Best Travel Planning Websites | Your Key To DIY
Planning that trip of a lifetime can appear to be a daunting task at first, and I have to admit that when this whole thing started, I was pretty much completely in the dark as to where to start. However, one of the great things about the internet is that, armed with Google Search, recommendations from friends and a few of the best travel planning websites that I came across, this can be as DIY as you want it to be.
BEWARE THE INFORMATION OVERLOAD
Information overload is a very real thing when you start to look into how to plan your journey. There is just so much information out there, and of course everyone wants your business so whether they say they are the very best at their job, it will still take a bit of research for you to sort out who really does give you what you want.
I spent a couple of months comparing websites and reading reviews before I settled on who I thought would offer exactly what I needed. By far the most valuable information I found – whether it was for travel, accommodation or activities – were reviews from people who had actually done what I wanted to do.
What I’m hoping is to be able to narrow down the contenders, so you don’t have to spend so much time comparing websites. You will still need to read the reviews, however, because naturally what you are planning may be completely different to my scenario.
So, let’s take a look at the best travel planning websites – the ones that I used in my endeavors.
TRIP ADVISOR FOR REVIEWS
One of the most popular and well-known websites for finding traveler reviews is Trip Advisor. Whether you’re looking for airfare deals, accommodation or activities, its very easy to just type what you want into their search bar, and you’ll find a huge selection of reviews from people who have firsthand experience.
Of course, some would say that you could do the same thing with Google, and to a point, they are right. However, when you type your search into Google, you’ll also get results from advertisers and companies who are pushing their own barrel.
This is exactly what you DON’T want. Obviously they have a job to do – after all, they are in business – so you are unlikely to hear any negatives from their websites.
One of the reasons I like to use Trip Advisor is because they “vet” the reviews so they can be as sure as possible that the reviews are the real deal. The other thing you may find with other websites is reviews that appear to be real, however when you read it, you see that they have used what they call a “hyperlink”.
This is a phrase or word that is written in blue and underlined. On a desktop, If you hover your mouse over the text, your cursor will change to a hand. This means that it is a live link to wherever the writer wants you to go. This is a method sometimes used by affiliate marketers whose job is to get customers for a company in exchange for payment. Once again, because there is a reward involved, its highly unlikely that the review is unbiased.
ROME2RIO: A TRAVELER’S BIBLE
I’d never heard of Rome2Rio before planning this trip. It was something that was recommended to me by a seasoned traveler, and I’d have to say that it’s probably one of the most valuable websites you could ever come across.
As the name suggests, it is a website that shows you all the information you would need to travel from point A to point B. Whether it be far away places (for example, from Rome to Rio), or whether it’s from your home address to somewhere on the other side of town, Rome2Rio will show you the best route, and the best mode of transport to take.
But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s say you’re flying from London to New York. You plug in the starting point and the ending point, and this fabulous website will not only give you the distance and best mode of transport, but you can click further into the website and get even more details.
If you click on the connection, further information appears. You can actually click through and book directly from the website – but don’t do that; I’ll tell you why.
While Rome2Rio is absolutely invaluable for the planning stages, and I would have to say that it’s one of the best travel planning websites I’ve ever come across, I found out later that they do not cater for all the airlines that fly that particular route. Don’t get me wrong, they have a huge selection, but just not every airline. That’s why it’s good for planning, but you may not necessarily be getting the best price deal.
This also works on shorter distances which is priceless information, especially if you’re going to an unfamiliar place. The website will give you walking distances, driving distances, train, taxi and even Uber – all with approximate prices.
I guess it’s pretty obvious I’m in love with Rome2Rio! So much so that I would like to share more information, but we’ll leave that for another post.
I guess we’re pretty spoilt for choice as far as accommodation goes. I love booking.com, mainly because it’s so easy to use, and when you have party with such mixed requirements, it’s great to be able to use their filter system to narrow down the choices.
It’s as easy as entering your destination, then going down the list on the left-hand side and choosing the criteria you want to apply to the search. A lot of accommodation companies have this filter, but after researching quite a few, I found booking.com to have the most comprehensive selection. The filters also mean that you can speed up the process of selection.
When searching for accommodation, this was my first port of call. It also gives you a bit of an indication of the types of accommodation available at each place, and also a fair idea of what the prices are likely to be.
One of the best things about booking.com is that you can reserve accommodation with no penalty for cancellation. The majority of the properties are on a “pay when you get there” basis, but you can also select to have no prepayment as one of your filters. For this reason, I actually reserved accommodation on booking.com for the entire trip, mainly to have the peace of mind that we had something booked if I was unable to find anything else that was more suitable.
Once I’d reserved accommodation on booking.com, then the fun really started!
Another up and coming option for accommodation is a company called Air BNB.
“Airbnb, Inc. is an online marketplace for arranging or offering lodging, primarily home stays, or tourism experiences. The company does not own any of the real estate listings, nor does it host events; it acts as a broker, receiving commissions from each booking.”
A man’s home is his castle, right? Using Air BNB means you are staying in people’s own homes rather than a hotel or motel room. This has some awesome benefits, such as the supply of everyday needs like coffee, tea, towels and toiletries. Once again, there are good choices and not so good choices, but its very easy to sort them out simply by reading the reviews from real people who have stayed there.
There are the odd properties that may be too new to have reviews, but these are few and far between. You also have a very good filter system to streamline your choices. We found that in all the places we stayed around the world, there were Air BNB properties in every place.
Granted, there has been some bad publicity with Air BNB’s, but to be honest, we couldn’t fault them. From my experience, the fact that you are staying in someone’s home means that the filters I applied when choosing were easy to satisfy.
And best of all, in the majority of cases the Air BNB’s were a lot cheaper than hotel accommodation. You can check out availability right here!
Last but certainly not least, Viator.com is a website where you can choose activities, transport and transfers all in the one place. I found their prices to be reasonable, but what makes them stand out is their customer service.
Their descriptions are very precise and there is no vagueness – you know exactly what you will get. Plus they have a search bar in which you can put anything in from a destination to an actual activity. Spend some time browsing and whet your appetite for what’s ahead. The only downside is that purchase is immediate so make sure you check out everything available before booking. In saying that, we did have one instance where we had to ask for a refund. It was very swiftly dealt with by customer service, and the refund was sent with no questions asked.
So there you have it. Five websites was all I required to plan our trip in the tiniest detail – right down to the airport transfers. Hopefully I’ve saved you some time and given you a few shortcuts by using the best travel planning websites online.