Your next holiday is a click away

Raise your hand if you've ever been lost in a strange city and were in desperate need of a clean public restroom within the one-mile radius. Rather than crossing and uncrossing your legs, life could've been a lot easier had you logged on to  Thebathroomdiaries.com and such similar websites that give you the insider scoop into the world of travelling.

Today, more and more people are opting for a virtual reference guide through the numerous travel websites that provide everyday travellers with insightful information on the city they're visiting.

However, along with giving recommendations, many of these "guides" also offer interactive platforms where users can upload holiday videos, chat with other travellers, e-mail local experts and even post their own recommendations for others to benefit from.

So before you start packing, maybe a journey down the virtual corridors may help you pick out the best-suited hotel, one that's high in the hygiene stakes, centrally located, has all the amenities and is even child-friendly. Emirates Business logs on to the top ones.


1 www.realtravel.com

Voted by Forbes magazine as one of the best travel websites, realtravel.com is your one stop shop for researching and planning your summer vacation.

With loads of handy features and its user-friendly website, realtravel.com allows like-minded travellers to blog freely on the website and trade insider secrets on some of the season's hottest destinations.

However, that's not all you can expect to find. There's even a special My Trip Planner link, which gives people information and tools needed to plan the next trip. You can create your own trip itinerary, along with accessing dynamic route maps that can be manipulated by dragging-and-dropping locations on the itinerary, or by applying or changing dates. What's more, you can also add personal notes to your itinerary and add useful links to external websites.


2 www.travelpod.com

Probably one of the most searched travel websites, Travelpod.com is the perfect place to access travel blogs, journals, travelogues and diaries, with detailed personal experiences and anecdotes to keep you prepared for just about any travel hiccup.

And don't fret if you can't find the information you are looking for. The site also offers interactive forums where you can pose your personal queries and have them answered by local experts or from other travellers, like yourself, who have recently visited the destination. Aside from the insider scoop on dodgy hotels, and equally shady neighbourhoods, you can also book your flights, your car rentals and even your travel insurance – all at one place.


3 www.tripadvisor.com

Reliable and equally accurate, the website saved the day when I was booked into, what seemed like a fairly decent hotel in New York, only to discover the hotel was roach infested, as per the reports of more than 50 different people who stayed there. Their forums are a big hit among young travellers, especially for those who travel on a restricted budget and need to find cheap eateries and places to party that don't burn a hole in their wallets.

Being very user-friendly, the information is divided up regionally, with a drop down list of countries and cities in that area. Once you have confirmed your travel plans, scroll down the list or chat up in their forums for a few questions of your own.


4 www.travelblog.org

As the name suggests, Travel Blog is a collection of travel journals, diaries and photos from around the world. Designed for travellers, this site includes features that allow you to update friends and family on your adventure; you can also start your own free online travel website should you wish to do so.

Aside from the usual insider scoop on destinations, their beginner's guide to independent travel is top notch, with great information to prepare yourself for a strange country.

 

5 www.gridskipper.com

When media bigwigs like Forbes, Time Asia, The New York Times and The Guardian give it their stamp of approval, you suddenly sit up and take notice.

Calling itself the 'urban travel guide', Gawker Media's Gridskipper throws convention out the window and provides more interesting facts about the destinations, including posts on where you are 'most likely to get shot', or even their 'urinate on history in Vegas', where a chunk of the Berlin Wall has been installed in a loo for…er, people to enjoy, we guess. And yes, pictures are included.

There is a searchable drop-down list of cities on the right-hand side of the screen, which allows readers to browse for their city of choice – and there is even some insider information on Abu Dhabi and Dubai for those who are really interested.



6 www.bootsnall.com

Three Aussie lads, one conformed Yank and a trip to the European Football Championships was all it took to create this website. Their story is a travelogue in itself, and Bootsnall is as creative as it comes. Being extremely user-friendly, the website has all the features a travel blog can ask for, with a comprehensive list of where to purchase tickets and make reservations just about anywhere in the world, for a youth hostel in Fairbanks, Alaska to a Eurail pass from Milan, Italy. And when you've completed your little adventure, post your own story for the world to read.

The kicker is their link to the 'next generation travel guide', which features blogs on ecotravel, adventure travel, teaching English travel and business travel. It doesn't get better than this.



7 www.travelistic.com

Travelling to Ireland but unsure if exploring the countryside is really your thing? Maybe what you need is a little virtual trip down the Emerald Isle via Travelistic.com. The website, which is run by the New York-based Diversion Media, allows users to upload their travel videos, along with providing professional content and tourist board videos. However, videos aren't the only thing that will reel you in. A special travel blog also allows users to share their insights, reveal insider secrets and provide cost-saving tips that will go a long way in helping those on a budget.



8 www.thebathroomdiaries.com

Forget about losing your tickets on your next holiday; what do you do when a real emergency strikes – like being stranded on a remote Alaskan highway and no restroom facilities in sight?

Thebathroomdiaries.com works as your knight in shining armour – complete with locations, hours of operations, reviews and overall usability of some of the best public bathrooms across 120 countries.

The website was created in 2000 by Mary Ann Racin, a US-based entrepreneur. There are more than 12,000 public toilets listed on the site, along with three located in Dubai. And keeping with the city's high standards, each has been given a three-star rating.

 

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