If you use the internet for travel, here’s our tips on the best sites for flights, accommodation and a whole lot more.
You may not have heard of it, but this is a powerful flight-search website with software that can access the low-cost airlines and little-known local ones that aren’t available to most flight-search websites. Its my first stop for finding a flight.
The Man in Seat Sixty-One
Train travel on short haul is so much more relaxing. No need to leave home four hours early for a distant airport, arrive bang in the middle of town, and your carbon guilt will be practically nil. But trying to figure out how to get from Glasgow to Gerona can be difficult. That’s where The Man in Seat 61 can help explain how to travel by train from Britain or Bali to countries all over the world, as well as just within specific countries or regions. He shows pictures of the sleeper cars or bench seats, gives specific details of how interesting, easy, long and costly a route will be. He also provides the links to buy the tickets, in many cases.
With more than 2,500 luxury hotels around the world, including boutique hotels, design hotels and eco-hotels, reviewed by some of Britain’s best travel writers, you can be sure of a wonderful holiday. What’s more, the website has negotiated the best hotel deals, so you won’t find the rooms cheaper anywhere else, even on the hotels’ own websites. And although they specialise in high quality hotels, there’s a smattering of smaller ones along with some carefully selected chain hotels, so prices aren’t as high as you might expect. For example, there are rooms in central London from £67.50.
If you’re looking to book youth hostels, want to stay in budget hotels, book cheap campsites or just find a bargain B&B or guesthouse, Travellerspoint should be your first port of call. With more than 50,000 accommodation options around the world, you’ll be able to find and book those cheap hotels you often can’t otherwise find until you’re on the ground in your destination.
Far better for genuine hotel deals that many websites claiming to offer deals, LateRooms is where hotels from around the world advertise the rooms they can’t offload, offering discounts of up to 70%. Here you’ll find last-minute deals on everything from budget to luxury hotel rooms.
HomeAway Holiday-Rentals has more than 210,000 around the world, from the Caribbean island of Anguilla to a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe, and with 80,000 in the USA alone. To get a taste of what it’s like to stay in a holiday home rental, check out the fascinating travels of two journalists, who are househopping in HomeAway Holiday-Rentals homes for a year here.
A forerunner in the ethical travel market, this is a one-stop-shop for people who want to find out about eco-tours and holidays around the world. Families, singles and couples are all catered for, and all the companies on the site have passed Responsible Travel’s ethical criteria. Rather than selling the packages themselves, Responsible Travel puts you in touch with the provider directly, and these are often small, locally owned companies who would find it difficult to have a significant web presence. The reviews are honest, so you know what you’ll be getting, and there’s a range of breaks, from weekend getaways to month-long adventures.
Home Base Holidays Home Exchange
Truly live like a local by doing a home exchange. Whether you have a tiny city apartment, a country cottage or a suburban semi, there will be someone, somewhere who wants to swap with you. And one of the best places to find them is on one of the oldest, most respected home-exchange websites in the world, Home Base Holidays has more than 2,000 listings in countries around the world. The concept is simple. You pay a small annual fee, then look for homes you might want to stay in. Contact them via the website, then if you’re both agreed, you swap homes. The exchange is free and a truly unique way to experience a destination.
TRAVEL WRITING AND INSPIRATION
Loved by non-bloggers and geeks alike, this irreverent site offers vacation ideas, but also takes sideswipes at travel absurdities, gives the inside scoop on what goes on behind the scene and posts up-to-the-minute news on travel events, such as ash clouds, oil leaks and airline strikes. Don’t miss Mike Barish’s brutally honest reviews, Heather Poole’s acerbic look at life behind the in-flight trolley and Tom Johansmeyer’s glimpses of the high life.
The Travel Editor
For holiday inspiration, impartial hotel reviews, city guides and insider tips, check out The Travel Editor. Written by a select group of travel writers (all vetted for quality control), this is the place to while away your lunch break trying to figure out where to go for your next break, or which hotel and restaurant to book when you’ve made your decision.
Spotted By Locals
For genuine tips by locals from a range of European cities, including Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Prague, have a browse through this site. The information is much more savvy than you’ll find on many websites or in guidebooks, and includes plenty of quirky tips to entice.
Guardian Travel I’ve Been There
Of the major newspaper and magazine websites, the Guardian’s online Travel section is the best by miles. It’s brilliantly organised so that whether you just want to catch up on the travel news, read some lovely travel writing or get quality information on your destination, it’s easy to find and well written. But for the real inside scoop, you’ll want to look at I’ve Been There, part of the Guardian’s website, which is where readers can post their tips.
WHEN TO GO
Need to know what the summer weather is like in Wales? Or where the world’s hotspots are in December? A detailed travel planner helps you decide where to go find sun, sea or snow, or if you know where you want to go, the best time of year to visit. It also has five-day forecasts, but it doesn’t cover as many destinations as it should, so if you can’t find yours, try www.weather.com.
What’s on When
Want to go to Spain’s famous tomato-throwing festival, La Tomatina, or find the best festivals for families? Or maybe just find out if anything is happening in your holiday destination when you’re planning to be there? This site covers all kinds of weird and wonderful events, as well as the biggest, such as the World Cup, the Rio Carnival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Do double-check the information is correct on the event’s offical site before booking, though. Because What’s on When is written so far in advance, it is also often inaccurate as to the exact details as many of these aren’t decided until close to the time of the event.
First port of call before booking your trip, here you’ll find the most up-to-the-minute, unbiased reports on how to get the best deals for bargain travel insurance, the best deal on travel money, finding low-cost flights – even the illusive £1 sale flights, cheap train tickets, bargain hotels, the least expensive way to use your mobile abroad and more.
When you’re budgeting for a trip, use this fast and easy currency converter to get an idea of costs when you’re viewing prices in the local currency.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL INFORMATION
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
If you’re going anywhere you’ve not been before, or anywhere other than the safest, most stable destinations, quickly check the FCO website. It takes only a minute to find your country and read the potential hazards.
Fit For Travel
Not sure if you need malaria tablets, yellow fever jabs or how to properly purify water on your adventures? Scotland’s NHS website has the answer.
If you’re frustrated about airline strikes, annoyed with your travel insurance company or want to know how to avoid rip-offs in tourist restaurants, check out the website of Travel Consumer Champion Darren Cronian, aka Travel Rants. His blog posts on consumer issues are a mine of information, and worth browsing even if you’ve not had any bad holiday experiences.
If you’ve flown a US airline recently, you might have seen this quirky catalogue in the seatback. It’s like the Innovations Catalogue of the 1990s, paired with iwantoneofthose.com and Argos. The site offers more than just travel goods, but where else will you find that essential watch with built-in flashlight, a talking translator (just $29! IWOOT!) and the in-flight body cushion guaranteed to annoy your window-seat neighbour. I suggest the more discreet – and supremely comfortable – Releaf neck rest if you don’t want to be a victim of plane rage. It might be full of US innovations, but it ships around the world.
You might also like…
All About You’s own staff travel blog
10 best glamping sites
Stylish city breaks from around the world