High street travel agents may have lost the battle to online traders but time-honoured booking rules still hold good — do it well in advance, or at the last minute, for the best deals.
THE MOST USEFUL WEBSITES
if you’ve got a specific hotel in mind, look it up on www.tripadvisor.com, type in your trip dates, then click search and it will compare the costs at a range of sites including www.hotels.com, www.expedia.co.uk, www.booking.com, and www.venere.com. Check out www.trivago.co.uk, too, and before booking, always do a last phone call to the hotel direct to see if they will beat the agent’s price or chuck in some extras like a massage or transfers.
Consider a “secret hotel” - where you don’t know exactly which you’ve booked but know its location, star rating and facilities - at www.hotwire.com and www.lastminute.com. Google the hotel’s description and you’ll often find its identity revealed anyway. Or branch out from hotels, consider one of the new brand of boutique hostels that’s sprung up - www.hostelbooks.com list thousands - or a holiday home - www.holidaylettings.co.uk will help.
You might not hear about them much nowadays but there are still really good deals out there. Sign up to the weekly email from www.travelzoo.co.uk now: it sends out some cracking deals each week so you should spot one you love.
A top way to a cheap break, especially if your home is near the Olympic stadium and you’re planning on going away this summer: it could push up demand if you’ve decided not to rent it. Visit www.homeexchange.com or www.homelink.org.uk. You’ll have to sign up as a member to do a swap, which costs about £70 a year at HomeforExchange and £115 a year at HomeLink. At www.SwapMyCityPad.com, professionals who are gold members paying £50 a year can sign up to a specialist network, thereby opting to swap homes with a lawyer, or doctor, etc.
This hot trend will see you either secure a bed or sofa in someone’s home for free, or for a very low price. The biggest sites are www.CouchSurfing.org, and www.airbnb.com.
* For flights, be as flexible as possible, travel at the cheapest times – outside of school holidays, flying mid-week - then visit www.Skyscanner.net where you can compare fares and find the cheapest day to fly. My top flight comparison sites include www.momondo.com and www.kayak.co.uk.
* Ferries offer cheap deals if you book a month or more in advance. Aggregator site www.ferrysavers.com will tell you which operator is in charge of the route you want, but always check if it could be cheaper to finally book direct.
* Trains - if you’re hoping to go to Europe or anywhere in the UK by train, visit www.seat61.com. It will tell you everything you want to know - and possibly a lot you didn’t - about how to secure the cheapest tickets.