We all can agree that businesses must engage with current and future customers on the Web. But I think in no industry is this more important than in the travel industry.

I joked the other day that I don’t know how people planned trips before the Internet. Between finding a travel agent who’d been where you’re planning to be and scouring AAA tourbooks for hotel listings, the process must have been arduous. Or, then again, maybe travel used to be about just hitting the road and taking your chances?

I’ve done some travel PR over the years, including working on the opening of The Venetian in Las Vegas, during which several of my favorite PR moments occurred (notably, the Adelsons imploring the teeming masses of new gamblers entering the casino during its opening minutes to stop and “look up” at the frescoes on the ceiling. But they didn’t.) Travel PR falls into the part of the discipline that is “not brain surgery.” However, tremendous diligence is required to secure media coverage, since the most glamorous publications work on lead times that can range anywhere from 4-8 months and beyond.

Most “glamorous,” I write, because as I’ve been busy planning a multi-leg family trip the past couple of weeks, I have experienced for myself how the most “influential” source of travel information has become the Web.

Between Google, Trip Advisor, Expedia, the National Park Service sites, and individual hotel Web sites, we have booked an entire, 6,000-mile driving vacation without once consulting a travel agent, a national or regional travel magazine, or a general travel news site. We set a price range per city, scoured over reviews, cross-referenced comments between the travel sites and other links we found on Google search, confirmed that each location had wireless Internet access, and relied on Hotwire and Priceline and BetterBidding.com to assess each market’s price index. Where we could, we opted for smaller, local hotels – but only if they had a decent Web site that we could find via Search.

One trip, four weeks of hotel nights, all booked with a minimum of phone calls (to the smaller hotels, and to one of my hotel membership’s service desks). Where we don’t yet have rooms booked, we’re just a click away from finding a discounted room rate.

Booking travel online isn’t new to me – I’ve booked business travel this way for many years. But digging down to some of the smaller communities in America, places like Chamberlain, S.D., and Hays, Kan., I’m thankful that travelers like me are using the Web to share their experiences and offer informed recommendations.

I’m planning to blog the trip … but not on this site. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to read further about it.