We use many tools and sites when planning our trips. Getting the planning right means you can relax when you are travelling and soak up the experience.
This is a list of our favourite and alternative travel and trip planning resources for travelling the world. We hope you find them useful.
Last updated – July 2019
Favourite resources for planning travels and trips
Click on the section below to find the information you need
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Recommended resources for choosing a destination
As a blogger I always look to my favourite travel bloggers and writers for inspiration and ideas on where to go next as well as browsing and collecting ideas on Pinterest which is really like a visual search engine.
I’ve used Lonely Planet guides for ideas and inspiration for over 15 years. I like their commitment to only publishing information that has been tested in person by one of their reviewers
Growing up I used to love browsing my parents’ huge collection of National Geographic magazines. These days you can access their inspiring travel photography and content online via wide variety of digital and print media.
Best resources for searching for and booking flights
Finding the most convenient and value for money flights are our priorities when travelling. Usually we are trying to accommodate children’s needs or a tight schedule so price is not the only factor when we search for flights. I use the following sites and airlines for flight research and booking.
Tip: use a private or incognito browser when searching for flights. Prices increase once vendors know you are searching for particular dates and destinations.
Google flight search is a quick and no frills way to search for flights online. You can specify direct flights, preferred airlines and flying times through its simple and intuitive interface. If you find a flight that meets your requirements click on the link and Google offers you several buying options for the flights you choose.
Travel search site Skyscanner useful if you are looking for the cheapest flights available. The site has similar search capabilities to Google Flights but defaults to finding the lowest cost alternative. You can also use Skyscanner to book hotels and car hire.
I have spent a lot of time in the air as both a leisure and business traveller. Ultimately I want to arrive safely and as comfortably as possible at my destination. Where routes and timing allow I prefer to fly on the following airlines.
Often getting from your home to your destination is the easiest part of planning travels independently. These are my favourite tools to help me understand the time, cost and methods of getting from point A to point B
I love Google maps and use it almost every day. When planning travel it is very useful tool for estimating travel times via different methods of transport – car vs train for example. Some major cities have public transport links and times as well as live traffic alerts built in so you can change your plans easily if required. It is also easy to save destinations on your own map for a later date.
Travel search engine Rome2Rio uses information from more than 4,800 transport operators in over 158 countries to provide travel route options, times and prices all over the world. I usually check Rome2Rio if I have some tricky connections to make and am always thrilled with the alternative suggestions made. I also like the interface because it is visual and appealing.
An incredible resource for planning train travel, particularly in Europe, The Man in Seat 61 started its life as a humble blog by a train enthusiast.
Hotels and accommodation
In my opinion getting your accommodation right is the key to a great holiday. Using the sites below we have booked great stays in hotels, apartments, villas and houses around the world. We have even stayed in unique or quirky accommodation including a houseboat in Amsterdam and a chateau in France.
My favourite site to book accommodation is Booking.com because I feel it has the biggest listing of hotels, apartments, b&bs and other specialty accommodation available. Many of the properties may be booked with free cancellation which is useful when you are in the initial planning stages. Please do remember to cancel your bookings well in advance if you have done this. Many smaller operators really suffer from late booking cancellations.
Industry giant TripAdvisor is a great place to read accommodation reviews and tips and now you can also book short term rental properties online using TripAdvisor’s booking engine – Holiday Lettings which is also integrated into the main TripAdvisor site. Note – When you book hotels you are given several options of hotel booking sites to choose from while lettings are sold direct using PayPal
We have been using AirBnB since 2014 and have stayed in some fantastic places. We always choose to rent the entire home. I like to use AirBnB for longer stays as since Booking.com entered the short term rental market the convenience of searching for and comparing accommodation options in the one place is useful. If you haven’t tried AirBnB please feel free to use my link for free AirBnB credit [£25 or equivalent] when making your first booking.
If you know your travel dates and are set on staying a hotel Hotels Combined does all the hard work for you by comparing the rates from all the major hotel booking sites. I find it very interesting to see the different rates being offered across each platform and have secured some incredible deals using this service that also guarantees the lowest price. Note – you do not pay for your hotel using this service – it acts like a search engine.
More online hotel booking sites worth trying
Hotels Combined checks all of these providers and many more when making its recommendations. I like to be able to compare across sites but others may prefer the easier interfaces these sites offer.
More sites to book vacation rentals
Most properties available will be listed on Booking.com, AirBnb and TripAdvisor but some property owners prefer to deal with these providers so it is worth taking a look.
Destination guides and information
Even though I love digital resources, sometimes you just cant beat a good guide book particularly if you are looking for information on historical context.
Lonely Planet guides are excellent sources of information about the area you are visiting as they are written by independent travellers. I usually check on their hotel and eating recommendations as they have not failed me yet.
It is important to me that I know the cultural and historic context behind the places I am visiting. I use DK Eyewitness travel guides for this purpose.
I love the visual layout that often includes diagrams of buildings and landmarks with explanations of the symbolism behind them.
Tours and experiences
Regular readers of Untold Morsels will know I am a big fan of taking local tours and seeking out local experiences. These are the resources I regularly turn to when looking for activities on our travels.
I love the convenience offered by Get Your Guide. Book tours, attractions and activities online or via their handy app. There are almost 30,000 activities listed in over 6,000 locations. All your tour and payment information is stored on your phone so you don’t have carry paper about or rummage through emails.
Often the best way to discover any destination is through its local dishes. Join a food tour by Eating Europe and you’ll not only have a delicious time but you’ll learn all about the history and culture of cities like Paris, London and Prague. Their tour of Rome’s Testaccio district made our list of best food tours in Rome
Search for the top rated tours and attractions online with TripAdvisor and then book directly on their site. I tend to do a quick check of TripAdvisor but use other providers to book the tours as they don’t seem to have as many tours available to book.
If you are looking for tickets to some of world’s biggest attractions check AttractionTix where you can find great deals on iconic experiences like a bateau mouche cruise in Paris or taking in the view from The Shard in London.
If you want your travel full of local experiences organised for you Intrepid offers some of the best and cost effective small group tours. I used them as a new solo traveller and enjoyed having the security of a group and the expertise of local guides. These days I find their website is a great resource for checking itineraries and finding ideas on activities and places to visit.
Sharing a meal with locals is one of my favourite ways to experience local culture. Bon Appetour connects travellers with local chefs and cooks for unique and authentic home dining experiences in cities around the world.
Transport and getting around
If you are visiting a major city, chances are you will need some help understanding the transit system. Citymapper is a free online resource and app that will help you get from A to B easily. The smarts in this system even tell you what train carriage to get on.
Car rental prices can vary wildly across countries and providers. We use Rentalcars.com to help us find the best car hire deals for our trips. They source the best options and prices from known vendors so it is easy to compare and find the right car for your trip.
The FreeNow taxi app works in many cities around the world. It’s useful because you can track your taxi and fares and there is no need to know local numbers. Paying via the app also means not having to carry local cash. I’ve used it in London, Melbourne and Rome without a hitch. Also available in the USA
Sometimes the best way of getting from A to B is with a professional driver. This often happens with airport transfers when you have a lot of luggage and people to transport. Blacklane has an excellent service that we have used in Italy and London. Prices are fair, your booking can be canceled at any time and are fully inclusive.
I love travelling by train in Europe. One of the easiest ways to buy train tickets and rail passes is via Omio. The site covers 28 countries and 15,000 cities and towns across Europe so you don’t have to navigate the train booking systems of each country you want to visit. Plus it is in native English and accepts international credit cards and you keep your tickets on their handy app.
Uber is a transport option I came to rely on in London and then it got banned. There are many countries and cities following suit so I use Uber as a back up when I can.
Insurance and Money
Travelling abroad always involves large sums of money no matter how budget conscious you are. As a minimum you must always travel with insurance and exchange currencies. These are my favourite resources for ensuring you have covered
Most travel insurance policies need to be purchased in your country of residence. Available to people from over 150 countries, World Nomads insurance has one of the most flexible insurance policies available to travellers. You can buy, extend and even claim online. Note – they do not offer great coverage for travellers over 60
Sometimes when you are travelling you need access to funds fast. We avoid bank charges using HiFX – a quick, easy and safe way to transfer funds abroad.
We have been caught out a couple of times needing to pay cash for accommodation (when I didn’t read the fine print). The solution has been to use PayPal and it is a great back up solution for those emergency situations.Securely link your bank account, debit cards and credit cards and then you can pay via PayPal in 202 countries and markets, and in 25 currencies. The fees can be high but as I said, it’s a back up solution.
Destination specific travel tips and links
- Italy travel tips – 101 essential must know tips for your trip to Italy
- Heading to Bali? Check out these tips for staying safe and having a great time with this Bali travel guide
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