I have spent many hours looking for holidays and in the process have found some great websites and a few tips which I hope you will find useful. I prefer to arrange my holidays myself but I usually also visit a travel agent to see if they can come up with a better deal including transfers.
The first problem with my family is deciding where we want to go (husband: the shorter the flight the better, kids: long haul!) then what type of accommodation (older daughter: 5 star hotel, the rest of us: not bothered!) including whether we want a hotel or self catering. Once we’ve decided where and what, the legwork then starts to find a holiday which we all agree on!
Here is the process I go through to find the perfect holiday:
- Decide your budget (and whether or not there is a bit of room to increase it)
- Identify the area you want to visit and, if flights are involved, check whether your local airports fly there. To do this, check on skyscanner.net, simply put “UK” into the “fly from” box and your chosen destination, this will bring up all the UK airports which fly there.
- Next, I check the flight prices, using skyscanner again, click the calendar in the “Depart” box and choose your month of travel, then click on “whole month”, do the same for the return flight. This will bring up a bar chart showing all the flights and prices available so you can choose your holiday dates and the best flight prices.
- You can also use skyscanner to check hotel prices, which is useful but not comprehensive, so my next port of call is Trip Advisor. On the home page, choose “destinations”, then type in your chosen area; a list of options will appear, click on the one which applies and you will be taken to a page with area information, top rated hotels (split into types), holiday rental options (villas etc), flights and restaurants. This is a valuable resource which will give you more information on your destination and enable you to choose the final area for your holiday. Spend some time browsing, reading reviews and looking at maps.
- Once you have chosen the area for your holiday, start looking at the accommodation available. I start with Trip Advisor as it is so comprehensive, I also like booking.com for hotels, because you can click on “show map” and this will bring up a map of the area showing all the hotels etc in the vicinity, you can zoom in and out to make the area the size you want to look at. This saves a lot of time going back and forth to find places in your chosen area. For villa rentals I also look at Home Away and Owners Direct.
- Remember to check the reviews on Trip Advisor and also look at the traveller photos, not just the professional ones, they can give a much better picture! Try to find reviews for people who travelled at a similar time and in the same circumstances (eg “family” or “couple”) Remember that old reviews may not reflect the current standard.
- Having found your accommodation, Trip Advisor will also give you prices for various websites which can vary a lot! Remember that the prices may not all be for the same standard of room. Try looking at the hotel’s own website to see if the prices are better and even ring them up to double check.
- With your flights and hotel sorted you now need to think about airport parking/taxi transfers and getting to your accommodation at the other end. For airport parking it is worth considering a “meet and greet” service where your car is parked for you off site for a much cheaper rate. This saves time waiting for a courtesy bus at the airport. There are various companies available, eg stress free airport parking, holiday extras meet and greet. It’s worth checking your travel insurance or credit card to see if there is a discounted service available.
- For transfers at the other end, again it is worth shopping around, but I find holiday transfers.com very reasonable. If you decide to hire a car then beware of the “excess insurance”! It is far cheaper to take out a policy in this country, an annual policy will probably work out cheaper, (eg icarhireinsurance £2.99 a day or £39.99 annually). Booking your car hire in advance can be a better idea if you want a car for your whole trip as you can pick it up at the airport, however, if you only want the odd day then ask your hotel as this may be cheaper and it can be delivered to your accommodation.
- Finally, don’t forget your insurance, very important!
For some tips on packing for your holiday, take a look at my post: Holiday Packing!