go deep sea fishing, gamble, or play in the ocean's waves? What about golfing, horseback riding, or fine dining? Rate these from the most important to least important.
3. Browse the Internet using the places you have chosen as keywords in your search. Read about the places on your list in more detail to determine if, in fact, each place will match your desired vacation activities. Consider the activities at the bottom of your list as dispensable, if all other aspects of the destination match your needs. Each destination will likely have its own website. At the very least, you should be able to find a local Chamber of Commerce or a Convention and Visitor's Bureau site connected with the places on your list. These provide information on where you can stay, what you can do, and also provide maps and contact information if you have further questions after conducting your Internet research.
4. By following the steps above, narrow your list to your top two or three destination choices.
5. Begin an online search for the best prices for those you have chosen.
Mode of Travel
The mode of travel best for your trip will depend upon your destination – some places are most easily accessed by airplane, others are more "car friendly," and still others might be better returned by train.
There are many sites dedicated to air travel. These sites offer competitive prices on packages and also offer combinations that include two of the following: airline tickets, rental car, hotels. Many sites rate the hotels so that you can determine the level of luxury and location you desire – whether it is just a place to hit the pillow each night or a resort that offers so much more.
You'll find the best deals if you look at the sites that specialize in reduced rates. And you will almost always find better prices on travel web sites than through an airline's company website.
Some sites worth checking out are:
You may want to consider traveling by car if the distance between you and your destination is relatively short (Less than 500 miles), picturesque, and accessible. Keep in mind that you will not want to be in the car for so many hours that you and your family are grumpy and irritated upon arrival. However, if the path you need to take involves spectacular natural beauty or unique attractions, you may not want to pass up the road trip as an added vacation bonus.
When traveling by car, you can still take advantage of the same websites that you would use if you were traveling by plane – simply review the hotel ratings. Additional places to find out about hotels are the full full service travel agencies like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com, local visitor's Bureaus, and specialized sites like hotels-search-engine.org, lodging.com, and Hotels.com.
Hotels.com has a section of their web site devoted to road trips, which allows you to create a road trip based on how far you are willing to drive from home. In addition, map sites like Mapquest.com provide driving instructions and information on hotels, attractions, and dining along the way and also at your final destination.
Travel by train is an often overlooked option. Yet it offers some of the sightseeing benefits of traveling by car, but with an added speed factor. If you decide to hit the tracks, Traintraveling.com offers information on rail tours and tourist trains in the United States and also abroad. The site offers tips for traveling with kids, a related news archive, and links to special deals.
As opposed to travel by airplane, where you get the best deals through discounted websites versus the individual airlines, you should check out the train companies directly as there is not as much competition. Amtrak information can be found at amtrak.com
A Word about Cruises
Most of the online travel sites also have information on cruises. As in traveling by air, you will always get better rates by visiting an online travel agency or ticket vendor than by going directly to the cruise lines. At the travel sites, you'll find cruise line reviews, ship information, calendars, and details on the ports of call. You can always visit the various cruise ship sites to get more detailed information, and then go back and purchase your tickets at the discounted prices offered elsewhere.
Making it All Come Together
Once you have planned a vacation online – even just once – you will never want to do it any other way. Your keyboard naturally delivers the world to your fingertips, offering you the opportunity to plan a dream vacation that will not bankrupt your budget. While searching online, you may discover vacation ideas that never wandered through your mind before – ideas that would be perfect for building memories, finding relaxation, and for experiencing exhilarating adventures.
Putting together a vacation online is easy. All you need to do is to select your destination, activities, and mode of travel. Then, simply search the online sites for the best deals; Packages offer more vacation fun for less money. Finally, pay for your package and print your confirmation. Read the confirmation thoroughly to make sure it is accurate. It is easier to correct mistakes early, waiting could cause additional fees and inconveniences.
To ensure a well-planned trip, start planning early so that you can spot any possible problems with your plans and to ensure that you find the cheapest rates. The closer your departure, the more expensive the trip tends to be.
By Gary Griffin
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