THE first step to a successful trip these days comes before you leave the home or office; get on the Internet and make your bookings. It is far more efficient. I have used it to book airline tickets for children in the United States, to make sure a hire car was waiting for me at Cairns airport in Queensland and for hotel reservations in Indonesia. There have been no hitches or trouble. And because you are making your orders direct to the supplier, be it an airline, hotel, car hire firm or a fishing boat charter, you can ask for the best deal and get reasonable discounts. Last summer, a friend had to organise a venue for a conference in Montreal. She had never been there, so she searched the Net and, within an hour, had found an inner-city bed-and-breakfast establishment that could cope with 11 women doctors and professors from four continents for seven days. There were e-mail chats to check location (you could find on the Montreal city map that it was three blocks from the main conference site) and local restaurants. You could check nearby shopping and public transport. And it was considerably cheaper than a hotel, which her travel agent in Hong Kong had tried to book. For travellers, the Internet is an advantage. They can check for destinations, transport, hotels, room prices, currency exchange rates, popular sights, times to visit and even read about particular places, traditions and customs. Once a search is done, travellers can choose the best rates available and make bookings. Many airlines, hotel chains, national tourism organisations (like the Hong Kong Tourist Association) and other companies and service groups show their wares on the www. Finding what's on offer is simple. First, where do you want to go? Let's say it is Vietnam. You can explore the country electronically hunting for good deals, discounts, suggestions about where to go and what to do. You can hire cars and drivers and book hotels, fix connecting air flights and even make restaurant reservations. I know, I have.