Finding reliable travel sites that are easy to use can be a difficult task. So much so, that many people I know would rather head to a professional, rather than booking their own trip. However, using the right tools, booking a vacation on your own can be easier and cheaper than using a travel agent. That being said, there are a few websites that I tend to rely on the most when it comes to planning and booking a trip.
Lonely Planet is my go-to source for any information concerning my future travels. It’s not only resourceful, but also reputable. The website features great travel articles, including travel etiquette guides and updated travel news.
My favorite feature is “Where to Go When”, because you can pick a month and Lonely Planet will tell you where it’s best to go during that month and where you should avoid. This is extremely helpful if you know when you can travel, but are open to where you’ll wind up going. No matter where I’m headed or planning an adventure to, Lonely Planet is my first stop for information I trust.
This is a must-visit site if you are planning a trip to Southeast Asia, as it focuses on Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The site has many features that can aid you in planning your trip overseas. It goes over many important tips for before you leave, including advice on what to pack for your trip based on where you are going and for how long. Furthermore, once you click on a destination, you can jump to different areas of that destination, or focus on information such as, visas, weather, border crossings, getting there, accommodations, and there’s even a link for beginners. Travel Fish could not make finding this information any easier.
The features I find the most helpful are the forum, free guides, and i-Phone apps. I relied heavily on this site while I spent three and a half weeks in Asia over the summer, and I felt prepared and informed my entire trip. If you plan on visiting any of the countries in Southeast Asia, I highly recommend a visit to Travel Fish.
When booking a flight, my first stop in researching prices is always Kayak. It makes my search for flights easier than any other site out there. You enter your travel information and Kayak searches all airlines that match your itineraries. Not only does it check the airline’s Website, but also travel Websites’ prices, such as Expedia or Travelocity. For example, a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 26th, is $1482 on Taca International Air. That price of $1482 is available through six different Websites, including Taca.com or sites like Expedia and Travelocity. After Kayak searches prices for me, if the actual airline has the cheapest prices, like Taca.com has here, I usually chose to book through the airline itself.
Sometimes I still search prices on my own, but each time, without fail, I find the cheapest through Kayak. Not only does it save me time searching, but it also saves me money.
I never book a hotel without checking Trip Advisor first, and I advise you do the same. The website has reviews of hotels from other travelers, along with pictures travelers have taken of the hotel. The reviews are extremely reliable, and I have always found they are spot on when I arrive at the hotel myself.
A great feature is that you can look at reviews based on who stayed there: couples, friends, solo, or family, which is useful to see if it matches who you are traveling with. It also rates hotels from Excellent to Terrible, and you can easily choose a rating and read the reviews just based on what made the hotel either Excellent or Terrible.
Just remember that everyone’s expectations of where they are staying are different. I once read that someone rated a hotel as terrible because the staff only cleaned the room when they were told, however, this is not something that bothers me. Also, make sure you check the date on your review, just because a hotel had bedbugs in 2008, does not mean they still have them. Either way, do your research, it’ll make your life easier before you get there.
Trip Advisor also has useful reviews of restaurants and things to do, along with a mobile app. Download it for your phone, and you’ll always be prepared for what lies ahead of you.
While I’m not crazy about travel booking sites, such as Hotels.com, Priceline, Booking.com, or any ones similar, I often find myself booking my hotels through Expedia. This is usually because while looking for prices of hotels, Expedia’s prices almost always wind up being the cheapest.
It’s also easy to find the hotel you are looking for, and I’ve never had a problem while using them. I also like their reviews and ratings of the hotel, along with the fact that they include with it a Trip Advisor rating of the hotel. My advice would be to look around for the price you’d like to pay, but always check Expedia. For me, it makes me top seven since I’ve always found my best prices through them.
I always travel with insurance because I’d rather be safe than sorry. It is never usually that much more of an expense, and then I can be a little more adventurous on my trip and not have to worry about “what-ifs.” While I’ve used several different companies on previous trips, I recently discovered World Nomads through Lonely Planet and used it on my most recent trip. It was easy to sign up for and since you can view the policy and make claims digitally, there’s no extra paperwork to carry around with you.
On top of being insurance, on their website, you can download language applications for your i-Phone or i-Pod, keep a journal, and they also have a twitter account that you can follow while you’re away. Another feature that I love is the option to donate money while you are checking out. That way you are doing a little good in the world, before you embark on your adventure.
While I have yet to book a flight using Hipmunk, I like everything about the site. It’s easy to use, the layout is easy to understand, and that chipmunk is adorable. The site lays out flights based not only by price, but by most desirable flights and flight patterns. I also love that you can also book a one way flight with ease. There’s also a i-Phone and i-Pad app, as well as easy to find on-line help.
A recent addition of the website has been for hotels, and just from browsing I can’t wait to use the feature for my next trip. It lists the hotels on a map of your destination. Each hotel is a circle and is given one of three colors: green=cheap, blue=average, and red=pricey. You can also chose to rate the hotels based on price, reviews, distance, or ecstasy (a combination of all three). Finally, there’s an option to turn the map into a heat map to focus in on what what’s in the area, for example, nightlife, food, shopping, tourism, and gambling. This makes finding your ideal spot as easy as possible. With features like this, who needs to search anywhere else?
Airbnb is a great option when looking for a non-traditional stay in a destination. The option to stay with locals or in a neighborhood changes everything about the way we travel. Plus, there are so many unique properties from tree houses to cabins, that each experience is always an adventure.
While there are so many travel websites out there, these are the ones I rely on the most. I’d love to hear about the site you use to book your trip. Let me know in the comment section.
This post was updated in July 2015.