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What are the best trip planning tools out there?
After over a decade of part-time travel, there are a fair share of websites and apps I love to use when planning trips abroad. But given the sheer amount of them, sifting through the internet to find the best travel planning tools that are available can be quite daunting. To help you figure out the ones that might be of most use to you, I have composed a list of the trip planning tools I frequently use to plan my travels, whether it’s a multi-destination 3 week trip to Southeast Asia or a summer city break to Europe!
Top Hotel Booking Sites
Booking.com is my ultimate favourite hotel booking site and is the one I tend to use the most when booking my accommodation for travel (unless I can find the same place cheaper elsewhere). Think beyond hotels through, because Booking.com also allows you to book apartments, villas, and even boats!
Over the years I’ve worked by way up to Genius Level 3 which sometimes affords different benefits like discounts, money back and room upgrades. And, with the current climate of the world, I like that free cancellation is offered by many properties which gives travellers flexibility should plans need to change.
I’ve used Airbnb a few times now, and always tend to have a quick search on their website to see whether there are any cheaper options for accommodation when planning travel. Booking an apartment is a great way to save money on holiday, because you can prepare your own meals and subsequently save on eating out. They offer some really unique accommodation on their site which will give your holiday that special touch.
If you opt to book through Airbnb, I’d recommend you book with a ‘superhost’ to give you certitude that you can expect a wonderful experience, or with a property that has fantastic reviews. And, if you want a whole property to yourself, be sure to filter search results to ‘entire properties’ only.
Although Booking.com is my all time favourite hotel booking site, if I can get a room cheaper elsewhere then I will jump ship, and Trivago is one of the trip planning tools I use to ensure I am getting the best rate possible.
Trivago is a cheap hotel comparison site which pulls together room rates from great hotel booking sites. My favourite method for utilising Trivago is to find the hotel I like on Booking.com (because it’s my favourite hotel search engine), then search for that exact hotel on Trivago to ensure there aren’t cheaper prices on other major booking sites before I hit reserve.
Best Place To Find Cheap Flights
For years, Skyscanner has been the no. 1 website in assisting me to find cheap flights and I really do think it’s one of the best travel planning tools on this list. 9 times out of 10, Skyscanner is able to give fairly up to date prices for the flights you search, arguably making it the best website to compare flights.
What I really love is the freedom of Skyscanner, as you can search very generically, like from ‘United Kingdom’ to ‘Everywhere’ for ‘cheapest month’ and it will show you just that! You can, of course, search flights from and to a very specific destination, in a specific month or on a specific date, but for the best results keep flexible when you use this online trip planner.
Tip: I never book my flights through Skyscanner, and merely use it as a tool to search the cheapest dates, airports, airlines and destinations. Then, I will book directly through the airline (which can sometimes be a bit more expensive, but I’d rather cut out the ‘middle man’).
Airline Fare Finders
I’m a fan of the fare finders on easyJet and Ryanair’s website, and these are another of the trip planning tools I use alongside Skyscanner to find low-cost flights. Personally, I find Ryanair’s fare finder more user friendly, as you can search flights from your departure airport to anywhere, whereas with easyJet’s you need to give an arrival airport too. Nevertheless, these vacation planning tools are ones which could help you to pick your destination based upon cheap flights, possibly saving you lots of money in the long-run.
Like Skyscanner, Google Flights allows you to scour airlines for cheap flights, but the main reason I use Google Flights is to track flight prices. One of the top tips to save money on travel is to book cheap flights as soon as you see them, as prices continually fluctuate. However, in reality that might not always be possible, so once you find a cheap flight I would suggest using Google flight alerts to track price changes.
Once you search a flight, you can sign up for alerts on flight prices by switching the ‘track prices’ toggle on. When you do this, you will receive email updates to notify you of any change in price. This will enable you to quickly book the flight if the price drops, and steer clear if the cost goes up astronomically.
Best Travel Review Websites
Another of the hottest trip planning tools is TripAdvisor, and is there anything that this website can’t do? When I’m planning a trip, the majority of the time I use TripAdvisor to search for the best things to do in a destination, and for restaurants and bars.
One of my top tips for saving money on holiday is to use TripAdvisor to search for ‘cheap eats’ in your destination. That way, you’ll have a good idea that the restaurant you intend to eat at is good quality and budget friendly before you take a seat. I love that TripAdvisor is home to an abundance of honest traveller reviews which can be really helpful to read when choosing where to stay, where to eat and what attractions to visit on vacation.
Free Itinerary Builders And Multi-Destination Trip Planning Tools
Admittedly, Wanderlog is one of my recent discoveries but I don’t think I’ll ever turn back now. Wanderlog has to be one of the best itinerary builders on the web and I’m so happy I stumbled across it because I used to use one just like this, until it suddenly disappeared from the web.
Wanderlog is a free trip planner which allows you to compile all your travel information in just one handy account. Wanderlog has one of the best trip planning apps, and you can use their website to access and create your itinerary too.
Think flight information, accommodation bookings, train journeys, customisable bucket lists of the places you want to see, eat and whatever else, any other useful notes you want to add, and a breakdown of each date you are travelling so you can fully figure out exactly how you will spend your precious time. And, you can even forward emails to Wanderlog, which will import information.
Stippl is similar to Wanderlog, but the quality I like about this trip planning tool is that it offers a whole host of travel inspiration. On Stippl you can view itineraries created by other content creators and travellers, like the ones on my Stippl account, and import those exact itineraries to your account with your custom dates (easy, right?).
Scrolling through a Stippl itinerary, like my one for Vietnam, you will stumble across related blog posts giving you an abundance of information for your trip. Plus, alongside the itinerary is a handy map which will give you a good visual on what the trip will look like and your stops along the way.
Best Public Transport Planners
If you’re wondering how to plan travel transport, Rome2Rio might be just what you’re looking for. Rome2Rio is a journey planner which will give you information on how to get from destination to destination around the world, whether it be by bus, train, ferry, taxi, car or plane.
Like Skyscanner, Rome2Rio is a site I have never booked through (sorry Rome2Rio, but there’s still time), but it is extremely useful for researching transportation options around the world. You can book through Rome2Rio, if you wish, as they will show you mapped options, schedules and allow you to find tickets. Personally, I used the site to source options, then book directly with the company.
12GoAsia is a travel planning tool which allows you to easily research and book public transport around Southeast Asia, whether that be a bus, train, ferry or plane. Wherever I can, I will book transport directly with the provider, but in some circumstances that’s not possible.
For example, when I spent 3 weeks in Thailand, I booked my overnight train ticket from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai with 12GoAsia after reading about their service on the Man In Seat 61. At the time I travelled, booking directly with Thai Railways was not an option.
To be honest if I travel to Thailand again I’d consider using 12GoAsia to book trains because the service I personally experienced was great – my tickets were posted to my Bangkok hotel and were waiting for me when I arrived (I believe you can also collect from the Bangkok office).
FlixBus is one that I have used regularly to understand what bus routes are available and where. I have only booked through them once to date, when I was travelling in Portugal after being stranded at Albufeira train station due to train strikes and needing to get to Lisbon that day.
FlixBus offers cheap coach travel around Europe, including between different countries. Booking in advance with them will usually afford you cheaper fares. The bus I used was punctual, clean, and looked pretty new, so all in all it was a very good experience, and it was definitely worth paying that bit extra to reserve a specific seat to ensure I was sat with my travel companion, because it was busy!
The Man In Seat 61
The Man In Seat 61 is the ‘one stop blog’ to visit if you want detailed information about train travel worldwide! I have landed on Mark’s site countless times when planning travel, and the abundance of information contained within it has been central in helping me navigate trains across Europe and Asia!
I particularly love the route maps you can access, when you are looking at train travel by country or region, and that it offers detailed advice on how to get between different countries using rail services. Everything you could think of regarding train travel worldwide is likely to be found on The Man In Seat 61, so if trains are a bit of you, then check it out!
Depending on where you travel, Uber might be available to you as a means of transport and is sometimes cheaper than booking taxis with local companies. I use the Uber app as one of my valuable trip planning tools when I am building my itinerary for a holiday, to determine how I will get around.
Using the app to search your to/from location, for example from Faro Airport to Faro Old Town, will help you to determine whether using Uber might be a cost-effective or efficient way of transferring between places. Sometimes, countries have other companies who are essentially Uber with another name, like eCabs in Malta, so make sure you check out travel forums on websites like TripAdvisor when you’re in the planning phases.
Online Vision Boards
Pinterest is the ultimate virtual vision board where you will find a whole mix of travel-related content about pretty much anything you could ever need. Travel bloggers tend to make pins for their blog posts so it is another search engine you can use to help plan your holiday!
I love that you can create different boards to store all the useful content and beautiful images you may stumble across. I find Pinterest a really inspiring place to start vacation planning, and love that it often throws up pins that lead me to travel bloggers I haven’t yet discovered (and may not have if I just relied on Google searches).
Best Route Planners
Like Wanderlog, Freetour is another website I recently stumbled across and I instantly fell in love. Not a route planner as such, Freetour details free walking tours around the world, gives details of the tour itself, and allows you to book onto one.
What could be better than seeing a new place with a local guide for free? You will get an authentic insight to your destination, likely seeing places you may have otherwise bypassed, and get those steps in at the same time! Freetour is the perfect website to help you plan what all important things you must see on your holiday!
Google Maps isn’t just a tool I use when I’m travelling – it’s something I use frequently in the UK because it’s so simple yet so effective. I use the street view on Google Maps to help me plan for a trip. For example, I might use street view to help me navigate how to walk from the train station to my accommodation so when I arrive, I have a really good idea of where I need to go.
The Google Maps journey planner is a lifesaver in itself. If I am travelling in Asia and don’t have the internet (because I’m a superscrimper, you won’t catch me roaming or buying sim cards abroad) I will hop on to the WiFi at my accommodation, and screenshot a route so I can use this image to navigate my way from A to B.
Best Ways To Find Motorhome Sites
Searchforsites is a website and app which helps road trippers to source overnight parking spots and campsites all over Europe (and even in North Africa, according to the map). What I love about Searchforsites is that it details random spots where you’re allowed to park in your home on wheels, and also includes photographs others have taken and uploaded alongside their reviews to give you a really good feel for the site.
One of the reasons I think Searchforsites is one of the best overnight parking finder apps is the map function which enables you to pinpoint a certain spot to see parking areas and ones in a given radius will show too. I use Searchforsites all the time when I travel Scotland, like when I went on this 7 day motorhome road trip through the Scottish Highlands.
Admittedly, I tend to use the website version because it is free (and as we’ve already established parting with money is not my forte), and the app only allows you a limited free trial period. But, for how useful this campsite finder app is, I would suggest that the minimal annual fee is definitely worth it if you are a frequent campervanner!
In my humble opinion, Camperstop is the bible of European campsites and off-site parking spots. This book is one I have used religiously when sourcing overnight parking on European road trips, like this magical 10 day motorhome itinerary. If you’re going to make a habit of venturing across the continent in your campervan, I cannot recommend this book enough.
The Camperstop book details all types of free and paid motorhome parking, whether it be a luxurious lakeside campsite, a carpark in a beautiful small German town, or a rough parking area at the back of a local sports centre. With each listed ‘camperstop’, there are icons to indicate details about toilet facilities, chemical waste disposal, electric hook up, times you are able to park there, how far the spot is from a town, and so much more!
Tip: Camperstop now has an app. I have not used this, but if it’s as good as the book they produced, I can only assume it will be one of the best travel apps to download and will likely be updated regularly.
Take a look at the app library on my phone and you’ll find that Campercontact is another motorhome site finder app plonked firmly within a thumb’s reach. Similar to Searchforsites, Campercontact pinpoints motorhome sites on a map, on both the app and desktop versions of the platform.
A bonus for app lovers is that Campercontact will still allow you to view campsites on the app and use basic features for free, as unlike Searchforsites there is no trial period. But, with an upgrade to Campercontact Pro (which can be paid per month or annually) you will have access to other advantages like offline mode, no adverts and advanced search filters.
You might think that Camperstop, Searchforsites and Campercontact detail all the same overnight parking spots but you’d be wrong. There is, of course, some overlap but you will tend to find differences in the listings within each of these trip planning tools.
Trip Planning Tools For Those All Important Extras
My go-to for booking those all important extra bits and pieces like airport parking has always been Holiday Extras. Personally, I like the user friendliness of their website, that they compare providers, and they always seem to trump others for prices!
One of the best ways to save money on trips when using Holiday Extras (even if only a bit) is to check out their discount code page. Just by booking through the link instead of directly through the Holiday Extras home page, you could save yourself upto 12%. Now, that may not be a fortune, but those savings could buy you an extra pint of ice cold beer that you’d otherwise be deprived of!
Websites For Discount Codes
One website I’m using more and more when I plan my holidays as a way to try and save money is the Groupon discount codes page. Here, they list promo codes for travel and accommodation providers, which change all the time. It’s definitely worth a quick scroll through to see whether there are any discount codes or links you could book through which may save you some money.
Best Travel Information Websites
The best travel advice websites will be dependent upon your country of residence. But, I would suggest looking at the foreign travel advice section of your Government’s website or another official source such as the embassy website of the country you are visiting to understand specific information around entry requirements, coronavirus and local laws before you travel.
As someone who lives in the UK, I always use the foreign travel advice service on Gov.uk as one of my trip planning tools to research official information before I even book a flight! This helps me to understand whether I may need a visa, how long I am able to visit visa-free or any pandemic-related entry requirements which aids me to make an informed decision about whether or not I will travel to a given destination. Not knowing this vital information means it might prove quite expensive if there are fees you don’t know about, so it’s best to check before you book.
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