Book it yourself!

Surf your way to a fabulous vacation

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Soaring down a dusty road in a sleek, blue pick-up truck on the southern coast of Guatemala, our adventure was unfolding exactly as we had planned. Months before, I discovered a Web site for a rustic surf camp on a small island in the middle of a mangrove national park. The camp leader and I conversed over e-mail; he sent us a road map and the next thing I knew, we received our Tacca air tickets and truck rental confirmation and we were off.

Our trip was sublime because it was tailored exactly to our interests: my partner Mike wanted to collect insect research specimens and visit biological stations, while I couldn’t wait to run into the ocean and roll around in the tide. A customized Central American, bug-and-surf adventure: all booked ourselves online.

With the availability of online bookings, many Canadians are leaping head-first into the travel industry. But before you surf your way to your next vacation, read our guide to planning your trip online. We’ll show you how to score the best deals, get a little extra legroom, find fabulous accommodations and more!

Trust an expert

When booking flights and package deals, there are several types of sites available, each with their own pros and cons. Online travel agents such as itravel2000, Signature Vacations, MyTravel Canada, and Advantage Travel offer the services of trained individuals who will examine your needs and then customize a package just for you. One advantage of using an agent is the upfront manner in which they will present all taxes, airport fees and surcharges. If something goes awry, they have 24-hour call lines or e-mail assistance to help you sort things out.

“Essentially, you are paying the agent for their expertise, to save you time by conducting research, to ask the right questions, and to provide in-depth information about your holiday” says Leslie Cassettari, President and CEO of Toronto-based Advantage Travel and Cruise Centres, one of Canada’s largest travel corporations.

Be your own agent

Online travel booking sites like Expedia.ca, Calgary-based SearsTravel.ca, and Travelocity.ca allow users to compare various airlines, flights times, and prices, as well as organize other services like rentals, train tickets, helicopters tours, and more. “Consumers are a lot more educated about what they want out of their travel,” says Brian Simpson, General Manager of Travelocity Canada, the sister site of Travelocity.com. “The Internet has given them a lot more control over their own arrangements. Now, they can now book day or night, from the convenience of their home—even experience a (virtual) trip before they go,” he says.

Although costs vary depending on the type of trip booked, these sites charge a nominal service fee ranging from $5-$15 per booking.

Going once, going twice

If you love the thrill of the chase, travel auction sites may be the ticket. By bidding, counter-bidding, or naming your top price, surfers can score great travel deals. But be aware: auction sites must be used with caution. Many conceal the complete travel itinerary details, such as layovers, flight times, and additional fees, taxes, and surcharges until after the transaction is complete (non-refundable, in most cases). Many also exclude loyalty program miles or points. As with any auction, shoppers must do some comparison shopping to ensure they don’t overbid.

Wing it!

In an attempt to grab a piece of the consumer-pie, air carriers like CanJet, AirTransat, and Air Canada have introduced their own branded sites. If air carrier loyalty is your priority, this may be the best method for you. Most branded sites offer bonus program miles or points and provide email updates on hot deals. But ‘best deals’ are only relative to what the air carrier offers, and may not represent the best price on the market.

9 Booking tips for the globe trotter









Nab extra leg-room, rent a red convertible, and get insider advice with these great sites.

Any one who has experienced Montezuma’s revenge, run into a riot, or brushed the tentacles of a jellyfish knows that caution must be taken while roaming foreign lands. Be sure to educate yourself about safety and security considerations before you escape home sweet home. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is a good starting point.

Best seat in the house

Tired of cramming your five-foot-something-self into a 31-inch airplane space? You’re not alone. SeatGuru.com provides details about legroom and amenities (such as laptop connections and entertainment options) available on various jets and airlines.

Are you covered?

No one anticipates injuries or illness while on vacation, but sometimes it happens. International medical attention can cost more than your next adventure and provincial health plans only cover a small portion of foreign fees, so be sure you’re covered. Find links to travel insurance vendors, read advice, and get quotes at InsuranceCanada.ca.

New age pen pals

“One of the most wonderful things the Internet has offered female travellers is the ability to network with other women,” says Evelyn Hannon, founder of Journeywoman.com, a Canadian resource for women worldwide offering newsletters, advice forums, recommended trips, restaurants, and more. “For most women, the most fulfilling part of travel is the contact made with people,” says Hannon. That’s why she developed a free service called Hermail.net—a confidential directory of over 10,500 women from 35 countries who share information on everything from finding a good hairstylist to women-friendly B&Bs.

Park that over here!

Who says the grass is greener on the other side? Canada has an array of some of the most spectacular natural parks and World Heritage sites in the world. Visit Parks Canada and find maps, travel tips, fees, and online-tours to help you plan your next national exploration.

Stay the night

Compare prices, see photos, and do all your booking of hotels anywhere around the world at Hotels.com. This site offers a generous list of hotel options for almost every destination. You can search by country, amenity, or address. They also guarantee the lowest prices.

B&B luxury

Enjoy the quaint, personalized pleasures of a bed and breakfast. To scope out the territory in Canada check out BBCanada.com or abroad see the International Bed and Breakfast Pages.

Open road

With thousands of location worldwide, Budget rental, Dollar, Alamo, AVIS, Europcar will satisfy all your vehicle needs in thousands of locations worldwide.