Part 3 - the best sites at your fingertips
The Complete Booking Guide
Booking online. It has become a travel phenomenon in recent times. Today, most travellers will book online at some point in the booking process.
A lot has changed over the years, and for the better!
Online booking sites have become so powerful that almost every travel booking tool is available on the web today. And that’s good news.
STEP 1 - BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS
1. Airfares, Flights, Airlines
For a complete guide to booking FLIGHTS only, click here.
HANDY TIPS FOR ALL TRAVELLERS
Choosing the right airline for you and your family can mean the difference between a bad flight and a great flight.
There’s always a number of airlines the can get you to a country. Depending on how big the country is will determine how many airlines fly in. Generally the bigger the country (in terms of population and tourism numbers), the more airlines that operate to and from that nation.
TOP TIP FOR TRAVELLERS:
Pick an airline and routing that has minimal stops. Sometimes it pays to pick a better (and sometimes more expensive) airline to get you there the quickest.
👪 Travelling with Kids? You don’t want to travel further and longer than you need to, especially with kids in tow! And especially if you have younger children. Pick the quickest route!
If a city has multiple airports, try flying into another. Sometimes it’s cheaper flying into the city’s secondary airport. (but this could be further away from the ‘centre’ of the city)
The best way to obtain information on which airlines fly into a country is to specifically log onto the airport website of the city you wish to fly in. Every major airport in the world has a web address and will list ALL the airlines that fly into that airport.
HANDY HINT FOR TRAVELLERS
Don’t forget to fill in your immigration cards during your flight and have it ready for customs on arrival. They’re usually required before departing your home country too. Filling multiple cards for your family members takes time! Be organised!
A good travel agent or online booking tool will give you plenty of options.
Scheduled Airlines (World’s leading carriers)
good for travel researching
You can create some interesting options within different regions of the world, or amazing ’round the world’ itineraries through these sites. They can give you some great ideas too.
Flight AIRFARE SEARCH for the general user
For other general searches you can use:
Rome 2 Rio – Rome 2 Rio is a fantastic search site which not only shows flights but also land and sea transport including bus, rail and ferry.
Google flights – Google have a comprehensive airfare
ITA Software – basic but to the point
See our full take on Airfares in general here.
Editors note – get your dates right! Changing your flight can be costly. Remember, every flight costs money. Changing a flight for a family can cost you a mini fortune.
Flights within the country
Flights within a country are normally operated by the national carriers and other main carriers of that country. They’re also operated by low-cost airlines.
Please see our page on low cost versus scheduled carrier here.
These sites are very, very basic sites, a bit clunky and dated, but they do the job. Flycheapo for Europe is the best, hands down.
Attitude Travel – all round low-cost carrier site www.attitudetravel.com
Fly Cheapo – best for Europe only www.flycheapo.com
Low-Cost Airlines.org – another all round site www.lowcostairlines.org
LowCost airlines.com – is more of a search engine and booking site (US site) www.lowcostairlines.com
Handy tips: Need airfare advice? Want more insightful travel tips on booking flights? Please see the following pages:
Seating ‘Can I make a seating request?’
👪Be sure to check and double check that you and your family are seated TOGETHER. Remember that many airlines these days charge for seat selection. Sometimes it’ worth paying the money to get guaranteed seating together. Especially with kids! Although it’s very rare families get separated on flights. Click here for more info.
You can find out about which seats are best on the flight you are taking. SeatGuru is a top site and market leader which gives you the lowdown on the best and worst seats on an aeroplane. The seat mapping is brilliant. Most major airlines are represented. Get your seat sorted before you board the plane. Check out the excellent www.SeatGuru.com
👪 IMPORTANT TIP: Airport Check-In
Allows heaps of time before check-in. Arrive at the airport on time. Immigration/custom queues can be long and time-consuming. Have kids? Many airports do not allow the ‘passport auto-processing’ for adults travelling with children.
Booking any type or form of accommodation online today is easy. There are so many options available at your disposal.
Hotel options offer the most comprehensive selection on the market today. From budget options to luxury deluxe hotels, and everything in between. And the amount of hotel brands and companies is astounding. There really is a hotel suitable for just about everyone.
Want to book a hotel?
Check out our full page on hotel booking sites here.
Want the ultimate beach or island resort? Or what about something in the country? Resorts these days seem to get better and better. Many resort brands come under the umbrella of hotel chains. Major hotel brands represent a stunning array of resort locations worldwide. You can look at the worldwide hotel chain section here.
Private Accommodation – houses, homes, apartments, villas, condos, cabins. The rise and rise of private accommodation. and apartments!
Air BNB has exploded in the last few years. They’ve made the search and booking experience seamless and more enjoyable. Absolutely great for families. They’ve made the whole booking experience ‘cool’.
Home Away has a large collection of booking options. It’s a huge website with plenty of private accommodation worldwide. Great for families.
But above it all, it’s the price that’s the most attractive part of booking private accommodation, particularly for families or larger groups. Compare the cost for yourself. It really has made it affordable for the family traveller.
Motels. (Motels and other forms of budget accommodation)
For example, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States have many motel chains throughout the country for people travelling by car. A great way to start is with either Choice Hotels or Best Western.
Bed and Breakfast (B&B’s)
Better known as B&B’s, they usually in a person’s home, so you feel like its a ‘home away from home’! Great for travelling throughout the United Kingdom (the best), Ireland, many parts of Europe. And to a shorter extent in Australia and New Zealand.
Hostel accommodation is perhaps the most basic budget accommodation option. Great for the backpacker or budget conscious traveller. Hostels are found all over the world. Fantastic for the youth traveller and the ultimate backpacker globetrotter!
A travel crusader special note: This is always a hot topic – and one topic dealt with utter frustration. Be sure you know exactly what the bedding is when you book.
A special message for families
Is there really enough bedding for all the family, including the children?
Existing bedding – DON’T BE FOOLED. Many hotels coin the term ‘children are free when using/or/sharing existing bedding’ with adults. This basically means that kids can use only the bedding that is including in the room. For instance, there may be only a King bed in the room – but a particular hotel can allow up to 2 children free. This can be quite frustrating when you’re sharing a bed with a child between 7-12 years of age. Check and recheck!
We’ve stayed in a few places where hotels have put us in a room whereby at least one child had to share our double bed. Okay if they’re toddlers or below, but not when you have older kids!
👪 TOP TIP FOR FAMILY TRAVELLERS:
Choose family-friendly places for your trip – especially if choosing a resort or hotel that’s a ‘one-place’ holiday destination for your entire stay. Like a resort holiday.
3. Tours / Soft & Adventure Tours
Choose tours that offer good value for money. Many tours and tour operators offer great value, while others offer the bare minimum inclusions.
Local tour operators are really good, given they can also provide all-inclusive costs for the whole family. Especially in Asia.
A note from the Editor: A tour can be a short or extended tour, an activity, an experience, or a fun thing to do! We’ve taken many tours throughout our journeys, and they’ve been some of the most memorable times we’ve ever had.
A tour Includes things like (at least one or all of these inclusions):
- Pick up and drop off from hotels, or other forms of accommodation
- Transfers between locations
- All vehicle transportation
- Led by a Tour Guide – ‘by a human being’
- Entrance into sights
Basically, more and more every day we list any of the above who operate tours in that location you’re viewing on our site.
See our full guide to tours here, or check your destination.
Tours are Fun, Fun, Fun! They’re also:
– Educational: Tours provide a heap of education for the destination you’re in. Have kids? What better education for your children. It’s like an open classroom!
– Informative: So much information is provided by the tour guides. Information that you didn’t know, or information you can’t get from travel guide books.
– Memorable: Tours can honestly be lifetime memories. We still talk about the tours we’ve taken to this day.
The experience gained from tours is invaluable!
4. Car Rental. Car Hire
Having your own car and going ‘wherever you want to’ can be such a rewarding and fun experience. Some of the best times we’ve had travelling are on road trips!
MAJOR WORLDWIDE CAR RENTAL COMPANIES:
(10 HOT TIPS TO BETTER UNDERSTAND CAR RENTAL)
Have you organised your transfer from the airport to the city?
Getting a transfer from the airport to the city should be a seamless and hassle-free process, but sometimes it could be a nightmare if you don’t pre-book it.
Take the stress out of organising a transfer on arrival. Have it pre-booked and avoid the hassle or arranging with unknown operators on arrival. We pre-booked all our transfers on almost EVERY trip we organise.
- COST EFFECTIVE Pretty much costs the same as organising when you arrive
- EASY Instructions are clear when you pre-book
- NO HASSLE No messing about, no hassle when you arrive
- SAFER So much safer when you pre-book. Go for reputable companies.
It seems crazy not to pre-book it!
There are a few ways you can get from the airport you’ve just arrived in the city
- ⭐Private car/or/limo transfers (the best option for families)
- Private coach or bus
👪 Excellent value for money You may want to go on a cruise on your next travel trip? Cruises can offer exceptional value for money, particularly when you break it down per day, and the all the inclusions you get while on board. It may seem costly at first (the upfront cost for all), but when you look into the all-inclusive features, a cruise represents one of the best value for money travel options. And its hassle free!
The most popular cruise destinations include:
– South Pacific
– Europe & Mediterranean
– Southeast Asia
– World cruises – the ultimate
Advantages of cruising:
– Great value for money (break it down per day!) Getting things for kids while travelling can be costly, a cruise has so many things included.
– All-inclusive – almost every cruise on the planet will be inclusive of all meals. ‘Mum, Dad, can I have this?? No problem son, off course you can!’
– Food is great & plentiful. No paying for seconds or extras!
– You generally unpack your luggage once (no need to check in and out of hotels) That solves the problem of unpacking/packing multiple baggage for the family!
– Takes the hassle and stress out of getting from A to B
– Very relaxing. Parents can relax. Children can go crazy on activities! Or Both.
– Very scenic
– Stops at certain ports / Possible for day trips. You get to see countries, but with the safety net of resorting back to the ship as your ‘hotel’.
– Plenty to do on-board!
- Lots of people onboard. This can be quite daunting for many travellers.
- You’re restricted to everything and everywhere the ship goes.
- Many would say ‘not a true travel experience’.
- You’re not on land for most of the time!
- Seeing the true culture of a country is pretty much out the window!
👪 Rail travel is particularly efficient in Europe, and a great way of getting around the continent – over flying.
Advantages of rail travel:
– offers more freedom for independent travel
– great way of seeing the countryside – kids will love the window seats!
– plan or design your own itinerary
– Quick – no roads, stops signs, traffic lights!!!
Disadvantages of rail travel:
– Language barriers in some countries (in Europe)
– Train theft (mainly overnight travel)
Check out a more detailed guide to rail travel here.
👪 Be sure to pre-book seats too.
8. Online Travel Agents (OTA’s) &
Online Booking Tools
There are so many travel booking tools these days, it’s hard to keep up with just how many there is out there.
- Pick reputable, established online travel providers with a solid financial and service history.
- Do they have a phone hotline you can ring? And speak to a real human being?
- Before you book, test the phone number and check the service level they provide
- If it’s a weak or bad service, then stay clear.
- If the service is good and strong, then it could be the right choice
- Make a good judgement call
9. Offline Traditional Travel Agents
There are still plenty of advantages of booking through a traditional, full service, offline (bricks and mortar) travel agent.
– The travel industry is a very confusing and complex industry. Organising your own travel for complex itineraries can be a nightmare and it can be way too hard to handle. It’s definitely not easy.
– A classic travel agent can handle all your family’s travel needs: including air, car, rail, cruises, transfers, packages, bus, tours, adventure tours and more. All in one.
👪 A travel agent is a good back-up to have for your family, in case you need to phone a travel agent and speak to a real human being!
You may also want to check out our guide to Specialist Tour Operators/Agents.
10. Travel Style
What type of travel style are you? How do you like to travel? What do you like to see? Do you like a particular travel theme? What type of traveller are you?
So you’re all booked? Lets look after you at your destination…