In the old days, you just went to your local travel agent and booked their recommended trip. With the rise in Internet use, more and more people are now staying at home and booking their holidays on a website. Unfortunately, too many people get to their computers and just type in prices and dates. If you speak to these Internet bookers, they nearly all go on about the bargain that they have found, but the Internet offers much more than cut price holidays.

For example, you can read what others have thought of your chosen hotel, and learn some of the language of your destination, or even check the weather before you arrive. However, planning a trip can sometimes be more work and stress than what you’re trying to avoid, and while the Internet can make things much simpler, it does take a lot of your spare time. It may sound easy to plan a trip without a travel agent’s help, but planning a trip on your own requires a good amount of research. This is especially true when you are travelling somewhere new.

Where should you start with your travel planning?

The hardest part is deciding on where to start your research. Are you activity led, weather led, or have you always wanted to visit somewhere in particular? The starting point depends on what you want to do while you are away. While you are thinking about the major reasons for your trip, don’t forget that by the time you have arrived, it may be too late to find out how important the little details were. So remember to list all your personal comfort requirements before you start researching.

So how can you use the Internet to plan and research your next trip? Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as going to one website. When you want the perfect holiday match you have to look around.

Start early

You should start researching early to ensure that you get the best possible selection, and hopefully an early booking discount. You should keep your holiday research information in one place. I prefer printed copies of information instead of keeping everything on my computer just because I find it easier to read from paper. Whichever method suits you best, just ensure that you don’t lose it!

If you’re planning a trip for a group of friends then an online method of storage is the best method as all members of the group can access and amend if necessary. Google Docs ( is probably the easiest to access.

You shouldn’t worry about the price for now; just brainstorm what you are looking for in your trip. Make a list of the activities you would like to enjoy on your trip. If you’ve always booked a ‘fly and flop’ holiday in the past, then listing activities may be a bit of a challenge at first. Do you want to see particular animals, gamble, take part in a festival or just play in the sea? What about sporting activities, sightseeing, or fine dining? Rate your activities in order of importance.

Before you go online, ensure that you have made a checklist. It is so easy to get distracted while searching around the Internet that without a list of requirements to keep you on track you could end up watching videos of cute cats instead of sourcing the best cocktail bar in Barbados.

Now you are ready

Now you can start browsing the Internet, using the places and activities you have chosen as keywords in your search. You can now find out if the places on your list 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. You will find dozens of websites for each location which will provide information on where you can stay, what you can do, and also provide maps and contact information if you have further questions. Following the steps above, narrow your list to your top two or three destination choices.

Remember that all the companies can’t all be the cheapest, and that the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best deal. In a lot of cases the ‘lowest price guarantee’ that some sites may offer may not be worth anything due to the small print and slight variations in the holidays.

Finally a bookable website is not like speaking to a professional. It will give you what you’ve ordered. You won’t be told if your booking doesn’t make any sense.