I often get asked what websites I use to find flights, hotels, plan my activities, etc. To answer these questions, I’ve put together a list of my go-to travel websites that help me plan my best trips and included a brief description of why I love each one. I’ve organised these by category including flights, accommodation, food and drink, and directions.
- SkyScanner – This site is always my first stop for finding flights. You can be as specific or broad as you like when searching. If your schedule is quite flexible in terms of departure and return, you can search by month and see which days are the cheapest to fly. If you’re out of ideas on where to go or just want to know where the cheapest quick getaway is, you can do an “Everywhere” search. This will return results broken down by country and then city ranked from cheapest to most expensive. When booking your flight, skyscanner will redirect you to either the airline page or other flight provider to book.
- Kiwi – There are 2 main reasons why I sometimes prefer Kiwi over Skyscanner. First, you can include the number of checked bags in your search so the price shown is the total price you’ll pay for everything. Second, when booking the flight, you do it straight through Kiwi. There is no redirect to the providers page. They handle everything for you. There’s also a cool feature called “Radius Search” which allows you to search multiple airports by positioning your point on a map. This has helped me pick up on alternative cheaper airports to fly in and out.
- Booking.com – One of the most popular websites to book hotels, homestays, bed and breakfasts, you name it. This is where the majority of properties will list. If you book with them enough, you’ll get what’s called “Genius status”. This gives you an automatic discount on every booking you make.
- Agoda – Same in popularity as Booking.com, however, I find that Agoda tends to be cheaper on most occasions.
- AirBnb – As I explain in most of my posts, this is my favourite site to book apartments so I really feel like I’m getting a local experience wherever I go. It’s also a much cheaper option than hotels most of the time.
Food and Drink
- Google Maps – I always start with Google Maps to search in a specific area for top rated restaurants and bars. Users can add reviews (including photos) right in the app and I find it to be more subjective than other sites. One of the best features is the option to save places you find right on the map itself. There are pre-made categories such as “Favourites” and “Want to Go”, or you can create your own (for instance, I created a category for accommodation). This is a great feature to help you plan your time logistically. For instance, if you’re note sure where you want to stay, you can start by saving all of your must visit attractions and restaurants on the map. Once completed you’ll be able to see where the majority of your saves are on the map and this will help you narrow down your hotel search. I’m obsessed with the save feature. I use it in every city I go to. This is what my home city of London looks like:
- Comments Section or Forums of Foodie Websites – I got this tip from reading an interview Time did with Anthony Bourdain. He calls it “Provoking nerd fury”. He’ll go into an article or forum about food in a particular city he’s visiting and leave a comment that says “I just had the best Italian food in my life at (random restaurant)”. He then sits back and lets the discussion between the foodie obsessed keyboard warriors ensue. I personally don’t go so far as to leave a comment. I simply scroll to the comments already written or visit forums on foodie websites such as Bon Appétit or Chowhound.
- Blogs/Travel/Food Sites – I know this is generic but let me explain. If I’m going to a new city, I’ll simply google “Best restaurants in (city)”. When looking through the search results, I’ll make sure I click on blogs or reputable travel and food sites. I trust these as the writers are usually like-minded and aren’t going to send me to a TGI Fridays (even though I love the potato skins and am not above a good TGIF every now and then lol).
- Trip Advisor – This site has been around forever. I’m pretty sure we used it when studying abroad in 2007! It’s a great option if you want the most popular option in an area. It’s harder to find hidden gems as most of the top rated restaurants or bars are pretty established with their ratings and it’s hard for newbies to breakthrough.
- Google Maps – Same as above. You’ll also notice in the screen shot there’s an “Explore” option. If you click this you can explore an are by restaurants, attractions, and more.
- Trip Advisor – Again, same as above. This is where you’ll find the top tourist attractions, but not a lot off the beaten track.
- Nomadic Matt – This guy is a travel guru. His website was my go to source of information for my grown-up gap year backpacking trip. He’s been to hundreds of cities in Asia, Australia, North America, you name it, he’s probably been there and has guides for it.
- Blogs/Travel Sites – This is where you’re going to find some hidden gems that may not be on the well known apps. People love sharing their travel stories, especially when they discover something new. I always type “Things to do in (city)”, and read through the articles until I find something interesting.
- Google Maps – This is my first point of information for live directions and looking places up. You can now download specific cities or areas for offline use which is very helpful when traveling without data.
- Mapsme – This is a go-to app for backpackers. It’s fairly new, so not as sleek as Google Maps, but it’s all about offline use. You can download whole countries or even specific cities. What I love about this app are the points of interest that you won’t normally find on Google Maps such as hidden waterfalls or secluded beaches. Since it’s not really in the public domain, the developers aren’t restricted in what they can put on the maps. For instance, in my Hollywood Sign Hike post, I talk about how Google Maps redirects you to Griffith Park for views. This is because they got so many public complaints from residents about tourists in and around their neighbourhoods, they were pressured into changing the location. You won’t find this happening on Mapsme.