Where to go to find inspiration for your travels, pick up great deals and get the best advice before you leave
See the first two instalments of our list:
Five of the best for travel deals
Flight price comparison
This is a brilliant flight price comparison site that offers a wider range of search terms than most others and can plough through the schedules of more than 1,000 airlines in seconds to get you the best deal. There’s a “deal of the day” that you might otherwise miss. The site has expanded into hotels and car hire too.
Compare deals on holidays, hotels, flights and more
The travel arm of Moneysupermarket offers price comparison on holidays, hotels, flights, car hire and holiday extras from dozens of companies in an easy-to-use format that gives quick results. Kayak.com offers a similar service but its lack of added value, such as Travelsupermarket’s regularly updated blog on money-saving tips and advice, meant it didn’t make it into our list.
Discount travel deals
Pick up a host of deals on hotels, holidays, flights and cruises by subscribing to this site, which uses 250 “deal experts” to source discounts of up to 60 per cent on brochure prices. Travelzoo sends you to the holiday provider to book and all future contact is through them.
Search budget flights
This allows you to see which budget airlines fly to which destinations — and is wonderfully straightforward. For example, say you want to fly London-Stockholm and it will list all the cheaper airlines that fly the route. It lists more than 5,400 budget routes and gives news updates on airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet.
Holiday, hotel and experiences bookings
Founded by Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman in 1998 as a source of late deals, Lastminute.com quickly became part of the UK’s dot-com boom. The name is now a misnomer as its focus has shifted to hotel bookings and experiences such as theatre breaks, but it remains an essential place to source holidays. Rivals Ebookers.comand Expedia.co.uk do similar jobs but lastminute.com pips them for its ease of use and more flexible search options.
10 best websites for finding a place to stay
Find a hotel deal
If you’re looking for just a hotel, this price comparison site is devastatingly easy to use. Enter your dates and a destination and it rips through more than two million hotel deals from hundreds of providers in seconds. Results start to appear before the search has finished and you can then filter them by price, star rating, guest rating and distance from the centre of town.
Original ideas for trip-planning
Forget bland chain resorts! i-escape appeals to the discerning traveller by covering some of the world’s best boutique hotels, B&Bs and houses to rent, all in stunning locations. Each is individually reviewed by the site’s experienced team — they give negatives as well as positives — and you can book direct.
Free accommodation around the world
Nominated by Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic: “One website which I think is really innovative and a great idea for travellers on a budget is Couchsurfing. It links like-minded travellers together and those who sign up will always have a place to stay wherever they may be in the world. I wish I had thought of it first!”
Unusual places to stay
If you’re looking for cute and quirky, take a peek at the Sawday’s Canopy & Stars site, where you can opt for anything from an ark or a yurt to an Indian-inspired French gypsy caravan or disused grain silo. Those with a head for heights can savour rooms with a view at Canopy and Stars’ amazingly sophisticated treehouses in France and the UK.
Want somewhere to house your big bash, whether it’s a wedding, anniversary or a significant birthday? The Wow House Company offers a directory of stunning houses and apartments. You can choose from castles and converted convents — and each has a comprehensive review, dozens of pictures, a list of facilities and suggested activities.
Discerning selection of hotels
Nominated by Robin Hutson, cofounder of the Hotel du Vin: “I usually check out this site which, together with industry gossip of new places, normally confirms (or otherwise!) a selection. James Lohan has always had a good eye for an interesting property and I have not been disappointed so far.”
12. sawdays.co.uk (nominated by Kate Humble, the wildlife and science TV presenter)
Quirky places to stay
“When I go away I want to stay somewhere unusual. It might be its location, the type of building or just the fact it is run by people who treat you more like a friend than a customer. The Sawday’s website has everything from treehouses to showman’s wagons, castles to cottages, rural pubs to luxurious city hotels. It has never let me down.”
Home-stay search engine
Among the plethora of sites that allow people to advertise their homes as holiday accommodation, House Trip is the best. Not just for the immense selection of properties but because of the protection measures it has in place. Guests can review properties once they have stayed and searches show the highest rated first. If you are not happy once you’re there, House Trip pledges to rehouse you in a nearby property pronto. It also has a payment protection scheme.
Find a spot to put your tent
The rise of glamping sites with Mongolian-style yurts hasn’t yet killed off the joy of pitching your own tent, and if you are strapped for holiday cash this site offers a perfect solution for campers. Instead of staying on organised campsites you can pitch up in people’s back gardens in some great locations — and some offer extras such as showers or cooked breakfasts. Search by location or for places close to events such as music festivals or sports venues.
Stay in someone’s empty home
This excellent site covers stylish apartments that you can rent from locals in more than 34,000 cities. Pictures are well presented in click-along galleries; and there are plenty of them, so you get a good idea what to expect. The booking engine is fast and there are some great bargains. The properties, though, are only as good as their owners: we have heard some horror stories.
10 of the best for inspiration
Yes, we know it’s ubiquitous and everyone uses it — but this is a 50-best list and it has to be included on review numbers alone. There are reviews of things to do, hotels and restaurants, a list of travellers’ choices and a host of booking services. Take with a pinch of salt some of the more obvious reviews (the most gushing and damning ones are often by people with a vested interest), but it’s a good place to start looking for inspiration for your next trip.
Search small tour companies
The Association of Independent Tour Operators is an organisation that features a host of small, specialist holiday companies that focus on trips with a difference. You can use this site to search for holidays and find out what to do if things go wrong. All holidays sold by association members have full financial protection.
Unusual luxury trips
If you’re looking for a luxury holiday with a difference, then Black Tomato creates boundary-pushing experiences around the globe, from honeymoons on deserted islands in the Philippines to trekking to look for mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Trips are tailor-made: after searching the site for inspiration, you are connected to a travel adviser who talks you through your preferences. Sister site beachtomato.com offers a similar service for seaside holidays.