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Travel planning tips and resources for savvy travelers

Travel planning tips and resources for savvy travelers

We’ve planned many trips over the years and have come to trust and rely on certain companies for travel products and services.

The travel resources below are ones we love and believe in.

We’ve also learned a few tips along the way (e.g., why you sometimes don’t want to book airline tickets with third-parties like Expedia). These tips are shared below too.

Contents: Trip planning resources

Hotels
Booking.com | Agoda | Hotel booking tips

Vacation homes + apartments
Vrbo | AirBnb

Flights
Google Flights | Snagging cheap tickets | Airfare cancellations and refunds | SeatGuru | Airline reviews

Transportation
City transport pass | Taxis | Uber | Car rental

Local tours + attractions
GetYourGuide | CityPASS

Travel gear
Travel shop | Travel product reviews

Travel planning and travel resources

Some links below are affiliate links; we may earn a small commission if you click on them.

Hotels

Booking.com:

As professional travel writers, we’re frequently invited to stay at hotels for free or at a discount so we can review them (see all our hotel reviews).

When we pay for accommodation, we usually use Booking.com. The site has a huge selection of hotels and resorts around the world, and it doesn’t charge any booking fees. Plus, it’s so easy to use.

We like that most properties offer free cancellation and don’t require payment in advance.

(You can often pay less for non-refundable prepayment. But we prefer to pay a bit more for the ability to change our plans.)

Another plus: With Booking.com, once you book a second hotel within two years, you automatically become a “Genius” member. Depending on your Genius level, you get 10% to 15% off hotel rates, free breakfast and free room upgrades at select properties around the world.

Agoda:

Agoda is widely used for booking hotels in Asia – we used it successfully to get good rates on hotels on one trip to Thailand. (Interestingly, it’s owned by Booking.com.)

Rates for some hotels in Asia may be slightly less than on Booking.com.

And some people find that the reviews on Agoda are more detailed.

Finding great hotels:

Why we like Booking.com for hotels

So how do we come up with possible hotels we might like to stay at?

We read hotel reviews by The Telegraph (British newspaper), Mr. and Mrs Smith, Condé Nast Traveler and Forbes.com.

Google, for example, “best luxury hotels in X city” or “boutique hotels in X country” – these publications and sites often yield articles on great places to stay.

We also scour pictures on Pinterest for hotels that look incredible.

Then we dive deeper and check out reviews of particular hotels on TripAdvisor. If a common theme crops up (like “thin walls” and “noisy”), well give the hotel a pass.

Other hotel booking tips:

1) Make sure airport hotels are actually at the airport and have a 24/7 airport shuttle.

2) Check that the hotel is walking distance to restaurants and cafés. You don’t want to be stuck with limited eating options and forced to pay high hotel restaurant prices.

3) Book hotels close to train and subway stations if in big cities, so you can easily get around.

Vacation Homes and Apartments

Vrbo:

If you’d rather not stay in a hotel and would like more space to spread out – plus a kitchen! – check out Vrbo (Vacation Rentals By Owner).

Having a “home away from home” is especially nice when you’re staying put for a while.

VRBO is like Airbnb, but it only offers whole apartment units, cottages and homes – no single rooms in a house (so you don’t have to worry about “sharing” the space with someone else).

Airbnb:

We’re also a fan of Airbnb. We stayed at several Airbnbs in Victoria, BC – the city where we now live – before moving and buying a home here.

Tips for finding great Airbnbs

1) Pick Airbnbs with great reviews and whose hosts are quick to respond to your emails.

2) Choose Airbnbs that are rented out exclusively as a business (not used personally at all) and ones that are professionally cleaned after each stay.

3) Pick a place with Super-hosts – this almost always guarantees a good Airbnb experience.

4) Look at at Airbnb Plus properties – these are listings boasting “exceptional quality, comfort and style” (4.8 average guest rating in the previous year).

Flights

Tips for booking flights

Tips for booking flights:

We often start looking for flights by checking Google Flights first. It’s great for getting an idea of prices and the airlines that fly to where you want to go.

We also check directly with the airline website to see what prices they offer and if they have better connections or routes.

Expedia:

For booking the cheapest flights, Expedia is one of the biggest and best online travel agencies.

(If you’re in Canada, use the Canadian Expedia site.)

Skyscanner:

Skyscanner is a top flight search engine.

We often use it after checking Google Flights.

It compares airfares from more than 1,200 airlines and travel sites to come up with the best deals. Clicking through takes you to the airline or online travel agency where you can book your flight.

One of the first fare aggregators to include low-cost airlines, it’s still one of the best at coming up with the lowest ticket prices.

It’s especially helpful for booking low-cost flights within Europe.

Cancellations and refunds:

It’s very tempting to buy your airline tickets through a third-party website or online travel agency like Expedia, especially when you can find better fares through them.

Just be aware that your tickets may be non-refundable. And if you need to make a change, you typically have to go through the seller; the airline may not deal directly with you (much more hassle than contacting the airline directly).

If the airline offers flights for the same price as Expedia, for example, you may be better off to book directly with the airline. Sometimes you may even prefer to pay more than the lowest price for the ability to change your flights or cancel them for a refund (perhaps with a penalty) – without losing everything.

Because, you know, the best-laid plans of mice and men…

SeatGuru:

And don’t forget to check SeatGuru before booking your seat!

It provides seating plans for most airlines and planes. You want to pick a “green” seat. (We personally also like to be closer to the front of the plane.)

Read some of our airline reviews:

Emirates Airlines | What’s it like to fly economy class on Emirates Airlines?

EVA Air | EVA Air economy is pretty good! We’ll fly with them again.

Qatar Airways | Fasten your seatbelts and fly with us as we share our experience in economy on Qatar Airways

Getting Around

Transportation within a city:

Walk | If we can, we like to walk most places.

Bus, subway, train | For longer distances within a city, check out bus, subway and train transportation options.

Transport pass | Consider a city transport pass. Will it be cheaper than doing multiple bus or subway rides?

Taxis | Don’t assume taxis are always expensive. In some places, cab rides are only a few dollars and worth shelling out for.

Uber | See if Uber is cheaper than a taxi. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

Car Rental:

Hertz is one of the biggest rental car companies, with over 3,700 locations in the U.S. and offices in 150 countries around the world.

You can find offices in cities and places away from airports, which can be convenient if you don’t want to rent directly from the airport.

Hertz also has a very good loyalty rewards program.

Local Tours and Attractions

GetYourGuide:

Traveling independently? You might want local experts to show you around in the city or country you’re visiting.

GetYourGuide is where you can book guided sightseeing and other tours plus adventure activities.

It’s a global platform, used by millions, that connects travelers with more than 40,000 tours and excursions around the world.

Choose from a wide range of experiences – everything from guided walking and bicycle tours to cooking classes to pottery lessons with local artisans.

CityPASS:

CityPASS bundles the admission fees to some of a city’s best attractions and tours in one low price (saving you up to 30 to 50%). And you get to skip many ticket lines too.

Cities where the pass is offered include New York City (Yeah! We loved visiting the Met Museum and other NYC hot spots with CityPASS), Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Orlando, Chicago and more…

Travel Gear

Click here to browse our travel shop!

Our travel product reviews:

Beach sandals | Find cute flip-flops, comfy water shoes and other lovely beach sandals for women.

Travel sandals | See this selection of the best travel sandals for men and women – they’re stylish and super comfortable!

Ear plugs | When you’re a light sleeper, you want the best ear plugs for sleeping (these ones are perfect for at-home and traveling).

Essential carry-on items | Check out the carry-on travel essentials you’ll want to take on the plane with you, from the best travel neck pillow to nifty disposable toothbrushes.

Looking for more travel stuff?

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