Here are the top sites I recommend for travel research and booking.
In each section I’ve added some comments and generally they are listed by category in order of use from favorite to lesser used.
Keep in mind most sites now have pretty handy apps that are worth downloading in advance.
Ideas / research
- Amazing peer reviews for travel. I typically don’t book anything without reading their reviews. I also am an active contributor
- They also have peer created itineraries by city. Check them out as I’ve found some gems that aren’t in the guidebooks.
- Looking to set up a 10 day itinerary in Italy? Just google “Italy 10 days” and voila! Some blogger like me has put together a guide.
- Specifically for backpackers in Asia. Great sample itineraries by country
Staring at a map
- Joking aside, this is how I sometimes plan trips. Back to 7th grade geography class kids.
- My favorite flight search engine. I love that you can use “Everywhere” as an option. Plug in your home airport and see where you can find deals. Amazing for weekend or shorter trips.
- Getting better and better every time I use it. I find it works better than most of the aggregators.
- When looking for award bookings or weird stopover options I use this tool. It takes a while to learn to use it but it provides the most customization of any site around. Tutorial here
- Some great tools when you have flexibility on dates. Similar to Skyscanner but I have found better deals here on occasion as they use different travel agency codes.
- Kayak used to be my favorite. I still use it often but only for flights as the rental car and hotel options aren’t usually very competitive.
Note, I really avoid using booking sites like Expedia. Where at all possible I book everything direct with the vendor. In case there are issues I’d rather not have to deal with a middleman.
- an amazing resource showing you many different ways to get from point A to point B. It includes everything from flights to car share options. I find it particularly good for trains and buses.
- THE resource for train travel worldwide. Nuff said.
- Where possible, I book directly with the hostel as long as their rates stack up with the sites below. This is when I am pretty certain of a booking. If I think I may need to cancel I book through HostelWorld for the reasons listed below.
- My most used hostel booking tool. Great mobile app as well. I like that they only require a deposit upfront and have more flexible options for cancellation. Hostels when booked direct vary from having to be prepaid to being amazingly flexible. HW helps add some consistency here and frees up options to be flexible.
- If I can’t find options on a Google search or Hostelworld I will go here to see if they have a different allocation of beds
Typically I will research hotels on TripAdvisor and then see the rates TA aggregates through the below. It’s usually more efficient going this route than scanning several sites.
- My preferred site as they typically have better deals than the others.
- Good for Asia and some different options than Booking.
- I’ve lucked into some great flash deals on these sites. The mystery offsets the security of knowing your booking specifics.
HotelTonight – Great for past minute bookings
- I’ve used this countless times for group trips. So much easier, cheaper, and nicer to rent a fully stocked home than trying to get a block of rooms at a hotel.
For Australia, you can also use Stayz.com.au
- The only site I use for USA bookings. They automatically will re-book you when a deal pops up. I have saved hundreds on single rentals using this site.
Rest: mixed bag of using aggregator sites or discount codes I’ve found on FlyerTalk
If you are looking for specific recommendations please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to share any info I have.