The internet has changed the way we set up for travel big time. I do not know whether the change is for the better or not. Years ago we researched our potential destination by book. Borrowed books from the library and bought the one, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Moon, or one of the others, we thought best for our proposed destination. We bought a plane ticket, usually directly from the airlines. There were none of the complications of today, just pay the price quoted, no surcharges, no hidden taxes. Occasionally there were sales but not often and the cheapest price was almost always from the carrier. We booked hotels for the day we arrived, we are usually a mess from stupid hours of travel, and our last day so we could prepare for the trip home without stress. We got on the plane with a sketch, an outline of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. We generally knew how to move about. We landed, found our predetermined abode, got our act together and the next day we set out on an adventure.
The internet has changed things significantly. We still start out by researching a potential destination. We still use books to some degree, (old habits die hard), but most of the research is done on the internet. This is a lot of work as we have to interpret every bit of info read. Not everything on the web is fact, I suspect most is not. So we read, read, and read, trying to get an overview of the place we want to go. We look for areas to visit and what we want to see. As an aside we view the accommodation available. We check out transportation methods and schedules. The research is much more detailed than years prior. The momentum carried as we gather myriads of info gathers speed and the amount of info gathered soon becomes more than we can easily decipher.
After determining the number of days required to see a place and what dates we can go, we book the long haul flights. We can choose from a number of discount ticket vendors, we can do it ourselves with the airline or we can go through a travel agent. The prices can very and we do look for the cheapest price for the flight we want. If we do our homework we are able to steal itineraries from various web sites. With our up coming trip we were able to get a cheaper price from a travel agent using the itinerary lifted from one of the discounter’s web site. It is significantly less than what was available on the Air Canada website yet it is mostly on Air Canada planes?
We proceed to book a hotel for our first and last days of the trip. These hotels are near the airport through which we enter and exit the country and are not necessarily near the places we will visit during our stay. Although, we sometimes spend time in the city that hosts the airport so we may book more than one night.
This is where we depart from our planning methods of previous trips. We now look at where we are headed and the available accommodation. We, usually me, spend tons of time on TripAdvisor sussing out hotels. It is easy to know what is available from home using the internet. Where as we used to trip around once we arrived at the location, see the hotels for ourselves and bargain for the cost per night.
Now we short list a few hotels, email the lot with a few standard questions, search the net beyond TripAdvisor, pick one and book it. This does a few of things. One, it extends the length of the trip as you sit at the computer and live part of the trip virtually, there by participating in that part of the trip in advance of actually arriving. It does however take away from part of the learning experience by leaving out the interaction with some of the hotel staff and learning the system required to secure accommodation in a particular country. It also ties us down to a fixed itinerary without much chance to make changes. On the plus side doing things in advance does take some of the stress out of arriving in a new place without a bed to lie in and it does allow more time to “see the sites.”
Since we have figured out where we are going, how many days we are going to spend at each place and where we will bed down we might as well book transportation. It is easy to find the airlines that do the domestic trips when the world wide web is at our fingertips. So we get online, figure out how each little air company does their online booking and wham bam we have the connections from place to place.
All there is left is to leave Canada and arrive at our destination.
As I mentioned earlier I do not know if the method we used prior to the web or the method we have used on our last couple of trips is better. We now have a plan laid out with not much to do on the fly and a lot of the stress removed. On the flip side we have to be more exacting in our movements and if one of our pre-planned events is mistimed it can throw off the entire schedule. It also takes away from the spontaneity we used to enjoy.
Previously we travelled with a start date and an end date and a general idea of a schedule but if we wanted to spend an extra day in place X we did so, a day was eliminated from our stay in a place down the road. This is always a gamble but so is predicting a specified number of days in each locale.
Our last three trips have been programmed to the hilt. As we are getting our latest trip to Myanmar and the Maldives together we both have the same thought. We talk about our next trip being much less structured, we will try to resist the temptation to book the entire trip before we leave. But that is down the road and we will see if we can make it happen.