My friends are always asking me how I manage to find cheap holidays, or how I found out about a particular place I visited or stayed in. Here are my top 5 resources for the early stages of planning a trip.
I love skyscanner. It’s usually my first port of call when looking to get away. Often I don’t have much of a plan on where to go next. I just look at my diary, see what’s coming up and work out when I can next get away. This is where the SkyScanner “search everywhere” function is invaluable. Put in your dates, put in your departure airport and then type “everywhere” as your destination. Up pops a list of the countries you can fly to, with the lowest price listed first.
Other sites have started to do the same, including some of the budget airlines. EasyJet now has a function where you can put in when you want to go, and what the maximum you’re willing to pay is and they’ll show you the flights they run for that price or lower.
MoneySavingExpert website has a similar tool, the flight checker, where you can put in how much you want to spend on a flight and it will search airlines and provide a list of countries you can fly to on your budget.
I usually check a combination of these sites before booking anything.
Kayak is great for an all in one price checker service, but also for journeys where you want to make multiple stops. On a recent trip to America to visit some friends in Ohio, we wanted to throw a trip to New York in on our return so our journey would be Manchester-Cleveland-New York – Manchester. Using the multi-stop search function on Kayak we found this journey for far cheaper than I’d managed to myself. I love this site as you can also search hotels, car hire and activities.
I think most people have heard of airbnb now, but I’m still surprised at the amount of my friends who aren’t willing to try it and insist on traditional hotels. I’ve used it on numerous occasions now and always ended up somewhere lovely, right in the heart of the action for a fraction of the price of a hotel. you also get the added bonus that a lot are self catering so you can save money on eating out. Whilst more and more of the listings are full time holiday apartments, rather than people’s homes, it is still easy to find some gems. If you’re open, why not select “private room” when visiting somewhere. One one trip to Italy my friend stayed in a families spare room, and was invited to dine with them in the evenings, giving her a very real insight into life there. They were able to tell her the best places to go, how much she should pay for things so she wouldn’t get ripped off, and even showed her how to make pasta properly. Obviously not every host will be this accommodating and may not want to interact to that extent, but why not try it and see if you’re lucky?
Trivago is my favourite hotel price comparison site. Whilst there are plenty of others available that will probably do just as well for finding a cheap deal, it’s the filters that make this one stand out. Being able to sort hotels by distance from a particular area or attraction, or simply the city centre means you can find the best deal in the area you really want to stay in. Added to this the number of filters for amenities and the slide bar that means you can control how much you’re looking to pay per night makes it a brilliant website.
5. Travel blogs
These are your best source of knowledge on where to go, what to do when you get there and whether that accommodation is a good deal. When planning a recent trip to the Philippines I lived and breathed travel blogs. The Philippines wasn’t somewhere a lot of my friends had been to (I only knew 2 people who had been, and it had been a while), so I had to do all my research myself. I searched for blogs on the islands I was planning on visiting and soon found a few firm favourite bloggers who looked to be into the same kind of things as me. These blogs were an invaluable source of advice, and actually inspired me to change my itinerary to see some of the more remote, unspoilt places they’d been to. Lots of blogs now also provide reviews of accommodation and excursions so you can decide whether they are worth the time or money (handy when you are limited on both). Whilst tripadvisor does the same, I find travel blogs more down to earth and more likely to be written by someone with the same attitude to travel as me.
Remember, it can be worth contacting them directly too, to see if they can offer advice. Some I’ve not heard back from, but most have sent me useful replies.
So. That’s my favourite travel tools. Have you got any good recommendations to share?