Sunday, December 28, 2008

Planning a holiday the way you like it


December and January are my favourite months to ramble around Gujarat and Rajasthan. There are so many places to see, but how do you choose between what you like and what you dont? In the past, we were left to others' recommendations - be it the destination, sightseeing, accomodation and meals. A lot depended upon your preferences matching with those of your advisors. Visiting your destination, only to find out it wasn't what you expected, is disappointing. When breaks are few and far between, you want to maximise your enjoyment. That is where the Internet can help you get the most out of your winter break.

My favourite tools when it comes to planning a winter break are Flickr, Google Earth, Wikimapia and HostelWorld.

Begin with Flickr.com for choosing your destination. Flickr hosts the best collection of photographs taken by amateur photographers. Flickr's power lies within its search. Keyword searches such as "Kutch village" or "Gujarat fort" will quickly present photos that will help you narrow down destinations based on your liking. I like Flickr's date range search feature to see how my destination looks during the winter season. Even if you know your destination, Flickr can help find photos of your chosen hotel to see what you are paying for!

Next comes planning. Sadly in India, we do not have detailed printed maps of our states and towns. However, thanks to Google Maps, Google Earth and Wikimapia we have power that exceeds any printed map right at our fingertips. Google Maps and Google Earth are quickly indexing locations in India, but they still have a lot left to gather. If you are looking for a specific place or even a building or a landmark, Wikimapia is your best bet. Wikimapia.org is a community created layer on top of Google Maps where users can mark and identify places of their choice. Wikimapia, along with Google Maps is an invaluable aid in orienting yourself with your destination.

Lastly, for the shoestring wanderer, Hostelworld.com works better than any travel agent in finding affordable and unique accomodation. Here you can find budget hotels, campsites, guests houses, and accomodation with a rich local flavour such as old havelis and bungalows run by friendly hosts. Each property is ranked based on comments left behind by past guests. Have a good break and share your holiday tips with me at the Cyberwatch Blog.

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