Most of our planning happens while we’re still on holiday. We’re already looking to the next place, next country and next trip.
We both have now, unintentionally, found our ‘roles’ when it comes to holiday planning. Nick is logistics man, if you need flights, transfers or use of public transport he’s the one to call. Me, I’m more excursions and entertainment. I can be logistically minded, as hotels falls to me, but I can find lists of things to see from one quick search.
As you read, you will most likely find these steps are along the same lines to what you would expect flights, hotel etc. Obviously you need flights and somewhere to stay, they are a given, but what about all the little things?
What about looking for things to see and do, currency, car parking and little gems few know about? What about the best sites to use? What’s the best way to go about planning and booking a holiday?
So, let’s get started…our general order for booking a holiday is:
- Travel insurance
- Car parking
All links to websites we use can be found here.
First things first – Where do you want to go? And what is there to do?
Two big questions when we are planning our holidays. Most of the time we already have an idea for our next holiday while still on holiday. We’re not at the point where we’re booking flights etc but it’s close.
Once we have talked about all the places we would like to go, we start thinking realistically. While logistics man Nick looks for flights (see below) I, being excursions and entertainment, do a quick Google of places to see and things to do, as well as hotel availablity and prices.
Some places can seem a good idea initially, but, after comparing to others there’s just less to do and so are put to one side. Or sometimes there is lots to do but the cost of hotels and flights is just that bit too much to justify for the time being.
Some holidays just come to us by accident. Berlin, for example, wasn’t even on our radar (don’t know why now) until the large aquarium in the Radisson Blu hotel popped up on a search. We were sold from the first picture and then by all the amazing and interesting places to see.
Once we are set on where we want to go, any places of interest end up on a written list ready to take with us when we do go. Mostly this is to make sure we don’t miss anything we had wanted to do.
We tend to just use:
- Google – for things to see and do
- Trip advisor – for a general review of hotels and usually bluntly honest.
- Booking.com – for hotels.
- Ryanair or Easyjet – for flights.
So, now we have the location, round-about prices and we’ve booked our days off from work it’s now time to get started and book our flights. Most of our trips are booked with either Ryanair or easyJet simply for convenience, both tend to have set places they travel to in Europe.
With our jobs in offices, we’re lucky that we don’t tend to be limited or restricted to certain dates. As long as no one else is off at the same time it tends to be pretty quick and easy.
Nick will typically look for the best prices in relation to which days we fly on. The majority of our holidays tend to be Thursday to Sunday, although Sunday flights will be a bit more it means only two days holiday at the end of the week when it’s quieter. Also travelling mid week on 6am flights will even out a higher price for Sunday.
A new tradition is adding priority boarding to our flights. More often than not we hear ‘this flight is booked to capacity so we can only guarantee x number of bags.’ With this extra option it removes the chance of your bag going in the hold and having to wait the other end – a big plus when you’re only travelling with hand luggage!
Not to mention the great feeling of walking past the lengthy queue to head to ‘priority’.
Hotels are my department, we may make the final decision together but the shortlist is carefully created by myself. We’re quite easy going when it comes to a hotel but going from our past bookings a certain level of luxury is apparently very important to us.
There are a few things I will look for first of all:
- Location – How close is the hotel to landmarks and train stations?
- Price – Is this the best price? Value for money in terms of facilities?
- Reviews – Compare booking.com reviews to Trip advisor
This will typically be the order in which I would rule out or shortlist a hotel. If a hotel isn’t close enough or is in a far from glamorous area, then it doesn’t matter how cheap or great the reviews are, its not ideal. Time spent travelling to sites can take precious time away and mean some sights/attractions are missed.
Reviews are a big part of our decision process, I will tend to have two tabs open, booking.com in one and tripadvisor on the other, when finding hotels. It is always best to find most the most recent reviews first, this can give you a better idea of how it is at the moment. I then tend to compare reviews on tripadvisor and booking.com to then form a general idea of the hotel we are looking at.
Tip – Take any reviews with a pinch of salt, one person’s opinion is not fact. Aspects which are a deal breaker for one person may only be a minor annoyance for another.
Holiday extras has become our go to for airport car parking, they consistently have at least 15% discount on prices. We will always go for the cheapest option whether this is jet parks, mid stay or long stay, although sometimes it is vital to check transfer times incase they are excessive.
I am only now starting to look into cash back sites such as ‘Topcashback‘ which will give you a % back for ‘Holiday extras’ as well as Booking.com and flights. We wish we had known this BEFORE booking 3 sets of flights, hotels and car parking!
Tip – Sign up to airports own sites for email discounts, they may be better than or the same as airport parking sites, like holiday extras (who price match – bonus).
Whether it’s a bus, train, tram or taxi when we land we like to look ahead so we don’t have the ‘now where?’ questions. We can head straight to where we need and know roughly how much it will be, allowing for both the to and from trips in our budget.
Some places like Iceland for example, meant transfers needed to be booked in advance, other places like Rome we wished we hadn’t.
Time to make it official and book everything you need.
- Travel insurance
- Car parking
- Order currency
We tend to order our currency from the website offering the best rates. Usually this is Tesco, as in the store the rate can change. In terms of travel insurance I used to just use Boots, as it was a well known company and the items that were covered were good in terms of the money spent.
This year I have chose to go with an annual travel insurance policy (as we had 4 trips already planned). After some research I ended up choosing the AA, this was the one which for me was value for money when comparing all that they cover you for.
Tip – Always compare shortlisted insurance quotes to one another to know how much you are covered for and what is not included.
It is always best to sort travel insurance as soon as your flights and hotel are booked. In the beginning we would wait until 2 weeks before we flew, for no other reason than we just forgot. It was only when, for a trip last year, the doctor advised me not to fly that we panicked we would lose all the money we had paid. Obviously it is not always a given that you would be refunded, but you should be more protected should something stop you from going on your holiday.
Occasionally it has been important to book certain excursions before we set off. Being a complete worrier myself I like to know that something is booked and we definitely have a place and can visit. The Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam for example, we were told by everyone is known to be busy and visiting over the Easter bank holiday weekend we chose not to risk buying tickets or waiting on the day. Until 3pm they only allow in bookings, after this time the loooong queue can then make their way in.
Iceland was another place where the golden circle tour and Blue Lagoon were best booked ahead of time to make sure there was space.
Tip – If you know something will be popular or busy and you can book ahead, it can be easier for peace of mind to simply sort tickets before you go.
A lot of these I know are not insider secrets as I’m sure most people know of or have used Ryanair and easyJet etc, but hopefully you will find some of the tips and links helpful.
All the websites and links are available on my blog always and will be continually updated on the ‘useful websites‘ page found here. Any website we have used to book tickets, flights, hotels and more will be found here for quick reference.