I’m always looking for ways to plan a trip more easily. From the best flight search engine to great value accommodation, I want to make sure I can find great value trips quickly and easily.
But there are so many websites and travel tools today that it’s hard to know where to start.
I’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years of planning trips online and I now have a shortlist of the best travel websites, tools and resources that I always turn to when planning a trip.
Today I’m sharing these with you, to help you plan and book great value trips quickly and easily.
1. Google Flights
Google Flights is hands down the best flight search engine and it’s where I start all of my flight searches. It’s by far the fastest flights website I’ve seen. The speed, combined with the excellent calendar search, make it a powerful tool for quickly finding the cheapest dates for a trip.
Skyscanner* is one of the best flight search engines that shows flight prices from many online travel agencies. You enter the details of your trip and it searches online travel agencies for flights that match your trip. When you see flights you’re interested in you just follow the links in Skyscanner to the online travel agency to book your flight.
It’s not as fast as Google Flights but it does have a great feature for searching for flights to ‘Everywhere’ from your departure city/airport. This shows the lowest priced flights to all destinations from your departure point.
Momondo* is another flight search engine that shows flight prices from lots of online travel agencies. It works in a similar way to Skyscanner but the flight searches can be slow. Always wait until the search has completely finished as lower fares will often pop up at the end of the search.
Kayak is another flight search engine that I frequently use. It works in a similar way to Skyscanner and Momondo and has some useful additional tools like an indicator of whether it expects prices for your trip to increase or decrease.
5. TUI Flight Deals
For cheap long haul flights leaving in the next month or two, TUI Flight Deals* is a great resource.
You can often find real bargains here for non-stop long haul flights from regional UK airports. The downside is that they don’t fly to a huge variety of destinations but for Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico and sometimes Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand they are well worth a look.
Kiwi is a flight search engine which finds flights on low cost and other airlines with self connections. For example Gatwick to Dubai with Vueling, Ryanair and Wizzair via Barcelona, Turin and Bucharest. The prices for these flights vary and I always use this site alongside Google Flights and Skyscanner, Momondo and/or Kayak to compare the fares.
Most of the connecting flights on Kiwi are self connections, which means they are booked as a series of one way flights. This is great until one of the flights is delayed, you miss your next flight and the airline won’t rebook you free of charge. Kiwi does offer a free helpline service if you miss a connection because of a delay but I always make sure I have a good few hours on the ground during any self connecting flights I book.
Southwest is a huge US based low cost airline. I’ve included their website in this list as their flights don’t show up in any other flight search engine. This means that if you want to see their flights you have to go to their website.
They are a great option for domestic flights in the USA and they also have flights to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Their service is usually good and they offer connecting flights across their massive route network.
8. Expedia and Ebookers
Whilst Expedia and Ebookers aren’t usually the cheapest places to book long haul flights, I do use them to look for flight and hotel combination deals. Sometimes the price of a package with the flight and a cheap hotel is the same or only slightly higher than the flights by themselves.
9. Fabulous Flights
I couldn’t write this list without a shameless plug for the Fabulous Flights deals alerts service. Strictly speaking this isn’t a tool that I use personally, but if you’re interested in seeing great value long haul fares from the UK (and if you’re reading this there’s a pretty good chance you are!) then sign up for free.
Although it’s better known for its hotel reviews, Tripadvisor* is one of the sites I use to find great prices for hotels. Their hotel price search covers a huge number of hotel and travel agencies and shows the best prices for your hotel stay alongside their reviews.
One of my favourite places to book a hotel. Booking.com* is very fast and easy to use, has great photos and reviews and is often the cheapest place to book a hotel room. In my experience, their customer service is also very good.
Agoda.com* sits alongside Booking.com for being one of my favourite hotel booking sites. It is by far the best place to book hotels in Asia, and has recently added more hotels in other parts of the world making it a great alternative to Booking.com
Airbnb is the place I go when I want the flexibility of staying somewhere other than a hotel or when I’m struggling to find somewhere to stay that’s in my budget, especially in big cities.
14. Hotel Tonight
This is a great site for finding last minute hotel rooms. Hotel Tonight has saved me hundreds of pounds on hotel stays. The prices on this site don’t tend to be great if you’re booking more than a week in advance but for same day or next day hotels it often cannot be bettered.
I recently had to find a hotel near Miami airport because of a flight cancellation. Hotel Tonight had a good hotel over $50 less than the cheapest hotels on other websites.
The Hotel Tonight app is perfect when you want to quickly find a hotel during travel disruption.
The word hostel usually brings up images of dorm rooms with all night parties and not much sleep. However, Hostelword has hostels all over the world that have private rooms, some of which are better than more expensive nearby hotels. It includes descriptions and reviews for each hostel so you can understand the type of place it is before booking.
If I want to book cheap accommodation I always look here and I’m often surprised by the quality of the of what I find.
16. Priceline and Hotwire
I’ve used these services in Miami and New York and I was able to work out which hotel I’d be staying at in both cases using the information on betterbidding.com. It took a bit of time but was worth it as I was able to save over $500 on those two trips using Priceline and Hotwire.
Tours are often dismissed as not being for ‘real’ travellers or somehow being a softer way of travelling. However, in my experience, a small group tour with the right tour company can actually mean you get to see things that no one relying on a guide book would ever know about.
Some of my best, most memorable travel experiences have been on tours with these companies and I highly recommend them.
17. Intrepid Travel
Intrepid Travel has hundreds of small group tours to almost every corner of the world. They offer tours with different levels of comfort and themes like food, sailing, family and active adventures.
My first small group tour was with Intrepid (from Hanoi to Bangkok) and I loved it.
Dragoman runs overland adventures in their custom built trucks, covering many parts of the world you would never get to see any other way. You take an active part in the trip and are more than just a passenger in the truck.
My last Dragoman trip included a trek to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, an experience I will never forget.
19. Urban Adventures
Urban Adventures is a spin off from Intrepid Travel offering day or half day tours all over the world. The focus is on authentic and affordable small group trips. You won’t find any coach tours here!
20. Free Walking Tours
Walking tours are a great way to get to know a new city and Free Tours By Foot runs tours where you just pay a tip to your guide. They also have links to loads of other similar walking tour companies in cities around the world.
Cars, Trains and Cruises
I love ride sharing services. They are usually easy to use and often cheaper than taxis. Uber is a must have for travelling in the USA and Canada and very useful in most other countries. Grab is the equivalent service in southeast Asia.
22. Seat 61
Seat 61 is THE website to go to for planning any rail trip pretty much anywhere in the world. It covers everything about rail travel from routes and types of trains to buying tickets, rail passes and getting discounts. I always start here when I’m planning to travel by train.
23. Skyscanner Car Hire Search
When I want to hire a car, I head to Skyscanner and use their car hire search* to find the best prices. They cover over 100 car hire sites and I’ve always been happy with the results.
24. Cruises – Vacations To Go
If you’re looking for a discount on a cruise then Vacations To Go is the place to book. They’re based in the US but are used to booking trips for non-US residents. They even have a freephone number if you’re booking from the UK.
Some of the deals on their 90-Day Ticker are superb with up to 80%+ discounts off the brochure prices!
25. Money Saving Expert
When I’m looking for travel insurance I always start with the advice on the Money Saving Expert travel insurance page. There are links to good value insurance companies plus lots of information to make sure I buy a policy that’s right for me.
26. Lonely Planet Guide Books and PDFs
I’ve used guide books for almost every trip I’ve taken and Lonely Planet* are my guide books of choice. For me ebooks don’t work as well as the traditional paper version but Lonely Planet offer both so you can choose the version you prefer.
Visas and Travel Health
27. Travel Health
I can’t stress enough how important it is to check the health requirements for each trip a good few months before you go. Fit for Travel from NHS Scotland is the website I use to check if I need any inoculations or malaria prevention tablets.
28. Visa Check
Traveldoc is where I go to check if I need a visa to enter or transit through a country. I recommend you always double check the visa requirements to avoid being told at the airport that you can’t board your flight.
Money Whilst Travelling
Using a credit or debit card whilst outside the UK can be pricey. Transaction fees, low currency conversion rates and ATM withdrawal fees can all mount up. Revolut changes that by offering a service with excellent currency conversion rates and no ATM withdrawal fees or transaction fees.
I’ve had a Revolut card and account for a few years now and I save money every time I use it outside the UK. Well worth a look.
So there you have it. The full list of all the tools and resources I use to plan my trips, plus a few others that I use to help me save time and money.
What are your favourite travel tools and resources? Are there any tools that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below.
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