Let’s not try and kid anybody here; we’re budget travelers and backpackers for a reason. We either want to travel long term and make our budgets stretch for as long as possible, or we just don’t have that much money to begin with. So, of course when it comes to any expenditure let alone travel booking sites, we want to find the best bargains, deals, hacks and prices to get maximum value for our buck. We scour the internet searching for rock bottom prices but that itself can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
There are so many travel booking sites & tools out there to choose from. Some of them are great, and can be game changers, but others will burn you. On top of everything, It’s so time consuming, it makes us indecisive, we start going back and forth waiting for the right deals. This can be an excruciating process especially for first time travelers who don’t have go-to sites.
The good news for you is that you don’t have to sit there for hours or even days trying to figure out the best travel booking sites & tools, because I’ve done the hard work for you.
Since I started my nomadic life, roaming around the world in 2010 I’ve gone through them all. So many travel booking sites & tools you can think of, experimenting, wasting a lot of money and getting burned. Through copious amounts of trial and error I’ve filtered down to my go to travel booking sites & tools
Every company listed below, I trust in. I use them personally and It’s not just me, but thousands if not millions of other travelers trust and use them too. For your convenience I’ve broken the travel booking sites & tools into categories:
(Disclaimer: There are affiliate links and banners on this page. By clicking through to them will be of no cost to you, it just earns me a few pennies to keep this website running. All the companies and comparison sites are sites I personally use as my go to travel booking tools and sites and have done)
How do you search for flights? Do you still go down to the high street and get ripped off by a travel agent? Do you simply just just check google flights and pay over the odds (I know a lot of people who do) because It’s easy and convenient? Do you drown in the tsunami of comparison sites on the internet? Or do you go through every individual Airline to check who’s got the cheapest rate?
I’ve been guilty of doing all of the above, I’ve been ripped off, paid so much more than I need to simply because I didn’t know any better. However over the years I’ve whittled down to have my own go to travel booking sites & tools to make booking flights easy.
I will simply check between SkyScanner, Ebookers and lastminute.com put price alerts on the dates I want to fly out. Once I get the cheapest price, I will skip over to that Airlines individual site, see if the price is cheaper, if it is, I’ll book directly through them if not go back to one of the comparison sites and book through them. More often that not, Skyscanner works out the cheapest for me.
There are also sites like Jacks flight club, where you have to sign up to, pay a subscription fee but do sometimes get the cheapest flights. It’s completely up to you if you want to give them a go.
The banners below will take you directly to their respected sites
Alternatively, if you want to go directly to the Airline, you can do that too. For short trips around Europe RyanAir, EasyJet, and Whizz Air offer the best value. For long haul flights compromising a bit of price for comfort is needed. I’ve found Emirates and Etihad have the best comfort for tight budgets.
(The banner will take you directly to EasyJet’s homepage)
Looking for accommodation can be the same as looking for flights. There are so many accommodation comparison sites you can drown in. I know a lot of people just simply use google search for Accommodation, and while it might be easier it does work out more expensive.
A trick I’ve learnt with booking accommodation is only to initially book for a night or two. I do this for 3 reasons:
1. Sometimes there are cheaper and better options available in the same area but are not on booking sites.
2, You might actually get a better price, extending your stay directly through the reception when you’re already there.
3, If I don’t like the place, I’ve not paid or committed to staying longer.
Again just like with flights, over the years I’ve gone through so many different companies and comparison sites but I’ve found the best, most reliable and trusted are HostelWorld, Booking.com and AirBnb.
As a backpacker I normally stay in hostels and HostelWorld normally offer the best range and best value for hostels. Booking.com do offer hostels but have a wider range of accommodation options so if I’m in a country or region where hotels are affordable I’ll go through them. And with traveling so popular now days (pre-covid) AirBnb offer a great range of affordable places, so if I’m planing on making a nest for myself for a while I’ll use them.
The banners below take you directly to their site
Looking for ground transport ahead of time can be a bit tricky. Prices are likely to change often, some sites take a huge chunk of commision and therefore charge you extra, and booking from outside of the country can get confusing especially with exchange rates. However there are a few sites, for local trains, busses, and passes that have become very reputable and considered the most reliable.
With ground transport, I personally sit in the camp of booking whilst I’m in the country, I find that the cheapest option. However if you like to plan and book in advance or if you want to gage an idea of general costs the the sites below have always been a great help.
The man in seat 61 has become one of the most reputable travel booking sites for trains. This sites offers timetables, costs and booking options for trains all over the world as is always up to date.
Check my bus will help give you an idea of local busses from all over the world.
Rome to Rio is A very trusted global trip planner by any mode of transport all over the world and great to gage an idea of cost.
If you’re on the lookout for bus passes, STA offers a wide range from selected countries around the world.
If you’re planning a trip around Europe, a Eurorail pass can be very cost effective than buying individual tickets and also a great way to see Europe.
Travel insurance is a personal choice, for some backpackers it’s a must and wont leave home without it. For others, it’s a nuisence extra cost and will take their chances without it.
If you’re looking to buy travel insurance, there does have to be some thought behind it because when it comes to insurance every man and his dog will offer it to you.
It boils down to the type of trip you’re taking, how long you’re going for, of course what you can afford and the coverage they offer. You need to take into consideration what excess they offer, how reliable are they to pay out if anything happens. Your coverage is dependant on age and health issues, if there is extreme, adventure, or winter sports. Are you going to need medical cover, are you clumsy and think you’ll need damage cover for appliances. You have to look into all these things before choosing the right travel insurance.
When it comes to backpacker insurance, World Nomads is one of the most reputable for backpackers and used by thousands around the world. I have used them myself, and it was straight forward and simple to sign up. However if you want to have a little shop around, one of the best comparison sites for Brits is Travel supermarket.
Some of us like to travel independently, some of us like to have our trips organised before hand. There is no right or wrong how you want to do it. Although I mainly travel independently there have been times I’ve joined tours.
There are probably more travel booking sites & tools for tour companies on the internet than anything else. This can be your biggest headache. You want a tour company that going to provide everything for you, a good experience, safety, a chance to meet people, show you the right things, and not rip you off or scam you.
The few times I’ve used tour companies, from my own research, from experience of other travelers and recommendations I’ve had the best experience with Contiki and Intrepid travel. They offer great value, experience and you can choose to do them in small groups. They offer tours and activities all over the word and are highly recommended. If you rather just book individual activities rather than a full tour, Viator is great for that. They are a TripAdvisor company and offer great prices, discounts and plenty of individual activities all over the world.
The banners below will take you directly to their sites
You might just want to book individual activities and excursions rather than full package organised tours. Again like with everything else there are so many companies out there, and until you have your go-to sites you really have to do your research. You have to make sure the company is actually legit and not just a scam pop up site about to take your money (we’ve all got stung like that before).
When it comes to booking activities and excursions you have a few choices of booking activities and tours. You can do it directly through the company, your accommodation might be able to book it for you, you can do it locally or use sites like TripAdvisor, Get your Guide or Viator.
(Get your guide for a trip around London. Or by simply clicking the banner below you can find guides and activities to anywhere around the world.)
If you would like more convenience, head over to the useful travel websites page to find over 100 hundred travel websites and apps listed all on one page for you. The websites and apps listed will help you with planning, researching, pre travel and, during your trip. The page lists more Airlines, transport companies, sites to help with research and planning, top blogs and vlogs, links to visa companies, currency convertors, and apps to help you through your journey. Alternatively if you think there are some travel products, supplies and accessories you might need head over to the travel product page.
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