A new world of travel planning

Written by admin on January 9, 2009 – 12:22 pm -

It wasn’t so many years ago that planning a trip that included multiple components meant travelers would need to patronize travel agents to book flights, hotels, cars and more. Clients came away with crafted itineraries they would follow with precision. Friends’ recommendations, travel publications, guidebooks and advertising were the deciding factors on where people went and how.

Those days have come and gone. A vast percentage of people are more actively involved in their travel logistics and planning via the Web. Some book trips independently other simply do the research. On the Internet, there are many ways to plan and book a trip.

Trip planning
Social networking sites such as Facebook allow travelers to solicit input from their contacts about trips. TripAdvisor.com provides comments that tend to be truthful and provide the ability to read between the lines in order to glean needed information.

Cruise sites are excellent resources and there are so many blogs and so much information (as well as misinformation) that people are able to formulate ideas as to which trips are their cup of tea and which aren’t.

The Internet is filled with content about specific cities and countries that once upon a time was only found in guidebooks and travel magazines. Today, most travel magazines have Web sites — the more interactive, the better. Plus, there are Frommer’s, Fodor’s and Time Out that have even more up-to-date information than their trusted guidebook namesakes.

Booking travel online
Booking sites (and sites linking to booking sites) have mushroomed on the Internet. To name a few: Kayak.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, BookingBuddy.com, Priceline.com, CheapTickets.com, Cheapoair.com … and the list goes on and on. Travelers have developed their personal surfing methods to find the best deals.

One friend claims that, “Orbitz has a great search tool but they don’t let you save searches without starting a reservation. So I’ll search on Orbitz and Expedia for best deals and then book via Expedia.” I’m not sure what he means, exactly, but it seems to work for him.

Another frequent traveler says that after perusing various websites, he can usually get the same fare or hotel rate by contacting the airline or hotel and he’ll almost always end up booking directly to save the added booking fees.

Yet another suggests that creating a package within one of the travel sites that combine air, hotel and land transportation yields the best bargains – even after the added booking fees.

Travel agents and tour operators still count
When it comes to booking “exotic trips” (e.g. Asia and Africa) some people opt to go with organized tours. Others contract with travel agents who specialize in the area.

If these travel agents are real pros, they’ve gone on FAM (familiarization) trips and have developed intra-country resources, that serve as a contact when their clients are in the country and inform the agent about the area’s most current developments. Plus, some travel agents are able to get bulk prices and you, the consumer, end up paying less.

However, most consumers today will inevitably turn to the web during their travel planning process whether the buy through an agent or online.

In fact, study after study confirms that the majority of travelers are likely to view between three and five websites, including social sites, before making a final purchase decision.

What type of travel planner are you? There are so many options.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |