If you’re reading this then I can almost assume with certainty that you have at one point booked a holiday. Groundbreaking assumption, no?
My last trip to the US/Caribbean I booked my entire 5 week trip online with the exception of flights. In fact I’m not even sure why I didn’t, it’s easy enough.
My previous 4 month trip to Canada and America’s north east was the same story. Booked entirely online. Again, not exactly groundbreaking, but the point is that I have used or at least tried to use just about any and every travel booking site that has ever been presented to me.
I relish any opportunity to plan travel. I continue to act as faux travel agent for many friends helping them book. If I wasn’t too busy earning decent money I would happily start a new career as a travel agent.
I love it.
All this to say that there is a plethora of websites out there that want you to book your hotel/flights/hire car/tours/etc through them, some better than others. Here is my list of go-to websites that I now instinctively use before all others for reasons I’ll explain.
I’ve booked through so many other online hotel agencies and the winner by far is Booking.com. There are 2 reasons for this:
- Like most in their class they guarantee the lowest price. Standard, right? But…
- For about 95% of the listings you can cancel for free up until a few days before the booking. I’ve done this a few times and it has been no hassle at all. You do still have to give them your credit card details, but this just protects them and confirms your booking. It also ensures the hotel isn’t out of pocket if you don’t show.
tl;dl: Booking.com is the only hotel website that I’ve seen that, for most bookings, doesn’t take a cent up front.
Just be sure that it really is the best price by checking the hotel website. If it’s comparable, I would always go through Booking.com because of the above reasons.
Ah Skyscanner, where would I be without you? Well, probably still where I am right now actually. Skyscanner is one of those data aggregators that pulls flight prices and details from every airline on the planet, so you can see in graphical format how you can get to your destination the cheapest.
What first drew me to Skyscanner though is that you can search with as little or as much info as you want. This is how I ended up in Denmark from England as my first weekend trip of a study abroad semester.
I typed in a search similar to this below. Keep it vague, keep it flexible. Skyscanner then takes you to the relevant airlines website and you buy through them as usual, obviously keeping a cut, but not charging you for the privilege.
Back in 2011 while planning for a month long road trip around the north-east of US/Canada (nicknamed the Amazing North American Loop, or ANAL for short) I spent weeks, possibly month trying to find the cheapest way to road trip around the area.
I found one site that was called carhire3000 and honestly, it looked super dodgey. But I read about 6,000 reviews and eventually decided that they were the real deal. Thankfully I did because they were BY FAR the cheapest option I found (hence my apprehension).
About three years or so ago they changed their branding to be RentalCars.com, with a much more professional looking site and an interface that even my grandma could navigate (no offence Grandma).
RentalCars are a car hire aggregator so it is super easy to compare the prices of the big names like Hertz, Europcar or Alamo (my favourite for what it’s worth). It also includes damage waiver and all that other fun legal stuff.
(Also for what it’s worth, Dollar has been the worst one I’ve used).
When I had my first extended overseas trip to Europe over 6 years ago, based in England I would type into Google “<Destination I wish to travel to> hostels”. And Google would return a handful of hostel aggregation sites.
After using quite a few I found HostelWorld, which just blew them all out of the water. The site was easy to use, they seemed to have the biggest range and (albeit) similar prices to elsewhere.
It also seems to have the biggest user base so reviews are aplenty and always pretty accurate. A new feature too is now they don’t charge a booking fee. Sure they still take a deposit, but historically they’d tack on a couple of bucks for the service. That’s now history.
I can’t recommend HostelWorld high enough for those that travel on a budget.
I don’t have any explicit recommendations for travel insurance, but I do have a fantastic resource that covers everything related to travel insurance. This ultimate travel insurance guide goes over activities and geographies covered, things that aren’t covered, what considerations you should make in choosing a policy, and how to understand your policy.
And Phoebe at Little Grey Box also has some really practical tips on what you need to consider in selecting a policy as well as some stories that will really convince you to take out a policy.
Please note that, a few links on this page are affiliate links, but you know what? I could go out an get affiliate links for every booking website if I wanted to but I picked these ones, because they are the best and I only want to be affiliated with the best. As an added bonus, if you do click on an affiliate and make a booking, you can sleep well knowing that I got to eat this week.