When searching for holidays - the web's long been a useful place. You can find cheap flights and hotel rooms, rent cars and even read reviews of you accommodation online.

However, last year the web got even more useful for holiday makers. Dozens of Web 2.0 travel sites jumped in to fill new niches in travel planning. Here's a selection of sites (many of them still in beta testing) that might help with your plans.

When you don't know where to go

These sites can help an undecided planner find a perfect travel match.

Best Trip Choices uses a simple yet highly revealing questionnaire to identify which of six 'travel personalities' you most closely match. After taking the quiz to determine your type, you can drill down to identify destinations and activities that BestTripChoices thinks are suited to your preferences. (You're on your own for booking, though.)

Similarly, TravelMuse, Tripbase and Triporati present destination suggestions based on your interests (which you identify on supplied lists or tags); TravelMuse and Tripbase also factor in your budget, and TravelMuse asks you how much time you're willing to spend en route. All three sites provide reviews, maps, and other content, including links to booking sites.

These sites offer some specialised features, too. Triporati's Facebook app lets you find friends who share specific travel-related interests. Tripbase returns costs for its suggested destinations. And TravelMuse provides tools to help you collaborate on travel plans with friends.

If you're considering a cruise or an organised tour, a good place to start shopping is at Travelbeen.com, which debuted in seven countries including the UK last year with the goal of incorporating every travel website on the planet into its 'social search engine'.

One of TravelBeen's more unusual features is its ability to perform searches for travel suppliers by specialised criteria. If you're looking for an eco-tour in Costa Rica or a 'clean cruise' to Antarctica, for example, you can elect to see only companies that adhere to strict accreditation standards. A shortcoming: Though accreditations are noted, they aren't explained. For example, you can call up a list of cruise lines that belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, but it's up to you to know how those lines differ from lines that aren't members.

If you're looking for a hotel deal, try DealBase. Its deal analyser technology promises to spare you from having to sift through reams of fine print by presenting the key criteria for each listing - price, savings off brochure price and terms of booking (for example, dates of stay and deadline for booking) - in just three lines of type. Drill down to filter by category or interest (golf, beach, four-star, and so on), bookmark your favourites, and come back to view them as a list. However, the site currently only offers deals from US-based tour operators.

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NEXT PAGE: What to do when you get there

  1. These sites help you figure out where to go and what to do when you get there
  2. What to do when you get there
  3. Help getting organised

When it comes to holidays - the web's long been a useful place. However, last year the web got even more useful for holiday makers. Dozens of web 2.0 travel sites jumped in to fill new niches in travel planning. Here's a selection of sites (many of them still in beta testing) that might help with your plans.

What to do when you get there

Once you've chosen a destination, these sites can help you make rewarding use of your time.

Visually compelling PlanetEye creates colour-coded, geo-tagged Microsoft Virtual Earth maps that you can use to identify, for example, restaurants and attractions within walking distance of a particular hotel. You can create virtual folders (called 'travel packs') to file photo-illustrated restaurant reviews and travel tips aggregated from many sources.

At Trazzler, travellers identify the destination or interests they want to research (if you provide only the latter, Trazzler will help you choose a destination), and then they flip through a 'trip stack' of bite-size, photo-illustrated hotel, dining, and activity suggestions with links to websites that provide more detail. Compile a wish list, and the site aggregates data from your searches into a preference pie chart. Trazzler uses both professional writers and user reviews to create its pithy content.

The human touch

No matter how sophisticated its algorithms are, a machine just can't make some travel decisions. In the case of multiple-destination trips or flights to remote locations, for example, online booking isn't always a snap - and it may not even be possible. Compete 4 your seat takes over the others leave off, by calling upon a network of travel agents to bid on your tough-to-schedule flight plans.

Similarly, Zicasso promises 'handcrafted' itineraries for multiple-destination trips. You describe your needs, and within two or three days you receive trip plans - including pricing - from up to three prescreened agents. You can refine a plan as needed, and then choose the one you like best and pay the agent directly.

Tripology is another service that caters to travellers with specialist interests, ranging from nature holidays to language schools to spiritual journeys. Users enter their criteria and are matched with three niche specialists: From there, the traveller decides whom to contact and negotiates fees and services with that specialist.

Its worth noting that all three of these sites are only suibale for those booking trips from the US.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks - and to take advantage of PC Advisor's unique, independent Broadband Speed Tester

Next page: Help getting organised

  1. These sites help you figure out where to go and what to do when you get there
  2. What to do when you get there
  3. Help getting organised

When it comes to holidays - the web's long been a useful place. However, last year the web got even more useful for holiday makers. Dozens of web 2.0 travel sites jumped in to fill new niches in travel planning. Here's a selection of sites (many of them still in beta testing) that might help with your plans.

Getting help getting organised

These websites act as virtual personal assistants to organise your essential travel information better than you could do it on your own.

TripIt does require a small initial time commitment, but it returns impressive rewards. After you register, simply forward your flight, hotel, and other confirmations to TripIt, and the site will organise them into a master itinerary that you can customise with maps, weather information, photos, and walking or driving directions. Tripit's Itinerator will even perform automated tasks such as checking your flight status, selecting your seat, and generating a personalised travel guide that you can have piped to your online calendar or your iPhone.

Nile Guide, another one-stop organisational travel shop, uses Google Maps technology and content from local experts to make personalised travel recommendations; then it integrates your selections into your calendar. Nile Guide can create customised, downloadable guidebooks, too. An iPhone version is due out later this year.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks - and to take advantage of PC Advisor's unique, independent Broadband Speed Tester

  1. These sites help you figure out where to go and what to do when you get there
  2. What to do when you get there
  3. Help getting organised