How I like to plan a trip

18-09-13-planning

Fail to plan, plan to fail. That’s my motto!

I’m an organiser. Not just ‘I’ll book the flights and hotel’ – I wish – for me it’s, ‘I’ll compare the flights and see which one I can get cheapest, and try and shove two weeks worth of travel into my hand luggage just to not let Ryanair get the satisfaction of me paying their overpriced baggage fees’. Being an organiser means I don’t take a holiday lightly, even if it is just a weekend  away! I just don’t see the point in not getting the most out of your trip just because you haven’t done your research. I like to compare hotel prices, read reviews about said hotel – and if I’m lucky, get to look at some photos submitted by the visitors. If there’s a pubic hair in the tub, I’m moving on to another hotel. So here is a guide on how I like to plan my holidays.

Photo I took as my flight took off out of Atlanta International Airport.

Flights

There are some really great flight comparison websites out there so that you get the cheapest deal. Skyscanner has to be one of my favourite comparison sites as it gives you all the flights and all the prices in one place. It’s also a great website to procrastinate with as well by planning a fantasy holiday to the Caribbean, just to see how much it would cost. Well, that’s my idea of fun anyway! Easy jet is another great place to search real or fantasy flights. If you can withstand the overwhelming orange, then the Inspire Me tool is an easy, and great way to see what is available within your budget and timeframe. Their surprisingly fun and interactive map asks you to fill in what airport you wish to fly from, how long/when you want to go, and what kind of holiday you’re after, eg ‘city break’, ‘winter sports’,’beach’, you get the idea.

For the cheapest flights though, you’re best off actually speaking to someone on the phone. As big as companies like British Airways, or Easyjet may seem, they wouldn’t be going anywhere without their customers. Basically, flights are just a bigger branch of retail, so their staff should offer the same level of customer service you would expect in a store. Most companies will want to keep you sweet, and if you have the time, patience and determination, try going between two flight companies to see which one can offer you the best deal, and hopefully in a bid to keep you as their customer (and spread the word of how good their company is) they should keep lowering their prices  so that they don’t lose to a competing company.

18-09-13-hotel

Hotels

When it comes to hotels, the first site I’ll be on is Trivago. I absolutely love this site! Similar to Skyscanner, they compare prices for you and even show you how much money has been taken off – so basically, you might find a room for £40, in a hotel that usually charges £150 a night! I can literally spend for ever on this site.

When you find your perfect hotel at a mega discounted price, then you need to check out if it’s worth the pennies – even if it’s half the price. I like to select a few ‘possible maybe’s’, and then do some further researcher on another favourite website of mine, Tripadvisor! I never trust a hotel’s description as they’re obviously trying to sell you the hotel so they’re not going to tell you if there’s a problem with mould, or the hot water currently isn’t working, so it’s best to hear it from those who have been there and done it. Tripadvisor has contributions from thousands of hotel goers, who can submit their experience, reviews and opinions as well as their own photos – even though a few just upload their holiday snaps, what is up with that?! – of what the hotel really looks like when there’s no lighting or professional photographers put into the mix. I’ve crossed off quite a few hotels based on bad reviews, and have always been pleased when I’ve gone with one that has had good feedback.

Another big pet hate for me is when you book a hotel and it’s in the worst location – which is what happened to me and my friends in Zante when our ‘on the beach’ hotel was actually a 45 – 60 minute walk to the sea!  I always prefer to pay a bit extra to be in the centre of where I want to be, not only as I think I’d end up spending more on public transport but that way you save time by not travelling, and there is less stress as you don’t have to memorise bus timetables or make sure you’ve saved some money for a taxi back. Although most reviews and hotel comparison sites include information about the location, I like to use Google Maps to get a proper look at where the hotel is situated and what the area is like. This saved me from nearly booking a cheap hotel in Barcelona that was literally in the middle of no where – something I discovered when using the ‘Street view’ option on Google Maps. To get an idea of distance, pick a location you’re likely to be visiting a lot throughout your stay, for example the Basilica Cathedral in Barcelona, and then choose which type of transport you’ll be using, ie public or a car, and Google Map should show you the distance and the estimated time it would take to get from point A to point B.

18-09-13-todo

What to do when you arrive

I don’t go too mad with this one as I do like to leave some element of surprise when I go on holiday, but I also don’t want to miss out on anything either. Lonely Planet offer a list of things to do, I do find their website a bit difficult to get along with as it only offers you limited information, and you end up with about a thousand tabs open by the time you’re finished, but it’s a good place to get a few ideas. If you’re going to in and around one place for long, I would recommend a purchasing a ‘shoestring’ lonely planet book. Although I appreciate a colourful book, Lonely Planet’s ‘shoestring’ books are extremely informative and offer facts and figures, where as I find their other information books too adjective heavy and more like reading a 400 page brochure – which is such a shame. I do love Lonely Planet, but I don’t understand why they try to sell you a country in their glossier books, you’re obviously interested enough to buy a book on Thailand, why do you need to be told repeatedly how ‘Quintessential’ that ‘sleepy town’ is about hundred times. Rant out.

If you’re stuck at a desk with your holiday all ready booked, and  you’ve reached that hopeless stage of ‘holiday mode’ to even concentrate on that spreadsheet, or reply to those emails, then why not spend the working day on, again, my most time-consuming website Tripadvisor. Not only is it great to read reviews on hotels but also on days out, what activities and events are around, and what restaurant’s you need to check out as well as avoid. It was thanks to Trip Advisor that I found Adrenaline Adventures and went abseiling in Mallorca, and even had an amazing Indian in Staines!

Websites

http://www.skyscanner.net/

http://www.easyjet.com/en

http://www.trivago.co.uk/

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/

https://maps.google.co.uk/

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/

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