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5 stages of holiday planning – from research to booking

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Although finances are tight in many households, the outlook is positive for those in the travel industry as holidays are usually the last ‘luxury item’ to be cut. However, bookings can be harder to get as trends fluctuate e.g. an increase in last minute bookings, discount requests or shorter breaks.

It’s important that as a holiday let owner you understand the thought process people go through when booking a holiday so you can concentrate your marketing efforts at the relevant stage.

Google has produced an interesting infographic that breaks down the customer experience of online travel into five distinct stages: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing.

The image below gives insights into each stage:

The 5 stages of holiday planning

1. Dreaming: Travellers love to dream about their next holiday.

2. Planning: Travellers are increasingly planning their travel online. The average traveller visits 22 travel related sites during 9.5 research sessions prior to booking.

How this applies to your holiday rental marketing

You should pay particular attention to the early stages of dreaming and planning. During the research stage does your website/advertisement provide inspiration and answer the travellers questions.  Planning a trip online can be a very cumbersome and time-consuming process involving visits to lots of websites to gather information.

Create a comprehensive resource on your area/property to help travellers. Some ideas – highlight the main benefits of your property, show off your views and property with professional photos, highlight how to get to your area, things to do in your area, best beaches, restaurants etc.

Ideally this information should be on your website and/or summarised in your online ads. Also, create travel-related videos to target researchers and contribute to forums (tripadvisor) specific to your area. Be informative – not spammy.

3. Booking: Travellers are increasingly booking via the internet.

How this applies to your holiday rental marketing

Ensure you have exposure in Google search results when travellers are looking to book a property in your area. Advertise on prominent rental portals, don’t be afraid to drop those that underperform in order to test others.

Although many holiday home owners opt not to take instant online bookings, preferring to communicate with enquirers before taking a booking, you should have a means for travellers to enquire about availability. An online form, email address or telephone number at least. Availability calendars should be up to date.

Highlight how you provide value for money and promote late deals to shift empty weeks.

Leading holiday rental websites are also in the process of launching online booking and payments, so you may have to adapt if you don’t take online bookings in some form.

4. Experiencing: Travellers are using mobile devices to explore locations in a much deeper and richer way.

How this applies to your holiday rental marketing

If you are having a website developed for your holiday let, ensure it’s optimised for mobile. Create content that can be viewed on mobile devices, such as photos and video.

5. Sharing: More and more travellers are sharing their experiences online.

How this applies to your holiday rental marketing

As travellers participate in social networking and post photos and reviews of their holidays, find ways to engage and share. Encourage reviews that inspire others to book your holiday rental. Consider refer a friend discounts as consumers appreciate personal (word of mouth) recommendations from people they trust.


It’s unlikely that you can target every stage of the travel process. Ideally it should be in the research and booking phrase. Create engaging content and a reason for travellers to book your property and re-book after the holiday.

The search results are evolving with maps, photos, videos and reviews being integrated. What assets can you create to stand out?

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