Staying out for the summer
Nowadays you can buy everything on the Net, from your luggage, to holiday accommodation, and all from the comfort of your own home or office. You can compare prices and destinations, and build up a database of things you want to see. But an early note of caution: it is still advisable to pick up the phone sometimes to check availability or even get a cheaper quoted price.
About Travel's site, http:home.about.comtravelindex.htm, is an excellent starting point for a trip with its guides to lots of destinations. Its weekly channel newsletters point to fresh features and lots of the individual guides also issue newsletters. It's definitely worth a look while you make up your mind.
For holiday and travel products for Europe, www.eurodestination.com has all the information you need, from ferry crossings to Calais, to shopping trips in Paris and Brussels. You can book your flights, hotel and car hire, all with the backing of the Travel Trust Association.
The best of the lot for a one-stop travel site is www.travelocity.co.uk, which allows you to make reservations and bookings for air travel, car hire, hotel, cruise and holiday bookings etc. Its site has a wealth of other useful features as well, including a low-fare search enginewatcher, airline seat-choosing, hotel maps and photos, and weather information. The unique "Team Up To Travel" function also allows you to plan trips with a partner - a really useful addition.
Oh... I am so rry, I didn't realise that I was boring you! You're obviously an adventurous sort and need to go to www.iexplore.co.uk where you can "skip the famous mountains in favour of the well-guarded secrets of the so-called lesser massifs". Or maybe you fancy horseback riding in Kenya. IExplore will help you research, book and equip yourself for thousands of trips like these. You can search by region or activity and refine your choices based on the level of mental and physical challenges.
Blimey, it was tiring just writing about that, now I need a budget break! Travel Choice, www.travelchoice.com, is a comprehensive budget holiday site offering a range of self-catering and star-rated holidays from the top tour operators, such as JMC, First Choice, Virgin, Cosmos and Thomson Holidays.
Oh dear, you've left it a bit late... don't despair, Cheaper Holidays, www.cheaperholidays.com, is the premier source for all your last-minute holidays and flight-only deals. It specialises in worldwide flights and holidays leaving in the next 90 days, from all the main UK airports. The bookings hotline is 08707 456 800.
Other useful sites for an all-in deal include www.airnet.co.uk, a leading independent travel company providing the best deals on a massive range of flights, hotels and other travel products; www.expedia.co.uk, where you can book all aspects of your trip; www.ebookers.co.uk, which apparently offers millions of discounted flights, hotels and holidays; www.telmeglobaltraveller.com, a site which is easier to use than most, with a good range of flights and accommodation to many countries. Tpe in your requirements and let it do the rest. This site also includes currency, weather and flight information.
Hang on a minute! Are you sure you're doing the right thing? Go to www.holidaytruths.co.uk, a must for all people about to book that holiday. Look up the accommodation that you are planning to stay in and see the reviews and ratings by real people who have actually been there.
Don't want to do all this searching? Why not go to www.priceline.co.uk, where you simply key in what you are prepared to pay and it will let you know in one hour or less whether your price for hotels, flights and car hire has been accepted. Ybag, www.ybag.com, also allows you to search for package holidays and breaks, flights and city breaks. Put in as many details as you can and your ceiling price, and this will search out any offers for you. It often provides free phone calls and a company Web address for you to follow up any good leads, and allows you to compare the entries in your bag - all within 48 hours.
Staying with friends or just backpacking? Find out the cheapest flights at these budget flight sites: www.go-fly.com (Go), www.buzzaway.com (Buzz), www.easyjet.comen (easyJet often offers cheap car rental rate, if you book a flight), and www.ryanair.ie (on my last visit, Ryanair had an Internet sale with every seat, every flight and every route costing pound;15 one way, including tax. British Airways' site, www.britishairways.com, has a huge amount of information on BA's scheduled flights. It allows you to check availability, reserve and even book flights up to 355 days before your required departure date. KLM's online flight information service, www.klmuk.com, allows you to book flights, check out its latest deals and print out a personalised timetable.
Fear of flying? Try National Express' site, www.gobycoach.com. It can take you virtually anywhere in the UK and Europe with an easy-to-use booking procedure with clear options and pricing structure. Whether it is a holiday, a lift to the airport or regular commuting you are after, you will find it here. Or maybe you prefer to holiday in your own country? Well www.thetrainline.com will allow you to plan your train journey and book the tickets for anywhere in the UK with an online reduced rate.
So you've sorted your holiday, but have just dug out your old suitcase and it's looking like it's on its last legs. Don't despair, at Luggage Express, www.bags-etc-etc.com, you will find a range of travel goods from most of the major manufacturers. Items available include backpacks, carry-on bags, holdalls, suitcases and trunks. And if you simply must have the latest Prague city map or the most detailed map of Chile, go to www.map-guides.com, which offers a comprehensive range of maps and travel guides all tailored to your keyed-in instructions.
One final piece of advice: if you are visiting one of the major cities on your holidays, go to Time Out's excellent city guides site, www.timeout.comcityguides.html. This offers an up-to-date guide to 34 of the world's cities. It has brief guides to accommodation, getting there, where to eat and what to see. Most useful of all is the fact that the guides are regularly updated, so you can find out if a Dutch contemporary dance company is appearing in Edinburgh that week or if rock group Namie Amuro is playing Tokyo. Essential information to have just before you go.
My tip for an interesting, cheap and unusual summer holiday? Riga - go on give it a go.