It has never been easier to plan your holiday yourself. Armed with just a handful of travel websites you can organize a dream trip that no tour operator can match.
When you’re in control of your agenda there’s no need to go on boring city tours you’re not interested in just because they are part of the package. You can organize the trip yourself and fill it only with activities that inspire and energize you instead.
Travel websites help to plan your holiday
With all the information out there and abundance of travel websites it has become very convenient to plan your holiday and book everything yourself. All you really need to know is where to look for information.
Good research before the trip will bring many interesting ideas on what to do, where to eat and where to stay. It can also save a lot of money and prevent many hassles along the way. Reading through travel blogs and review sites will make you more knowledgeable and experienced about the destination than the travel agent.
In many cases travel agents bundle together lots of standard experiences (city tours and museums) to cater for everybody. If you want a more unique experience, you’re better off looking at other people’s experience and taking only best bits for yourself.
Are you ready to take on the challenge and plan your holiday yourself? Then scroll down and see which travel websites you should have in your arsenal.
Transport & Accommodation travel websites
These three travel websites are where all of my trips begin. Basically, you can find any flight to any airport in the world in a matter of seconds there. Local Indonesian flight to Wamena in Papua? Yes, please! Flights to Easter Island? No problem.
There are hundreds of similar travel websites that provide this service. However, I find these three to be most useful, ad free and easy-to-navigate. I personally prefer Kayak, as it somehow works faster for me and the navigation is better. You can even buy tickets directly there at no processing fee (cha-ching!).
I do suggest to check the airline webpage first, however. Sometime tickets are cheaper there.
Before you plan your holiday, check flight connections. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly out from one place and return to another, making an extension to the holiday.
P.S.: Use incognito mode when searching for tickets. First, cookies placed in your browser may not allow you to see cheaper options when you look next time (will show you only what you’ve already seen). Second, if you’re in Europe and search tickets, for instance, within Brazil, you may face higher prices than Brazilians searching domestically. Incognito mode removes this effect.
Similarly to Kayak and Skyscanner this is a search engine for airline tickets, hotels, etc. As you can guess from the title, it focuses on trips not far into the future. It’s a great page to look for tickets if you plan your holiday 1-2 months in advance only.
There are many similar travel websites, just google last minute deals in google and off you go.
These travel websites track airline tickets and vacation packages (flight+hotel) and post cheapest fares you can find with example dates. You can either book through their link directly or find your own dates in a separate search session. Deals range from 1 to 6+ months into the future, so you still have time to plan your holiday.
I strongly suggest checking deal finder travel websites for every trip and subscribing for a deal-monitoring alerts.
You can subscribe to Facebook pages, or directly to newsletters through webpages. I personally find newsletter to be more convenient, as you can list specific airport/city/country and get personalized alerts via email.
Here are just a few of pages I use. Urlaubspiraten & Urlaubsguru are European-based with departures mostly from or around Germany. I found Germany to be a good hub for international travel:
- Urlaubspiraten (in German)
- Holidaypirates (same, but in English and from UK)
- Urlaubsguru (in German)
If you’re planning an overland journey this is the place to start. Want to know how much does it cost to get from Lisbon to Berlin? Or what means of transport may get you there? How much will it all cost? It’s all there. Just input the origin, destination and stops in between.
It’s a great resource to plan road trips as well. If you travel by car, the website will also estimate fuel and toll costs that you will face on the way.
Similarly to airline search, these two travel websites are leaders in hotel bookings. It’s very easy and reliable to book your stay through these search engines. In fact, it sometimes may be even more reliable than booking directly, because hotels will think twice before scamming you fearing to be kicked out of the system.
I found Agoda to be more popular in Asia and in general offering more discounts.
Plan your holiday carefully and check pictures and reviews of the hotel before you reserve. There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a room that you don’t enjoy. Remember the single rule – if looks suspicious or bad in the picture, don’t think in reality it will look better. In reality it’s always worse! Check pictures and reviews carefully before booking.
Pro tip: if you are spontaneous you may want to try to booking on a veeery short notice. Most hotels (even 5-star ones) cut their price as much as 50-70% several days before arrival just to avoid empty rooms. Unless there is no festival in the city when hotels are overbooked, of course.
I once stayed in a 5-star resort in Phuket that costs 500 euro/night. I paid only 50 euro/night just because I booked 3 days in advance.
So in rare cases it’s better not to plan your holiday completely and leave some wiggle room. In the end, you’ll always be able to find a place to stay, don’t worry about it.
A great alternative to hotel stays is to book an apartment/room for a short term and get a sense of how locals live. The prices are at least 20-30% lower than the hotel room.
This is a personal favorite of mine, because hosts usually are very friendly and open to all your questions. They will often give you advice on where to eat, where to shop, etc. What’s more, you can really save a lot of money on going out. You are usually allowed to use all apartment facilities, so make good use of that kitchen!
It’s a great way to get a local feel of the city which you won’t get if you only stay in the hotel.
Use this link to register and get a 35 euro voucher from me for your first stay!
If you want to go further and not spend anything on accommodation, then consider couchsurfing. You register on the website and then surf for a couch/bed/room in a database of good people that are welcoming enough to let you in their house for free for several nights, socialize, get to know you, etc.
You do need to spend time with the host, as these are the rules of the game. But it’s very fun, especially in the new place where you don’t know anyone.
Travel websites for planning things to do
This is my ultimate favorite and is the first page I go to when I do my research.
It’s basically a database of geo-tagged photos from around the world presented in a map format. I browse through it to see if there are interesting/beautiful sights or activities in the area and make note of those I’m interested in. Each photo has a specific location tied to it, so all I need to do is find a way how to get there and how to organize it.
It’s kind of like Instagram, but is more user-friendly for a larger scale research.
Lately travel websites offering discount coupons became a big thing. Do you want a day SPA in the center of Manhattan? Or maybe a tour around castles in Bavaria? This is the place to search.
It’s always nice to look at these kind of offers before you travel and decide if you want to do something interesting or just walk around the city. Be it a restaurant or a day trip, these small experiences really add flavor to your holiday.
P.S.: Check Instagram and read some reviews before booking anything. Official pictures often differ from how it actually looks in reality.
However, I suggest you keep your mind open and try to think of what you want to do, instead of only what do local tours provide. Once you have your vision, finding a way to book it is just a couple of Google searches away.
Are you in a foreign place with an activity in mind, but no company to enjoy it with? Check the meetup webpage for your particular interest and discover that you are not alone. Every day there are thousands of people not knowing each other meeting and enjoying their hobbies.
Hiking in the Alps? Sunday marathon preparation training? You can find someone to join or someone who will join you, for sure.
Have you noticed those green stickers on restaurant or hotel doors with a green logo on them? This means that they have been reviewed by many fellow travelers on the TripAdvisor website. It’s a huge database with tons of reviews and photos from travelers around the world.
If you’re thinking how a particular hotel looks like inside or how reliable the car rental company is in a particular country, this is the place for that. I always visit TripAdvisor website to double check if what I found is really worth it.
Check reviews, but use your personal judgement. Be on guard if there is only one review posted, or too many good reviews from people who have written only 1 review. These are most probably owners themselves trying to make their products look more professional.
I found Lonely Planet travel forums quite handy too with lots of reviews written for places, cities, hikes, journeys, etc.
Travel blogs and vlogs
Blogs are a great source of inspiration, travel tips and reviews. Check what other people have done in the location you are heading to. Check their pictures and decide if this is something you want to experience as well or you rather find something more adventurous and interesting. Don’t also forget about travel videos and vlogs.
Do take other people experience in account and pay attention to travel tips they share. In most cases you can really save money and time.
You may learn something valuable or at least get a good suggestion on a very nice lunch place.
Other handy-dandy pages to plan your holiday
I use cloud to back up and store any important information, like ticket copies, passport copies, reservations, etc. As soon as I book something, I clean up my mailbox and copy everything I will need along the way to the cloud to avoid paperwork.
I don’t take any reservations with me, but rather take a snapshot from the drive with my phone or iPad. In case I need to present something, I can always show it on one of my devices.
P.S.: Passport copies are crucial for security. In case you have your documents stolen and you are in a foreign country, you can always print a photocopy of your passport (if you have it saved), go to a embassy and let them know what has happened to you. They will assist you and help you get back home safely.
If you don’t want to carry your laptop with you everywhere, use this service to access your computer back at home from abroad. For a relatively small fee you can easily connect to your computer from a distance and do everything as if you were at home. Extremely useful.
I like putting my thoughts in a paper journal, like our ancestors did hundreds of years ago with a pen. It helps to disconnect.
But if it’s something minor, like a cool place to go, a name of a song, blog post idea – I use Evernote. It synchronizes to the cloud, so once I’m back at my laptop, I organize everything and am not messy anymore (woohoo!).
That’s it. This is all I use. Or all I can remember at this point. Let me know what are travel websites that help to plan your holiday in the comments below.