Planning a vacation is a rather involved activity. Usually, I have spent weeks in planning my holidays, because I often want to avoid a commercial vacation, and it always takes time to find a non-commercial, lesser known place, which is also interesting enough to visit. For travel planning abroad, mainly Europe & Americas, I had found BootsnAll to be a very useful site, but its coverage of India is tentative at best.
So it was with great joy that I welcomed the idea of an Indian travel planning site, when I discovered Holidayiq a few months back through one of the blogs – a blog by the founder of HolidayIQ, Hari Nair who quit his consulting practice to fill an important gap in Indian travel.
Holiday IQ is a user based website, which allows travelers to share their first-hand experiences on destinations and hotels, along with photographs and videos, to give a more realistic overview of the place in contrast to the glossy advertising coverage, which is often the only way of getting an impression of a place.
In terms of range, HolidayIQ covers extensive number of destinations throughout India (439 currently – as their website tells me), but an even larger number of hotels (~9000!). Like tripadvisor, there is an average rating for each hotel, based on the aggregate of ratings given by different users on multiple parameters. Of course, in some cases the rating is a little skewed as the user base is still relatively small and many hotels have less than 3 reviews. But by encouraging users to share specific comments, holidayiq ensures that the overview turns out to be descriptive and helpful.
Apart from user experiences, the site gives extensive information on the destinations and also lists down the hotels by category, mostly along with the relevant websites, which aids a comprehensive travel planning. Other cool features of the website are:
It’s monthly guide, Vacationer, which lists down some good travel ideas and has some good features like photo journeys, theme vacations
Xchange: here you can ask specific questions on your travel plan and get suggestions from other members of the community. The answers, in most cases are fairly detailed and very useful. HolidayIQ goes a step further in helping its members by emailing any new questions on a destination, to people who have earlier reviewed/responded about them, requesting them to post their replies.
Fairchase: Well, it is another flight search utility, which are already available on so many travel sites. The special feature on fairchase is that it tells you the nearest airport to your destination. However, more often than not it is not able to find flight deals, which is one thing the site needs to improve upon
A few other things that would be useful would be a categorization by holiday type apart from geography. Also, in many destinations, the ‘How to get there’ piece is missing, which is rather crucial. It might be a good idea to allow users to add destinations (if there is, I have not yet found it). This will allow people to chose from many more destinations – I would have liked to add Sitlakhet, Mukhteshwar and Igatpuri, three places which I have been to, have a good idea of, which are not there in the current list of destinations.
Overall, HolidayIQ is a great place to plan your trip, to know about many destinations, to get motivated to travel more – a site for every traveler, and what’s more – thought traveler.