My past experiences of casual information searching have often relied on making unconscious decisions; automatically turning to familiar, tried-and-tested web resources for reliable information. Earlier this year I planned a last-minute trip to Edinburgh and, to some extent, I already knew exactly where to find the information I would require for arranging the weekend.
The first step was to organise both accommodation and travel. I have always relied upon Trainline for finding and purchasing cheap train tickets, especially at the last minute. I also used Google Maps to calculate how long the journey would take by car, and how much it would approximately cost in petrol. It turned out that rail would be the cheapest (and fastest) option.
I used TripAdvisor to find a reasonably priced and conveniently located hotel for the weekend, then reserved the room using the hotel's own website (which I probably found through a simple Google search). We had some vague ideas for things to do in the city, but I also consulted WikiTravel for some additional suggestions. I then consulted Last.Fm, a 'scrobbling' music recommendation service, to see if any familiar bands were playing gigs whilst we were there.
My final online resource was Happy Cow, an online directory which I have used to find vegetarian and vegan restaurant suggestions on several occasions before. Although useful, the website suffers from its rather basic design and sometimes outdated information. Regardless of this, I was pleased to find many tempting veggie options in Edinburgh.
Perhaps the most valuable source of information that weekend turned out to be my copy of the Edinburgh Encounter Lonely Planet guide. Sometimes the traditional, physical guide book turns out to be the most reputable and trustworthy source of information when visiting a new place, perhaps moreso than any user contribution based website.