The second-best part of holidays, only beaten by actually being on holiday, is planning it! Whether you’re planning an ultimate ‘once in a life time’ trip or browsing a few things to do on your beach holiday, here’s a list of our recommended travel websites and resources to give you a helping hand and become a pro in finding the best travel deals, destinations and things to do.
All recommendations are hand selected and used by us when planning our trips.
What better way to drool over your upcoming holiday and see the best places than to check out pictures. Search for destinations and follow the location hashtags for daily updates from other travellers. We like to follow a few different places we’re interested in to compare them.
Although Lonely Planet is centred around backpacking and travelling the world rather than short holidays, there’s plenty of invaluable destination information that will inspire you to visit a new place! The forum is an excellent place to talk about and plan your trip with other travellers.
What better way to find your next holiday destination than reading about the trips of others (and getting slightly jealous)? See our favourite travel blogs here.
Although many other comparison engines now exist, Skyscanner has been our go-to site for many years. It’s perfect for finding the cheapest dates and times to fly to a destination and comparing nearby airports. To find out how to utilize its full potential, check out our flight finding guide here.
Just like Skyscanner, Google flights is an alternative comparison engine for scanning prices across airlines for your selected dates and destinations. The tool is very easy to use and integrates well with voice search, however it lacks the ‘Fly anywhere’ inspiration option that we love about Skyscanner.
Sign up to Scott’s Cheap Flights updates for daily emails listing the best flight deals across the US and Europe. Scott and his team scan the internet for low-fare flights from different locations, taking note of airline sales and error fares. It’s a great way to find cheap flights if you’re flexible on dates.
Official Airline sales
Although booking direct with airlines isn’t always the cheapest option (for long haul), signing up to official airline newsletters is a great way to find out when they’re running a seasonal sale. Some of our favourites include Norwegian, British Airways and Emirates.
There are lots of comparison sites for hotels these days but Trivago is our favourite and we’ve been using it since it first launched. Compare prices for a hotel and filter by reviews, facilities and more! It’s a good way to find the cheapest booking websites for your selected dates.
Pretty much the same as Trivago (but you can also compare flights), Kayak is an all-in-one place for travel and holiday comparison.
Another hotels comparison website we like that features some of the booking websites that don’t feature on Kayak and Trivago. We recommend using them all to ensure you’ve compared all options!
When booking hotels, we usually go with the cheapest option, but from an ease of use point of view, Hotels.com is our favourite. They regularly have discounts and sales, prices are competitive, they have a loyalty scheme and their booking process is quick and easy. In addition to making hotel bookings easy, these also have plenty of informative destination content on their site!
Airbnb has taken the holiday accommodation market by storm and we can see why! Private rentals are a great way to save some money, they generally offer more space than hotels and offer discounts for longer stays. If you’re travelling in a large group, Airbnb is the way to go!
Like Airbnb, Holiday Lettings is a site that lists private accommodation rentals. It particularly caters to holiday destinations rather than cities and has a wide range of excellent accommodation, both budget and luxury. We personally love the villas on offer if we’re travelling with family or friends.
Finding holiday deals
OK, so Holiday Pirates is quite possibly our favourite holiday website. Ever since it launched we’ve been following it on a regular basis to find good deals on holidays. The team there are focused on finding super cheap flights, package holidays, hotels and everything else you’d associate with going abroad. Check their site and social media often and you’re guaranteed to find something you’ll like.
Secret Escapes does something better than anyone – travel photography. Their vibrant hotel photos really give them an edge in selling you a holiday. It’s a good website for city breaks (both UK and Europe) and the dinner, breakfast and room rates are fantastic for saving money.
Groupon has now become a world-wide brand for saving money on everything from meals and travel to buying DIY items! It’s massively diverse. The increasingly popular ‘Getaway’ or Travel section has some excellent deals for city breaks and hotel stays. You need to be flexible on dates but are sure to find a bargain.
Booking holiday extras (travel insurance, car hire, etc)
Skyscanner makes our recommendations list again, and this time it’s for airport transfers and car hire. Just like comparing flights, you can compare car hire and airport transfers quickly, getting a snapshot of prices and reviews for different suppliers. We prefer Skyscanner to more industry specific rental comparison sites as it compares everything – both comparison sites and individual company options.
Surprisingly, airport parking is a very competitive industry and there are a lot of re-seller websites. For UK airport parking, our favourite comparison site is Airport Parking Shop. Rather than selling their own car parking options, they collate parking options throughout the UK, both on-airport and cheaper off-airport options.
Our go-to site for travel insurance (and we’re a firm believer that it’s essential), is Compare the Market. You may think it’s because of their quirky Meerkat mascot, but it is in fact because we seem to find the best value using this site. Prices are cheaper for the same products you’d find elsewhere and best of all? You get an annual subscription to 2 for 1 Meerkat Movies and their 2 for 1 restaurant offer.
Tours and excursions
Our good old friend Tripadvisor is where we do a lot of our research. The collective opinions of other travellers can be found here and it’s a great way to find tours. Search for ‘tours in *insert destination’ and compare the TripAdvisor listings and reviews. You can book tours with TripAdvisor, but we prefer to find independent operators and negotiate prices directly.
Viator is one of the biggest tour booking sites in the world. You can book tours almost anywhere and can compare a range of options. They’re a great choice if you want comfort of a reliable tour (you can check the reviews) and want to book everything in advance before arrival so you don’t miss out.
Rome2Rio offers a visually superb way of planning your itinerary if you plan on visiting multiple destinations in a trip. Find the best way to get from A to B and inspiration for places to stop on the way. It’s invaluable for trips with lots of moving around and they have an app to make your life even easier!
Google Maps is great for determining how long it takes to travel between places, whether its driving, cycling, taking public transport or walking. Place pins on your favourite attractions and destinations so you remember where to visit. You can also plan itinerary routes.
We’ve listed Tripadvisor again as it’s also a good place for looking for the top things to do and see in a location based on user reviews. We’ve found that it pretty much nails the key things to do in a place, and then you can do extra research to find less touristy options. Their forums are also good for gaining insights and itineraries from locals and other tourists.
Handy travel apps
Google Maps is our most used app. It’s great for finding directions to a particular place, finding things to do or places to eat nearby and its ‘offline maps’ feature means you can download a map and use it even when you don’t have WIFI/signal.
Getting from A to B is easy and relatively cheap with Uber. Most major cities now have an Uber operation, so you won’t have any trouble catching a cab from the airport. If you’re new to Uber, sign up using code ‘uu1owue’ for discount.
Packpoint searches for the weather at your holiday destination and determines the type of holiday you’re going on and helps you pack your suitcase. Its handy checklist feature will ensure that you’re organised and stress-free.
Google Trips integrates with your Google accounts and pulls through your reservations, providing an easy to read timeline of your trip itinerary. It’s simple but helpful.
Google Translate is a handy app for when you find yourself in a situation where you’re trying to communicate with a local (or another traveller) and you don’t speak the same language. The app’s voice recognition feature is essential.
We’ve been using Duolingo for almost two years to learn Spanish and Portuguese and it’s amazing! Impress the locals with basic conversation in their language and make your life on the road easier. Although you’ll need more immersion to become fluent in a language, Duolingo will get you most of the way if you use it every day.
We’ve been using the Halifax Clarity credit card for a few years now and haven’t looked back. This card provides some of the best exchange rates on the market, much better than you’ll find in an exchange store. Use it like a normal credit/debit card (it’s Mastercard) or withdraw from ATM’s if you’re visiting less developed locations. It’s safer than using cash and there’s no fees.
Revolut works just like the Halifax Clarity card and provides just as good exchange rates, you just use it like a top up card rather than borrowing money as you would on a credit card. Simply add money to the card and withdraw it at an ATM or use it like a debit card in stores.
If you prefer good old ‘cash in hand’, Travel Supermarket’s currency comparison tool compares live exchange rates from high street stores and exchange booths. Once you’ve found an option you like, order for home delivery or collection. You’ll get a much better rate doing this rather than turning up in the store and buying currency on the day.
Must-have travel gear
Camera / a good smart phone
It goes without saying that a good smartphone goes a long way when you’re on holiday. From checking out where to eat, navigating the road or capturing great photos, a decent smartphone is a great investment. Don’t forget the accompanying insurance!
Go Pro’s or other action camera brands are a handy tool for capturing all those amazing holiday moments. They’re easy to use and you can get a GoPro Session for less than £150 (with memory card).
We try to print as little as possible and just download digital tickets, however you’ll still need physical voucher, boarding passes and tickets for some places. A compact document wallet is ideal for keeping all your passports, documents and ID’s. This is the one we use.