It’s a Friday evening on the last day of September. What a good time to share a couple of sites that have helped me plan amazing trips around Canada and to many other countries in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa in the last 2 yrs. By using these sites, I’ve quickly researched and secured flights and hotels even when I thought I didn’t have time to do this.
Site #1: HIPMUNK, to quickly find available flights between your departure and destination points on your anticipated travel dates.
Hipmunk is hands down my go to site for researching flight paths, costs, and dates, especially for longer haul flights. Hipmunk came out in 2010 and honestly it’s been so helpful to me (and those who know me) since then.
The searching interface is intuitive to use and it provides quick results. You can search between 2 or multiple destinations. You can look at flight options plus or minus a couple of days and see what effect that has on routing or cost. Plus you can look at other arrival and destination ports without losing your first search.
Hipmunk’s top strength in my opinion is its visual results and how they are displayed. On one web page, you get to see all the available flights across airlines, costs, and number of seats left. Each flight option shows up in a different colour. Darker colours mean flights are later in the day – that makes sense!
If you want more information about the flight between two destinations, click on the coloured box. Up pops all the information you need to know about departure, arrival, layover, airline, and flight number.
It’s a really practical site and one that you will find yourself going back to repeatedly.
Site #2: SEAT GURU, to figure out which airplane seat would be best for you before booking your flight.
Once you’ve researched which flight you want, obtain the airline and corresponding flight number.
Then on Seat Guru, you can figure out which seats will be the most comfortable.
Jot down your top 3 choices per flight. Then when you go to book your flight, either online or with the help of a travel agent, you can request the seat you want.
SeatGuru – what a smart and practical site!
Sites #3 and #4: EXPEDIA and TRIP ADVISOR, to search, shortlist, and compare hotel costs in your destination city
When looking for affordable and practical accommodation venues, look up other recent traveler’s recommendations. Two great resources for recent traveler recommendations include Expedia and Trip Advisor.
I’ve learned, however, not to rely 100% on the recommendations that I read. I use the recommendations more as a guide to narrow down my search results.
My main criteria, in no particular order, for ranking my top choices include:
- availability on the dates I need
- comparing the venue’s location both in terms of getting there from the airport and being able to get out and explore the area,
- room amenities and hotel facilities
- room cost per night, and,
- type and cost of Internet access in the hotel or (even better) in the room.
NOTE: Confirm hotel costs and read cancellation policies carefully. Check ORBITZ too.
When I have narrowed down the top 3 places that would be suitable, convenient, safe, and affordable, I compare costs across hotel room search engines. I can quickly do this on either TripAdvisor (across multiple sites at once) or Expedia.
My next must-do step is to visit the venue’s own web site to check their rates, current specials, and cancellation policy. Many times I have found cheaper rates directly with the hotel or more flexible cancellation policies.
Cancellation policies are deal breakers for me. I prefer a policy that lets me cancel my reservation up to 24 or 48 hours in advance without losing my deposit or advance payment.
A close colleague put me onto Orbitz – a hotel room searching site that typically offers decent rates AND sensible cancellation policies.
At this stage, you’re ready to finalize your flight and hotel reservations, however you prefer to do this – on your own or with the help of a travel agent. Good luck and have a great trip! Hope you found these tips useful. If you have other tips, please share.