Gone are the days when the average traveller lugged around a massive Lonely Planet volume. Now with a wealth of information at our fingertips (in areas with decent WiFi at least), travellers are turning to online travel resources to research, plan and book their international adventures. There is a wealth of resources available on a range of different topics, and from a range of different perspectives- from average Joe(sephine) bloggers to seasoned professional travel photographers, everyone’s got their five cents to chip in on the best places to visit, see, and experience.
However, a few sites come out on top for the quality and diversity of their information. The (arguable) five most popular travel sites in the world, in no particular order, are:
1. Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com)
OK, so the world’s biggest publisher of guidebook info isn’t totally irrelevant. Almost all their books have been translated into eBook form, and they also offer tons of free information, forums, news and updates online, so you can stay up to date with the latest. Make sure to check out the Thorn Tree Forum, one of the biggest and oldest discussion communities, with thousands of different threads active.
2. Tripadvisor (www.tripadvisor.com)
This site functions largely as a review site, with millions of ratings for accommodation, restaurants and even airlines, so you can get the real deal from people who have gone before you. It’s the best way to avoid falling for the marketing hype promoted by some tourism organisations and hotels, and discover hidden facts from the real location & look of the premises (what’s cropped out of the photos), to the tiny details that really make a stay memorable. For example you can also look for 4 star hotels in pattaya.
3. AirBnB / Couchsurfing (www.airbnb.com)/(www.couchsurfing.org)
These sites are the perfect resource if you’re looking for unique boutique accommodation in your destination city. AirBnB allows people to rent out fully furnished & appointed rooms or whole properties to short term tenants. Couchsurfing is a more low-fi, low budget network that sets travellers up with a couch or spare bed to stay on- no money changes hands, rather, the idea is to promote social connections, and participants build up their ratings through positive reviews from their guests or hosts, which in turn allows them more opportunities.
4. Expedia (www.expedia.com
Self-promoted as “the world’s largest online travel company”, this is one of the quickest and most reliable/secure ways to search and book travel online. Users can search for accommodation, flights, car rental and activities including tours all over the world, and book securely using their credit card. It’s popular for the way it brings together all providers and its reliability in terms of offering the best online prices on each travel product. They offer a price match guarantee, do not charge any booking fee to the user, and offer 24/7 phone booking support for extra peace of mind and accountability.
5. Trippy (www.trippy.com)
Trippy is a kind of hybrid social network for travel. Self described as “a community of travellers helping each other travel better”, part of the appeal is in its (apparent) exclusivity- membership is ‘by invitation only’. Essentially, it ties into any major social networks the user is part of, including Facebook, to discover which family and friends in their extended network have visited a destination in question. Users add stops to an itinerary, and friends can offer comments and ideas, which appear in a news-feed-like format.
One final note: make sure to do as much research as possible before you go, so you’re not wasting valuable holiday time reading or searching for internet access. Download eBooks, and if you’re going somewhere remote and exotic, yes, take an old fashioned paper guidebook and map.