Travel features

Gone are the days of popping to your local travel agent to book a holiday, risking your hard earned cash on the supposed expertise of the woman sat behind a desk thousands of miles from your dream destination. Thanks to the internet there’s bewildering amount of information on every last nuance of your perfect getaway. From reviews to price comparisons and plenty of guides (just like my site!), it can be tough to know where to start, who to use and why they’re any better than the others. So I thought I’d share with you my tips on who you should be clicking on.

Doing your research

Lets start at the beginning, before you’ve even booked your flights, it always pays to do a little research and build up a picture of what you want to do on your travels. For an overview of things to do at any destination Lonely Planet have some great summary lists of the best of almost every city and major tourist hotspot in the world. Its not comprehensive but does at least list some areas you might want to look in to more. Many people use Trip Advisor for reviews but I’m always wary of this site as you have to remember the types of people that are inclined to write reviews.

What travel blogs to read?

Usually people who had an awful time for whatever reason and want to complain, or people that had the time of their lives and want to highly recommend. There’s very little in between which is always the more realistic perspective. There’s plenty of travel blogs that give much better advice on specific areas. So if you’re going away for a long weekend find a travel blog that covers short city breaks. If you’re going to Asia try a site like Travel Fish, if you’re catching a train anywhere you can’t go wrong with seat61.com. Blogs always provide a more in-depth and realistic view of travel so are your best bet for advice and tips.

Booking your flights and hotels

This is somewhat of a minefield these days as there are so many sites competing to get you the best deal. Price comparison sites are all the rage now and with varying degrees of control to help you find the perfect deal for you. I often use sites like DoHop or SkyScanner as they do a great job of giving you all the options. One downside is that the flights are often booked through the website’s own shopping cart system where as you may find you get more control over seat choices if you go directly to the airline, so when you have found a good deal always check out what the airline can do directly to see if you can get more bang for your buck.

Where to book flights?

Accommodation is getting ever more competitive too but I find price comparison sites don’t work so well in this regards, there’s simply too much choice and types of accommodation so you’ll need to do more hunting around for yourself. Short term holiday rentals are the in thing right now and often a very similar price to hotels. Why stay at a resort when you can get en entire villa to yourself with a private pool and epic views! Definitely worth considering. Take a look at Air BnB, Roomorama and Home Away for some options.

Fun while you’re away

I love to stay connected even when I’m away, not because I’m addicted to the internet but because I truly believe I can enhance my travel experience through technology. Lets start with the obvious, things like Google Maps are a godsend when you’re out and about, even if its just for a walk through a city or coastline. I’ve even used maps to scout for great west facing beaches to enjoy sunsets over the water. There’s plenty more to find online though so whether its relaxing by the pool on your favourite¬†online bingo sites or its keeping in touch with loved ones on Facebook. Twitter is also a surprisingly useful tool for getting useful local news and information on events nearby. It even came in very handy once after experiencing my first earthquake in the Philippines as I was able to check twitter for live reports of any tsunami warnings or transport issues.

Favourite travel websites

I’d love to know what sites you use. Send me a tweet at @placestogoblog and I’ll check them out.