Travel and Tours
I am looking for a tour of Sri Lanka and I cannot believe the difference in prices I am being quoted. They are all offering a similar itinerary same star hotels and same number of nights and it is ranging from £500 to £1200. It got me thinking, are the ones charging more ripping me off to get the best possible profit margin for themselves or are they going to be best.
When I was growing up I used to think if something was more expensive it had to be better but now I am more of a savvy purchaser I realise that isn’t always the case. Yes, sometimes going for the cheapest also isn’t going to be the best. I am so glad we now have the internet so we can research as years ago I guess it was more word of mouth to find out if something was not good or we had to rely on the opinion of the travel agents.
Now I love a good holiday deal and I have been known to book something just because it says it has % off the price.
Google is my best tool, I actually really miss Google when I am travelling and don’t have the internet especially as I do a lot of cruises and you get ripped off with internet charges. For example, I could be having a conversation about something and want to check a fact and it is so easy to just go on my phone and google it so when I can’t I feel a bit lost sometimes.
Travel Social Media
Pinterest is a great resource. I only discovered it last year, I used to see pins beforehand about crafts and baking but didn’t really understand it. Now it is one of my favourite resources especially as some of the content is so useful. It is a bookmarking site where you find an article of interest and you can go back to it at a later date.
On my Pinterest, I have travel boards for countires and specific destinations I am planning on visiting. Every time I come across an article I pin it to the board and then it is there for me to read when I am ready.
Instagram is a good travel research tool. I search for hashtags say I was visiting Bristol I would go on to Instagram and put in #Bristol and all the images with this hashtag will come up. It gives me an idea of things I will see when I visit.
Twitter is also great. I always ask questions in tweets and 9 times out of 10 someones will give me the answer or a link. Again, you can search for hashtags. I follow destination accounts and other travellers to see where they are visiting to give me inspiration.
Guide books. I love Lonely Planet guidebooks and have several. They are great for researching a trip but also a good resource to take on the trip with you in case you come across something you didn’t know about you can look it up.
TV and Magazines
I watch travel programs and I am a subscriber to some excellent travel magazines. You can find travel features in most media types now even non-travel publications.
One of my favourite things about travelling is doing the research. I spend hours looking online for articles, people’s experiences, tips, and price comparison.
I don’t research every trip as I simply don’t have the time. When I haven’t done any research, I feel so unprepared and I end up spending time whilst I am away doing some research either by looking on google or reading leaflets when I should be enjoying the experience. I am not the type of person who can go to a new destination not knowing anything or having anything planned or booked.
I don’t want to miss something the worse thing about going on a trip is getting home and reading about something that is right up your street and you have missed it simply because you didn’t know it was there. It isn’t exactly the end of the world as it means you have something to go back for but it can be slightly annoying.
I like to read about other people’s experiences either on Trip Advisor or now I tend to go more to a travel blog, I have some favourites and there is a travel blog for every type of travel from travelling solo to adventure not that I look at them much as I am a bit of a unadventurous traveller however I am trying to change this watch this space for my shark diving experience.
Of course, the best way to find out about a destination is word of mouth. I love hearing about the trips my friends have done and especially now with social media so I can be nosey and see what others get up to when they are travelling and it gives me ideas of what I want to do or sometimes what I want to avoid if the experience is not good.
There are many things I check when looking for a destination as I have my own preferences so this will be different for everyone.
- I like to stay somewhere central as I don’t drive so I rely on public transport
- Check out local cuisine and best places to try these
- See what the weather is going to be like so I know what clothes to pack
- What attractions I am interested in visiting
- Public transport
- Visa requirements
How I do my travel research
I have several go to websites that I find offer the best deals for what I am looking for :
My tips for getting the best price flight.
- Changing the day or even the time can alter the price considerably
- I start off looking at prices on sky scanner or kayak.
- Sign up for fare alerts
- The day you book flights can affect the price
There are many articles that tell you about the best time to book a flight. The day of the week you book or look at booking flights can alter the price. I have found that booking on a Tuesday I can find better prices than if I book on a Sunday, I guess this is due to demand as more people are likely to be booking flights. I have also read that Wednesday and Saturdays are also good days.
- Clear cookies
- Look at Nonstop v multi-stop
Sometimes it is cheaper to have a stopover and that can even mean adding another destination to the places you have visited. When I was planning my trip to Jerusalem the direct flights were quite expensive and I would only find direct flights from London I live about 2 hours away. So, I went to the airport website to see what flights they had arriving and I noticed they had a flight from Bucharest. I knew a budget airline flew to Bucharest from my local airport. When I looked at the price of Bristol to Bucharest and then Bucharest to Tel Aviv with 2 nights hotel in Bucharest it was still cheaper than the direct flight and meant I was visiting somewhere else that I wanted, so it was a win-win.
If the flight has a layover I weigh up the amount I am saving against convenience. If it is a short layover am I likely to miss the connection if there is a delay if it is a long layover will I need to spend money on a holiday, food at the airport or something to do to pass the time. Therefore, it might be worth paying slightly more to get me straight to the destination.
- Look at different airports
Some destinations have many different airports and it can sometimes be cheaper to fly in a different one. When I went to southern Turkey it was cheaper to fly into Istanbul and then get public transport to where I needed to go. Again, I way up the price I am saving against inconvenience to see if it is worth it. One of the best sites I have found for this is Kiwi.com I also use this site if I don’t know where I want to go but want to get away for example I can search for a flight leaving from Bristol airport next week, find the cheapest and that’s the start of planning my next trip.
- Not always the best price on flight comparison sites
Some airlines restrict their results showing on search engine sites like these so I tend to look at the airport I am planning to visit to see which airlines fly there and check their websites. Sometimes I have found cheaper flights booking directly with the airline than on the search sites.
- Try and book directly with the carrier
If you are only going to save a few £ it is best to book directly with the airline carrier rather than a booking agent. If something goes wrong or you need to make amendments I have found it easier if I am booked directly.
I learnt a big lesson once booking through a 3rd party website when I was doing a trip through China. They put the wrong date on my booking documentation so I ended up turning up at the airport one day before my actual flight was booked. This was an administration error on their behalf but they would take no responsibility. The airline wouldn’t help as they said they had done nothing wrong as I still had a seat on the next day’s flight. I only had one day in the place I was flying to and had already paid for a hotel so the cost of that was more than booking a brand-new flight with a different airline. It was a very stressful experience and took me months of writing to the 3rd party to get a refund after 6 months they gave in and admitted it was their mistake and refunded I bet they were hoping I was going to give up but me and my friend who was travelling with me made it a mission to get our money back.
- Look at different flight classes
I was found a Business class flight to New York for £100 more than premium economy. It was going to be my first taste of luxury so I jumped on this price although it did spoil me to only want to fly business class
My first hotel site I check is Hotelscombined as it looks at all the best rates. I then make a list of the hotels that are the best value, in the best locations, have the facilities and type of room I am wanting.
Next, I check on Trip Advisor to see what the reviews are like and get rid of the ones that are full of bad reviews. I also check the hotel’s website as sometimes they have special offers but often it is cheaper booking it through an online booking agent. I do find people tend to go on trip advisor to report something that went wrong or if they had a really excellent time, not many middle of the road reviews.
I should now have a list of a few that I am interested in booking and I then compare the prices on Hotelscombined, booking.com, Agoda, Expedia and Hotels.com
As I am registered with these sites I sometimes get even more money off as an incentive to buy. I also trust these brands as I have been using them for years and they have excellent customer service if I ever do encounter an issue which is rare.
Then it is time to book the hotel
I tend to book hotels with free cancellation as I often change my mind or can come across a better deal so I like to have the flexibility. If I am booking something for the next couple of days it doesn’t bother me if it is non-refundable as I am likely to not find anything better.
Best deals on tours
This is a great website for escorted tours. They normally have a few % off more than the actual tour company and claim they will match any price. I used them for my tour in Vietnam that had 50% off and it was one of the best tours I have ever done. I regularly check this website as if I see a decent deal I will be off on my next adventure.
Viator is great for day tours. I often look at this site to see what is on offer and then do more research sometimes I can find it cheaper elsewhere other times I go back and book on viator as it is an easy website to use.
Destination specific Travel Tour Agents
I look at existing tour packages to see if the cost is similar to doing the tour independently. Sometimes I have found some good deals that I wouldn’t be able to do it any cheaper on my own and it is sometimes more convenient to have the trip organised by someone so all I must do is turn up. Although I wouldn’t like to do this all the time as I love planning my own itineraries.
Save Money when Travelling
When you are actually travelling there are more ways you can save money. Dont get caught up with large bank fees, get a travel money card. I have used a couple the FX and Monzo. I feel Monzo is one of the best travel cards as the app is really user friendly I can check how much money I have on the card and I can top it up wherever I am as long as I have data access for my phone. I like having the knowledge I have access to money if I need it and wont get home to extra bank fees I had not factored into my budget.
I hope this helps you when you are booking your next trip. If you need any advice get in touch and I will do my best to help.
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- originally posted June 2017 and updated February 2019