Jennifer Kiely

Before embarking on your next journey, why not ‘travel’ online first to find the ultimate destinations to make the most of your holiday time.

Are you wanderlusting after your next holiday? Or counting down the days until, passport in hand, you board the flight for your next big travel adventure?

With a reported 195 countries, across seven continents and five oceans, spanning 510 million square kilometres of land and sea, your travel options here on Earth are virtually endless.

Perhaps you’d like to scale the highest place above sea level in the world, Mount Everest at Sagarmatha National Park, or float on the lowest in the Dead Sea between Israel and Jordan.

Then there’s the hottest inhabited place on Earth – the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, or the coldest inhabited place – Oymyakon in Russia… it all depends on the kind of travel that tickles your fancy.

To help you decide, we’ve gathered a handy list of online destinations to inspire you before setting off on your real-life travels.

Smarttraveller

Infectious diseases, kidnapping, earthquakes… these aren’t usually the first thoughts that spring to mind when dreaming about an upcoming holiday. But it’s these topics – and many more – that have been thought about for you on the Australian government’s Smarttraveller website and app.

Provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Smarttraveller is all about helping you ‘stay smart while you’re travelling’. Offering advice for all travellers, info is even broken down into handy traveller categories including female travellers, LGBTI travellers and senior travellers.

With a quick link to 24-hour consular assistance should you need it, you can also subscribe to updates to be the first to know official government advice when travelling. Plus, register your travel plans (itinerary and contact details) to help DFAT contact you or your family if disaster strikes.

Another convenient feature lets you plug in your destination to read official advice for that region.

Lonely Planet

Starting out in 1973 as a guidebook on Asia after its founders, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, took a trip from London to Australia, today, Lonely Planet has evolved into one of the world’s most recognisable and trusted travel brands.

While originally known for its printed guides, Lonely Planet now offers plentiful info on its website as well as via the recently launched ‘Guides’ app, which covers more than 100 cities.

Head to their website to get the lowdown on locations from those in the know – experts that visit every destination – and search by country, or browse the video section for categories including adventure travel; beaches, coasts and islands; and food and drink.

Looking for even more inspiration and advice? Then why not join (or lurk in) the Thorn Tree forum where you can exchange travel advice, hints and tips with more than a million fellow travellers. Lonely Planet also offers options to book travel through its site, including adventure tours, car rentals and flights.

Trip Advisor

Founded in 2000 by Stephen Kaufer, who was determined to help travellers plan and book the perfect trip, over the years, Trip Advisor has grown into the world’s largest travel website.

More than 500 million reviews from fellow travellers are ready and waiting on the site to help guide readers on where – and where not – to travel.

With categories including hotels, restaurants and things to do, simply click to see the latest reviews. For example, right now, Machu Picchu in Peru has more than 15,000 reviews with an overall rating of 5.0, as well as photos, more details about the destination, and Q&As.

Trip Advisor also suggests nearby restaurants and attractions, and compares more than 200 websites to help travellers place bookings. You can also leave your reviews to similarly help others navigate the best of the globe.

Instagram

This might not be the first service you think of when researching travel destinations, but go ahead and plug the #travel hashtag into Instagram and get ready for a visual onslaught of inspiration.

At the time of writing, more than 192 million posts are tagged, offering more inspiration than time to trawl through them all!

Got a more specific destination in mind? Search an exact hashtag, like #greatbarrierreef #cinqueterre or #niagrafalls, to find images from fellow travellers and even official accounts for destinations, attractions and more.

You can also sign up for your own free account if you’re keen to share your holiday snaps with the Instaworld. 

Google

When you type ‘travel’ into Google, it’s pretty clear that going places is a popular global pastime. Almost three and a half billion results appear in half a second, offering up sites to book, read about and review destinations.

But go a step further in Google itself (rather than clicking on one of the listed links) and type in a specific destination, for example ‘Singapore’, to bring up Google’s side info bar. Click again to head to Google Maps, zoom in to find an attraction that takes your interest and click on it.

‘Raffles Hotel’, for example, brings up reviews from other Google users, accommodation availability, photos, quick facts, location and contact details… you get the drift! You can also save the location for later, check what’s nearby and, handily, send the info straight to your phone. 

Pinterest

If you think Pinterest is just for saving pretty pictures then you’d be partially right – there are plenty of pretty travel pictures to whet your globetrotting appetite.

The ‘world’s catalogue of ideas’, simply type ‘travel’ into the site’s search bar and be met with a seemingly endless stream of images saved by Pinterest users.

Pins will usually be linked to the site where the image was originally found, providing exciting travel ‘breadcrumbs’ for you to follow.

Pinterest will also suggest related categories you might like to explore with a simple click (or tap if you’re on smartphone or tablet) including ‘Bucket List’, ‘Destination’ and ‘The World’.

Sign up for free and re-pin posts found in Pinterest on your own ‘boards’ or pin from websites you come across – add as many boards as you like for different locations or trips to collate a virtual scrapbook of your wanderlust wish list.

Wherever it is you want to go in real life, you’ll find plenty of inspiration online before you go. Discover how travelling has changed thanks to greater access to fast internet.

Jennifer Kiely

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