10 Essential Travel Websites


Travel is still a relatively complex and stressful activity. It shouldn’t be… it should be the complete opposite…

The Dream

Booking hotels is relatively simple. Pick dates, search for hotels, choose features, pay… booking flights isn’t as straightforward. It’s a relatively stressful process. Getting to the stage where you get a price is fine… but beyond that, you need specific information that you don’t know off the top of your head. Passport numbers, date of births, full names… then you need to worry about getting it right. Every number, every letter. Get it wrong and the price airlines charge you to correct your mistake could cost more than the flight itself.

Aer Lingus have a new system where you can reserve flights immediately for €5 and then confirm and update with details up to 24 hours. So it gives you time to gather everyone’s information. No need to panic about prices changing or the last few seats selling out. That’s extremely useful in certain circumstances. They also have a book now, pay later service on certain routes. This makes complete sense as if you’re booking flights costing several hundred euro per person, for a large family… most people can’t afford to pay for everything up front but they can afford to pay in installments. The same should apply to flight / hotel combos on the likes of expedia or ebookers but it doesn’t always work that way.

If you’re scheduled on a flight departing in ‘x’ hours, you should be able to get beyond security and board the plane scanning just your passport or perhaps fingerprints. You should also be able to walk right through security, stopping briefly for photo / scan. Like an express checkout lane at a supermarket. You’ll always get people whinging about radiation and violation of privacy but let them queue up the old fashioned way if they wish. Most people prefer convenience over health. Fast food & growing waistlines an excellent example.

Airplanes themselves also need re-thinking. The process of boarding & exiting is painfully slow. If i were an air steward, it would probably make me quit. Seeing people queue up at the gate before the plane even arrives, board first and then sit as close to the front as they can get… taking their time to block up the aisles whilst they struggle to fit bags and jackets and everything but themselves in to the overhead cabins. If the door at the rear is open, it works the same way, only going from back to front. No amount of polite ‘please move down the aisle’ announcements from cabin crew ever work. It’s worse after landing. Could there be a better way of designing a plane whilst not losing seat numbers? That’s the billion dollar question.

Anyway, most of that stuff is fantasy or in the future. Right now, there’s some websites you can use which make travel that little bit easier…

1. Tripadvisor

If you care about where you stay, you’ll read tripadvisor reviews. It doesn’t just give reviews though it’ll suggest things to do and places to see in wherever it is you want to go. Generally, there’ll also be money or time saving tips thrown in to reviews too. It’s so mainstream that many hotels now have someone participate in discussion, respond to criticism and even bad mouth competition if they’re really desperate.

2. Wikipedia

Airports, hotels, cities, attractions… if you want a no nonsense history lesson on something, wikipedia is your friend.

3. Wikitravel

Similar to wikipedia only created & updated by travelers. So it’s more travel-specific information i.e. how to get around, what to see and do and where to eat & sleep. I suppose it’s a cross between wikipedia and tripadvisor.

4. Skyscanner

Booking flights? You just need this site. It’s done to pricing flights what Google has done for search.

5. Expedia

Not necessarily the best for booking flights or hotels but if you’re looking to do both at once, it’s hard to beat Expedia for price as generally they’ll offer a discount if you book both flights & hotels as part of a package. Not to be used without checking other sites, but in my own experience it’s tough to beat them on price.

6. Ebookers

Works the same way as expedia or vice versa. Discounts if you book flights & hotels together. Sometimes the same flights & hotel can work out cheaper than on Expedia, sometimes they don’t. Run searches on both and see for yourself. Then price flights & hotels separately.

7. Google Maps

google maps
I honestly don’t know what i’ve had done 20 years ago if i were preparing to go somewhere without Google Maps. Figuring out the distance from airport to hotel and from hotel to attractions, both in walking time and by bus is something we take from granted these days all thanks to Google Maps. It makes the world feel like a smaller place. Before you arrive at some place you’ve never been in before, you probably know exactly what it will look like and how to get from a to b. All thanks to Google Maps and streetview.

8. Tripit

I don’t use it much myself but i know people that swear by it. Email all your travel details to tripit and tripit automatically works it magic to produce a timeline of events for you, highlighting key information. You can then share those details with others through twitter or facebook so i suppose it holds value if you’re visiting friends or family – they’ll know your itinerary in advance.

9. Dropbox

Not an obvious website or service to use for travel but i always dump any travel related stuff in to a dropbox folder i.e. scans of passports, insurance docs, booking confirmations etc… i know it’s there should i need it. Even if i lose everything, i can still log in from anywhere and access all my travel info. That’s never happened and probably never will happen but it’s a form of insurance and is just a good habit to get in to, much like backing up a computer for those ‘just in case’ moments.

10. xe

When converting cash, you always wonder what is a good and bad deal. Are airports ripping you off? Does no commission mean no commission or are they disguising their fees in some other way? XE is a good way of quickly figuring out roughly how much you should be getting -v- how much you’re actually getting. It’s also handy for converting prices in a shop.

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