It has never been so easy to travel these days! Even some countries and places that once seemed impossible to visit (such as Russia) although may take a little extra time and planning to achieve but are not completely impossible to visit.
If you do enough research and work before going somewhere it makes things so much easier. You can find out pretty much everything you need to know about a place from the web and you can book almost everything before hand through the web too, it makes the trip itself a much more enjoyable experience!
In this post I am going to tell you what sites I use myself to book my own independent travel and where in my trip they get used.
Having just recently booked a trip for the new year to Lisbon, Portugal. I am using Lisbon for all my searches in this article and the true results I got originally when I booked it.
A disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these sites, these sites are just simply what I use to find the information I need and book the relevant parts of my trips. But I can strongly recommend them all.
Planning and Information:
If I am travelling to a country or area I have not visited before I will always use the UK Government Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advisory site to get a overview of the place before I get there. On this site you can get a summary for every country with latest safety and security information shown, visa requirements, local laws and customs that you should be aware of, currency information.
I have found that most of the information is pretty generalised for Europe and the countries within the EU however the site can be very useful for information if you are travelling somewhere with very strict immigration rules or cultural customs. So its worth a check. To have a look at the FCO site yourself here
I also use a site called Numbeo which is a comparison site of cities and countries where you can search for a city that you are wanting to go to and compare it against another city (or even your own) you can find out the price of typical things you would buy (e.g. a pint of beer, cheap meal or even the price of fuel) and then convert the prices to any currency in the world.
The information on the site comes from user contribution so actual real people that have been to the place you have searched for, or even live there. From my experienceI have found the information incredible accurate! Its great for scoping out how much money you need to take when going somewhere. To see the site and even compare your next destination against your home town click here
Another site I use for planning is Rome2Rio, which is a planning site that allows you to find out how to get from 2 places using various means of public transport, although I didn’t need to use this site for my trip to Lisbon I seriously recommend it and will discuss it in this post!
An important point to mention with Rome2Rio is that the site does not work off time and dates which could very well affect the availability of services, it just literally shows how to get between the 2 places at the earliest opportunity, so factor that in when you are doing your research with this site!
In this example search, I entered Paris to Barcelona (and it has returned with several options, including train(s), bus(es) and plane(s). If you expand on one of the options you can see for example the available trains in the present to do this journey. Its not entirely reliable but is certainly useful to get an idea if you were to travel with multiple destinations within your trip. To have a look at Rome2Rio yourself click here
Although the I typically fly from Manchester and use the same offsite airport parking I always use SkyPark to book the parking, as opposed to paying for parking when I get down to the grounds. The site works as another search engine where you enter where you are flying from, what date and time you are flying out and landing back.
The site will show you available car park sites, some are offsite and some are onsite. Instead of moving you onto another site you book your parking entirely through the site so there is £2 booking fee added at the end. I am lucky to get a hefty corporate discount with my work but if you search online for discount codes you can get some cheap parking. To get yourself some affordable parking within minutes click here
The best site I to use for flight searching is SkyScanner, I have tried using others like Kayak but always end up going back to SkyScanner. it’s a pretty popular and well known site but if you have not used it before you basically put in the date you are wanting to fly somewhere (and another date if you are wanting a return journey) you then add where you are wanting to fly from and to, be it specific airport or a country in general. The search engine then finds you are available flights with those variables factored in from the search. You can filter the results by; number of stops (are you bothered with a layover or want direct flights?), journey time (more related to flights with layovers, do you want a long layover or a short layover?) and what airline you want to fly with.
SkyScanner is just a search tool which tells you how to get from A to B with all specific requirements applied. When you are happy with a flight choice you have another choice of what site you want to book it through. There isn’t really any issue with what site you book it with only factor in it is that the price could be cheaper on one site compared to another. If a site like GoToGate is cheaper than the actual airlines site then I will book it through that site. To have a look at where SkyScanner can take you click here
To book where I am staying use a mix of Booking.com and HostelWorld. If I am travelling solo I will usually use HostelWorld and book a hostel in a mixed dorm but if I am going somewhere with others I will typically book a hotel room and we will share the overall cost of the room.
Both booking sites work very similar to each other but in this post I am just going to talk about HostelWorld as this was what I used to book my accommodation for Lisbon.
It works very simply, you put the place where you are visit, or even the specific hostel name itself if you have an exact one in mind and the dates you are arriving and departing. On the HostelWorld iPad app it will display the results along with a map and the places annotated on it. You can see reviews from people who have stayed there in the past and read up on the formalities (deposits, events, add ons, city/tourist taxes)
When you are happy with a place you can choose the type of room you want to stay in, most hostels typically have male only, female only and mixed dorm rooms of various number of bunks, some also haves single occupancy rooms. You choose the type of room you want and then a price is shown of the bunk cost per night x the amount of nights you are staying. To view places to stay on HostelWorld click here, to view places on Booking.com click here
I tend to research the public transport transfer options on offer prior to departing and make a decision if using that on the day and times I am landing are possible. In the past for some places I have travelled to it’s has been the best choice to use, for example when I was staying in Zurich, the train connection from the Zurich Airport to HB Zurich took about 10 minutes and I was staying a couple of hundred meters from the main station so it was the obvious best choice. However if there isn’t a convenient public transport system from the airport to where I am staying I will book a private car instead, usually just on arrival day so I can get to where I am staying as quickly as possible, then use an alternative method to get back to the airport when departing.
To book a private transfer I use Hoppa, again another search engine style site where you put in the dates, time and locations that you need a transfer for and by using local companies the site will allow you to arrange private or shared transport. Shortly before your expected pick up the company will contact you by email or SMS to finalise the details. For my trip to Lisbon I am not getting a private transfer as there is a public transport option available however I did have a look to see what private transfer option I could potentially take. To book your own transfer with Hoppa click here
That is all that I use to book my trips! Using no more than 8 sites for planning, flight booking, accommodation booking and transport I have been able to travel solo all around Europe as well as travel to South East Asia and America!