The Best Travel Sites for Trip Planning

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Planning a trip can be a hassle. There are so many different travel resources out there from review sites to flight search tools to maps and apps. Even as someone who has many years travelling full time, it can all get a bit confusing and, usually, the second you think you’ve settled on your favourite websites, someone tells you there’s another much better/cheaper/faster way to do it all and – boom – you’re back to square one.

In this article, I will share the top travel sites. Bookmark it for future trips.

My All-Time Top 5 Travel Sites

If you read no further, check out my favourite 5 top travel sites. I search elsewhere but I frequently find myself coming back to this core set to plan my trips.

Skyscanner – I’ve listed more flight websites below but I consistently find Skyscanner to be the cheapest on a global basis so I rarely waste my time looking anywhere else.

Tripadvisor – more than just a review site, Tripadvisor is a brilliant and quick way to check hotel prices in one click. And you’re probably going to bag the best price – exactly as you’d expect from such a travel giant.

Hostelworld  – While I love a bit of luxury, I don’t mind a hostel dorm either – especially if it means I can save money and travel for longer. The reviews are one of the most valuable parts of this site.

Get Your Guide – want to go cooking in the sunflower fields on a Vespa in Italy? Get Your Guide probably has a tour for that. You can read reviews and book ahead which is much better than turning up and trying to scratch around for good tours that have last-minute availability (as elusive as a unicorn).

Intrepid Travel – I travel independently about 98% of the time but sometimes I want to join a guided trip, not least because planning your own trips all the time is exhausting. And when I do hop on a tour, I like Intrepid best for their small groups and focus on local culture.

Flight Search Websites

Want one website that will do all the searching for you? There are a couple of sites that will search multiple airlines.

Skyscanner – I particularly love the flexibility to search by month/cheapest time of year and the fact that you can search by country or even ‘everywhere’ has sent me on plenty of adventures. – is it wrong to include Cheapair because I love the look and feel of their website? Plus, the search function is really simple. If you’re new to online flight checking, start here.

CheapOAir – they have a best price guarantee and real humans to speak to if you want to (not to be confused with CheapOair).

Flight Network – the price drop protection offer looks pretty compelling: if the price drops, they will refund the difference – in credit, not cash, but still…

Kayak – particularly useful if you’re travelling in the USA and I love the ‘explore’ map featuring prices – hours of fun can be had.

Google Flights – Google launched with a pretty rigid offering (specific dates and destinations) and rarely offered competitive prices, but the search function seems to be getting better so I’m keeping an eye on this one.

For more tips on booking flights, check out my related articles:

101 Tips for Cheap Flights

Dynamic Pricing: Flight Pricing’s Biggest Scam

If you only have time for one other article, read up on dynamic pricing – it’s a web-wide way of making you pay more for your flights and all the airlines seem to be in on it. Don’t worry, I have tips for beating it.

Airlines for booking direct

With all the flight search websites out there, why would you book direct? There are a few reasons: not all airlines are covered by all of the search sites; if you’re trying to spend air miles (or, in some cases, collect them); if you want a bit more control/information over your booking (e.g. booking seats and checking luggage); and sometimes booking direct can be cheaper.

This list isn’t exhaustive (at the moment) but I’ll keep adding to it.

Air France

Air New Zealand

British Airways

Cathay Pacific




Hawaiian Airlines




Qatar Airways


Singapore Airlines

Swiss Airlines

Virgin Atlantic


Collecting airmiles: If you’re interested in learning more about how to collect air miles, check out my series of travel hacking articles here. Sorry, it’s aimed at people in the UK but you can find details about collecting USA air miles here.

Best Car Rental Websites – my go-to car rental site is It’s a price comparison website for cars which saves you the hassle of searching on each rental brand’s individual website.

If you’re looking to book direct (to earn points, priority pick up or other benefits), here are some of the main companies.

Auto Car Europe

Avis (UK)



BlaBlaCar  – I first heard about BlaBlaCar in Spain and I think it’s a brilliant idea – pop in where you are and where you’re going to and a list of ride shares (with associated fuel costs) are listed. If you don’t want to hire a car or go by public transport, this is a great alternative.

Websites for booking trains

One of my favourite ways to travel is by train and, if I can, I’d rather sit on a train for several hours than hop on a flight. I’m still researching train booking sights for other areas, but here are my favourite sites in some of the spots where I’ve taken some epic train journeys. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got other suggestions.

The Trainline  – My absolute go-to for train booking. The Trainline not only seamlessly integrates all of the disparate regional companies, but there’s also a great app and it all just works. Bonus: when my train from London was delayed recently, The Trainline claimed a refund and popped the money back in my bank before I even realised it had happened. That’s what I call good service.

GoEuro – my favourite part about this website is the ability to seamlessly plan a trip across Europe without going via the various country-specific websites. You pay a small fee but it’s usually worth it, not least because you can book in English without questionable translations and instructions for ticket collection.

Caledonian Sleeper –  taking the sleeper train from London to the Scottish Highlands had been on my bucket list for a long time but finally, I did it. You can read about that trip here.

AmtrakI haven’t found a simpler or cheaper way of booking rail travel in the USA than via Amtrak.

ViaRail –  I’ve got plans to take a coast-to-coast trip across Canada and this has been my favourite planning resource.

The JR Pass – If you want more tips on booking your rail pass for Japan, you can find out more here. Beware – you need to book this money-saving ticket before you arrive in Japan.

El Chepe (the Copper Canyon Train) – after years of dithering with safety concerns, I finally took this amazing journey through Mexico’s Copper Canyon. You can read my tips for booking here.

The Blue Train – another journey I’m desperate to take is on the Blue Train in South Africa. Have you been? Share some pictures with me on Facebook!

The Trans-Siberian Rai

lway – ok, so this link is to the Seat 61 website (see below) – there are many different options for booking this train and the man in Seat 61 does a great job of giving you all the choices.

The Man in Seat 61 – For all train trip planning, check out this website. This man is a Wikipedia of train travel.

Websites for booking buses

As with train travel, buses are going to be a highly local experience but here are some of the top bus websites to get you started. I’ll return to this section and add the country-specific services I’ve used e.g. in Mexico, Cuba, Asia.

Megabus – strange but true – bus travel is my least favourite form of transport outside of developing countries. Why? I guess there is something exciting about sitting on a sack of rice in an aisle on a local bus in Colombia. Sitting on the rice of your neighbour’s burrito on a trip in the USA: somewhat less exotic. Still, of all the bus companies, Megabus has got to be the best of them (IMO) and they operate in Europe and North America.

National Express – a similar offering to Megabus – compare the two if you’re on a budget.

Greyhound – I’ve sat on more Greyhound buses in the USA than I care to remember and all with varying quality (the ones in Texas are very glam – elsewhere, not so much). However, it’s a cheap way to get around even if I find the company lacking in anything close to customer service. Available in North America and Australia..

Rome2Rio – this is one of my favourite sites because it lets you plan any route with impressive detail. I’m including it here because it’s a great way of identifying which bus companies operate in which cities.

Websites for getting to the airport

I’ve got a couple of recommendations for taking the time, stress and cost out of air travel. I’ve used all of these companies and would recommend them.

Airport Parking Reservations – if you’ve ever turned up at the airport and paid on the day, you’ll understand the value of booking parking in advance.

Super Shuttle – With availability in the USA and some of the major European cities (London, Paris, Amsterdam, for example), I use this shuttle service when I can. Door to door but at the snip of a taxi price, particularly if you’re travelling solo. Also, booking is simple.

Priority Pass – if you do a lot of travelling but you don’t have enough airline status to get free access into an airport lounge, Priority Pass could be the answer. I travelled with one for a year and it was worth the cost not only because coffee and croissants are pricey at the airport but for fast wi-fi, a quiet space too and even shower facilities if you’re on a particularly long trip.

Uber – I get the feeling Uber is a bit like Marmite (a strange British spread that half the country loves and half the country hates). Like Marmite, I love Uber – cheap prices, no rip-off trips, no haggling. If I can Uber to the airport (and around town when I arrive), I do. If you’ve not tried Uber, here’s a discount code: jof558ue for those who aren’t familiar with this taxi service, it’s an app so you’ll need a smartphone. Worried about safety? Read my article here.

Best Hotel Search Sites

I suspect there are as many hotel booking websites are there are countries – probably more. Here are some of my favourites as well as some of the more popular ones. As mentioned above, I tend to stick with TripAdvisor but it’s worth playing around with a few sites to find the one you prefer.

Hotels Combined – this site is great because it searches across the following websites, some hotel brands’ websites and even a few sites I’ve not heard of. In short, it does all of the hard searching work for you.

Amoma – I’ve personally never booked via this site but they do have a best price guarantee. – I like when I’m feeling indecisive as they usually have great cancellation options.

Expedia – I got excited a while back by Expedia’s points program until I realised the points were worth less than a grain of sand. Still, they regularly have some of the best prices on the market.

GetaRoom – another one I’ve not used, but I’d be interested to hear is anyone has used their ‘call for unpublished rates’ option.

Hotwire – great deals, especially if you don’t need to know the name of the hotel before you book – the map and search results make for great browsing, too.

Otel – another site offering best price and telephone support. I’ve not used them – let me know if you think they’re good or not.

Priceline – Priceline is rarely competitive for named hotels but using their ‘Name Your Own Price’ (bidding) and ‘Express Deals’ (the hotel name is a secret until after you book), I’ve booked some brilliant hotels at bargain prices. I’ve written about how to get the best deals via Priceline.

If you want to supplement your search, here are a few more sites to try.

Agoda – I’ve found Agoda to be particularly competitive when booking in Asia – less so elsewhere.

Booking Buddy – With Booking Buddy, you can search other sites in one place. However, the interface bothers me – it’s not as slick, but it’s worth a try if you have more patience than I do. – I’d feel remiss if I didn’t include this site. – is it me or does feel a bit vintage these days? Still, I love their secret hotel deals (I recently booked one in Barcelona).

Hotel websites for booking direct

As with flights, there are occasions when it pays to book hotels directly with the company – some offer a best price guarantee, you can collect points with some big brands and there might be bonuses e.g. breakfast, free Wi-Fi or a room upgrade.

Also like the airlines, it’s pretty difficult to cover ALL hotels, so I’ve stuck to the main brands and groups – do let me know if you think I’ve missed anything big and I’ll also update this over time.

Accor Hotels – the group that includes Sofitel, Novotel, Raffles, Swissotel, Pullman, Grand Mercure, Ibis, Fairmont, Adagio and a few others.

Best Western – I used to think Best Western was best kept for cheap airport hotels…until I found a beautiful Best Western in an old Italian building in the Prosecco area of Italy.

Citizen M – if you’re after a chain hotel that doesn’t feel like a chain, check out this brand. Sign-up to their newsletter for freebies (cash discounts and welcome drinks) as well as other offers.

IHG – the Intercontinental Hotel Group has you covered for Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Kimpton and Hotel Indigo (to name a few).

Luxury Hotels Group – if you’re after luxury and five-star boutique hotels and resorts, check out LHG.

Radisson – Part of the Carlton Rezidor Group, last time I looked on this website there was a $20 off steak offer, which pleased me immensely.

Riu Hotels  – offering both hotels and resorts worldwide.

Small Luxury Hotels – I went through a phase of only booking through this website. Checking back, I think I need to go through that phase again.

Thistle Hotels – with a curious offering in the UK and Asia, Thistle has a small but interesting collection.

Wyndham Hotels – another huge group covering TRYP, Ramada, Super8, Days Inn and Travelodge (amongst others).

Best Hostelbooking websites

I was in my 30s before I stayed in my first hostel and I was thrown by the lack of concierge. Still, I got into the groove and I will still happily stay in a hostel. Great for meeting people if you’re travelling solo and also keeping your budget intact if you’re on a longer trip. There are a few great booking sites but don’t neglect to check the hostel websites directly as often the price is cheaper.

Hostelworld – another of my favourite sites, if you want only one hostel booking site, use this one. It’s the biggest and most popular site for a reason.

Hostelbookers – when I first started booking hostels, this was my preferred site – they were often cheaper and offered a greater range of rooms. But things change. For example, did you know that Hostelworld now owns Hostelbookers? So, same, same but different. If you prefer a different interface, check out this site.

YHAI’ve stayed in some excellent YHA (Youth Hostelling International) hostels around the world (including one that was in a mansion in the USA!) but, depending where you’re going, they don’t always feature on hostel booking sites, so it’s always worth checking the site directly.

Best Apartment Rental Websites

Peer-to-peer rentals have become big business in recent years and I’ve definitely taken advantage of this new trend. From a centrally located apartment in Florence to a month-long stay in Madrid, you really can live like a local. Just check the fees – for a short stay on your own or as a couple, the fees can push the price past a decent hotel.

Airbnb – no doubt the biggest of the apartment rental websites out there. I’m not a huge fan of Airbnb for many reasons. Personally, I typically book my apartment rentals through

FlipKey – as well as the usual apartment rentals, you can get some pretty spectacular spaces on Flipkey, like that time I stayed in a castle in Ireland.

GoWithOh – If you’re looking for a lovely, upmarket pad, then check out GoWithOh.

VBRO – more vacation rental than renting a place in someone’s house, if you’re looking for somewhere that has been designed for renting out for holidays, VBRO is it.

Snapstays – pre-vetted rentals that are ideal if you’re looking for a medium-term rental (a week or months). Started by a couple of guys who were frustrated at the lack of reliable rentals (and Wi-Fi) when they wanted to rent for longer-term stays. They’re adding new locations all the time.

Websites for booking tours and sightseeing

More often than not, I turn up and book my trips in-country, but that doesn’t always pay off (twice I’ve been to San Francisco and I’ve still not managed to get tickets to Alcatraz). So, booking in advance definitely has its advantages, which often include discounts for booking online.

Get Your Guide – as I’ve mentioned, Get Your Guide is my go-to tour booking company. They have a slick app and it’s good to read honest reviews from other tourists.

City Pass – if only there was a website that offered one pass that gave you access to the top sights in major US cities and with great discounts on entry. Oh, wait there is. City Pass. If you’re big on sightseeing and like to cram stuff in, these passes are likely to pay off.

City Sightseeing Buses – ever since I ruptured the ligament in my knee (ouch), I’ve become a huge fan of the city sightseeing buses. Well-priced, good routes, reliable, fantastic for getting a city overview and with great commentary (even if the local background music usually ticks the cliché box), I’ll be taking these buses even once my knee if fully recovered.

Smart Destinations – a similar idea to City Pass but allowing you to choose the number of attractions, the Go City Card is also US-centric but with the addition of London.

London Pass – speaking of London, here are the main attractions pass operator in the city.

The New York Pass – likewise for New York.

Firenze Card – I’m also a big fan of the Firenze Card for Florence. I did a painful but detailed price by price comparison to see whether it was worth the cost. You can read about it here.

I know that 3 cards for 3 cities aren’t enough – consider this a work in progress and feel free to ping me any recommendations.

Get Your Guide – One of the most popular and often cheapest tour booking search engines online. If you’re not sure what’s going on where you’re going, start here.

Viator – No doubt one of the biggest tour providers out there, I love that they always seem to have a tour no matter which country I’m in and they’re well-priced too. Not only that, there are some pretty inventive options as well as private tours and cooking classes. You name it, Viator will probably do it.

Intrepid Travel – I mentioned above that Intrepid Travel is one of my 5 favourites and I’m pleased to see that they do shorter day (or multi-day) sightseeing tours. If you’re looking to get under the skin of a country, start here.

Urban Adventures – the sister site of Intrepid Travel. If you’re after a day of the ‘best fun ever’, these 100% responsible tours across 70 destinations are well-priced and brought to you by a well-trusted brand.

Travel Insurance Websites

Travel insurance is a tricky one. Different countries have vastly different offerings and the landscape is constantly shifting (for example, mobile phones have become too expensive for many insurance companies to include them as standard). I would like to use my legal knowledge (and inner geek that likes reading small print) to put together a resource for the best travel insurance companies and I’m sure I’ll get this done one day.

If you’re looking to buy travel insurance, check out my article: Travel Insurance – Don’t get screwed by the small print.

Websites for cheap and free travel

Couchsurfing – Couchsurfing has had its ups and downs but it’s still going strong, which is no surprise as it lets frugal and social travellers grab a free bed for a night (or more) courtesy of generous locals.

Trusted Housesitters – although I’ve never been in the right place at the right time, I know plenty of travellers who use this website to bag free stays around the world. Usually, there is pet-sitting involved but not always. Downside: there is a sign-up fee so it’s not entirely free.

Find A Crew  – want to offer up your skills (cooking, deckhand) in exchange for a free sailing adventure, check out Find A Crew. Do a bit of research on your captain before you board – I know one friend who ended up stranded on a strange island after the captain got drunk and abandoned his crew! It all ended well but still…

WOOF – if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m the anti-mother nature who can kill a thriving tree with the wrong glance, this would be on my bucket list. Operating for 45 years, WOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Farms) connects volunteers with farmers where you can trade work for room and board.

Workaway – similar to Woofing but with a much broader set of volunteer jobs, you can teach, nanny, work in the hostel/hotel industry and even help build a sauna (probably a one-off gig, but still cool).

Free City Tour – want a guided tour without the cost? Covering cities all over the world, Free City Tour offers a fantastic selection of local tours provided by local guides. Do be aware that the guides offer their time for free so work based on tips. Even a small contribution is better than nothing and just think of the good travel karma you’ll get.

I’m disappointed that most of the crowdsourcing sites that focused on travel have fallen off the map (I had grand plans for Trevolta) but I live in eternal hope and will keep you posted if I find one (or let me know if you’re aware of one).

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Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.