...the discovery of a cheap flight! This is often the driving force behind most of my trips...how cheap it is to get there. I've mentioned before my tightwad, Yorkshire genetics and I want value for money on my trips, so spotting a flight on days I am available to travel and at a price that suits, sends my brain and credit card into overdrive. I can heartily recommend the following well known websites in the hunt for that elusive cheap flight - http://www.skyscanner.net/, http://www.kayak.co.uk/, http://www.thewisemiser.co.uk/ and http://www.wegolo.com/. I wouldn't neglect a quick price check on the airline's own website either, as they can sometimes offer the best price.
A quick side note on cashback/points collection websites. These can provide you with even further savings on your flight purchases as well as for airport parking, travel insurance, accommodation booking and travel currency. I tend to favour http://www.quidco.com/ and http://www.nectar.com/.
Once you are happy with your price, it's then all about research. You will have already done some preliminary research into your destination to get an idea if the place(s) you want to visit are to your liking. This is now the time for more in-depth research. Read around the forums such as Lonely Planet's excellent Thorn Tree Forum (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/) for information on things to see, do and eat; including all the things you might want to not see, do or eat too. Simple Google searches, on your destination, should come up with some excellent information from travellers who have visited and that are also intending to visit.
One final great source of information, I find, can be friends and family members. These people can act as 'testers' for your future travel with some top-notch recommendations and their knowledge could be of great help in avoiding sticky travel situations and smooth your journey. My cousin's photos of her visit to Cambodia from Thailand were of great use to me during my visit. Having remembered what the border at Aranyaprathet/Poipet looked like from her Facebook pictures, I was able to avoid being scammed by a group of dodgy Thai men who claimed their wooden shack (200 metres from the official border) was in fact the border and that they knew Britain well; where they proceeded to do Del Boy (from 'Only Fools and Horses') impressions, "luverly jubbly, guv'nor!" Their 'official' visa for Cambodia was three times the $20 I paid at the official border. Thankfully, I stood my ground and the tuk tuk, eventually ferried me to the official border before whizzing off to collect its next unwitting tourist from the bus station!
And there you have, a solid beginning to your next trip.
If you have any top tips for travel planning, please feel free to share in the comments below.