I book between 3 and 8 trips each year and I have certain websites and tools that I personally favour. Here I’m going to share with you my booking tips, but please feel free to let me know your opinions and experiences!
I have booked my flights in a number of ways over the past few years. I have previously used STA travel to provide a quote and then booked with them. I think if you are also booking a tour then this is worthwhile, but for flights alone, I often opt to book these myself. If you have travel insurance then I don’t think having a travel agent in case of any issues is really necessary.
To compare flight prices I use both Skyscanner and Kayak to obtain the cheapest quote. Their tools for finding the best month or day to fly I find useful, and the filters to pick departure or arrival time and length of journey. Once I have found the cheapest I usually visit the airlines website and try to find the same flights for the same money. I often book direct with the airline if it’s not much more expensive. It’s just easier to cut out the middle man.
I’m a big fan of Booking.com to find hotel rooms. I’ve never had an issue with a booking I’ve made through them and I trust their reviews to be pretty accurate. Their book now, pay later, free cancellation is perfect for if you want to lock in a price with flexibility. And if you sign up and book with them a lot you get Booking.com Genius discounts, something I make great use of.
For flights and a hotel I have used Easy Jet Holidays for short weekend breaks. I’ve visited both Prague and Berlin with them, and have been impressed with their offers. Always worth checking out as they have discounts on the hotels and a choice of flights too.
Tours and Solo Travel
I have travelled alone and sometimes it’s nice to know you have someone waiting to show you around and some ready-made friends. I recommend G Adventures. I’ve been on many tours with them over the years, and for the most part I cannot fault them. They are well run, operating all over the world, running various types of tours from their shoestring budget tours to more comprehensive longer tours, and although I’ve never been on one they have “comfort tours”. They operate small groups of people (my smallest group was 3 and largest about 15) with a local tour guide who is well familiar with the area. They often offer an itinerary that you might not be able to easily plan on your own, such as home-stays or meals with local families, and visits to remote and rural locations.
The best part about G Adventures is that unlike some companies, they don’t charge a solo travel fee. Everyone pays the same for the tour. The catch is that you will probably have to share a room with another solo traveller of the same gender, but if there’s an odd number you may get lucky and get your own! I’ve never had a bad experience with staying with another person, and if you really don’t like the idea you can pay an extra amount for your own room. Obviously if you go with a friend or partner you can share your room with them.
I’ve had some really great experiences with G Adventures, from staying with local families in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, to camping out in the huts of the hilltribes in Chiang Mai, Thailand, you really do get some once in a lifetime experiences.
Although I’ve never actually needed it, I highly recommend getting travel insurance before you go. Depending on the length of time you go, and what activities you might be doing then you can pick from hundreds of options. In the past I’ve used Columbus and Snow Card (which give good winter sports cover) and I’m currently with Southdowns. For my 6 month trip I chose Virgin Silver Backpacker’s insurance, which although a little bit pricey, covered me for multiple countries, many of the activities I was doing and had a low excess. Points to note is to check the excess in case of a claim, and also note sunglasses cover. Many policies don’t cover loss or breakage of sunglasses.