We often get asked by family and friends how we get the deals and prices we do. Well, it's taken many years of experience and research to find our favourites and below we share our tips, including the websites and companies we use when we book our holidays.
We use a variety of suppliers depending on the type of holiday and the continent because really there is no one size fits all approach to travel bookings. We will never recommend any supplier we have not used on our own travels.
If you book through any of these links we may receive a small commission, tiny really, but this helps fund this site and keep us blogging so thanks in advance if you do.
However, we have also included sites that we are not affiliated with but we feel offer the best deals.
We use a bunch of sites when booking our vacation accommodation and still do sometimes book direct with the property. We always compare what is offered directly on the hotels website with what the web booking site is offering. If there is no difference we go with the booking site. Unless its a really special hotel or occasion. In those cases we like to book directly so we can let the hotel know how important it is to us.
One of the things I like about booking sites is that you have all your bookings there online when you log in to the site. You can easily see what you have paid and what is still owed.
We have also found that it is often easier to cancel with these websites if you have chosen the a refundable option at time of booking than getting a refund from the property directly. Also if things are not as they should be when you arrive if you have priority status with one of the booking sites they will go the extra mile to sort it out for you.
So who do we use for Short Stays
We started to use Hotels.com because they offer a great reward program with one free night for every ten nights you book. We have managed to redeem four free night in the last couple of years which is very handy. The free nights are worth an average of your booking cost over the ten night in question.
Often you can also book and pay at the destination with free cancellation up to a few days before. I have used this to watch prices and if they drop re-book at the reduced rate.
Booking.com has been great too, especially when travelling in Southern Europe with many small hotels and apartments listed that are not on other sites. After you have booked several nights with Booking.com you achieve Genius status which results in lower rates, a dedicated customer service line and better deals (extras, late checkout ect). We have had this status for a few years now and it makes a big difference.
I don't use Agoda that often but they do have insanely cheap offers for Asian hotels that the others just can't seem to beat. I have also found a range of hotels not on the other booking sites so it is a good place to look when everywhere seems booked out.
Sites we use for longer stays
For when we are staying in one place for a while we prefer to have the convenience of an apartment. Some where to cook a meal, do some washing and generally spread out and have some space to work is important on longer stops. If we are in a city for 5 days or longer than we usually book an apartment.
We have had some really great experiences with Airbnb. We have stayed in apartments in Verona, Porto, Lisbon, Malaga and Brooklyn. If you have not tried Airbnb before this link will give you a AUD$25 credit.
In some cities where Airbnb is not popular or has really changed rental opportunities for the locals like New York, Barcelona and Venice we try to avoid them and stick to specialist apartment rental agencies or serviced apartments.
In Spain and Italy we recommend Habitat Apartments.
Not everything needs to be booked in advance and we actually prefer not to have too much scheduled before we arrive. Saying that though there are sites like the Alhambra, the Vatican and The Last Supper where not having a booking will see you spending $$$ more to access the site on arrival, if that is even possible.
As part of your initial research visiting these tour booking sites can be a good way to see the top attractions in a city and help you decide if you want to include them or not.
The next part of the puzzle is to figure out which places sell out and which need to be booked in advance to guarantee your entry. Sometime it is also cheaper to get tickets outside the country on some things like rail passes.
A bit like the hotels situation one site does not fit all your needs.
Get Your Guide
These days my preferred provided is Get Your Guide. Get your Guide list over 30,000 tours and experiences. I have found their pricing to be really good and the site is easy to use. Most importantly however they are one of the few operators to offer full transparency. Before you book you can see the name of the operator who will be providing the tour you are booking. Check out what they have to offer for your next trip.
We have been using Viator for some of our tour bookings for the last 8 years with no problems. It's not always cheaper but often it is and sometimes it's just easier to have the bookings made or tickets printed before you go. Viator are one of the biggest operators so they tend to list things other people don't.
Check out the offerings on Viator here
Klook is a very popular tour re-seller for attractions and tours in Asia. We have used them several times and most recently booked a bunch of stuff for our upcoming Japan trip at great discounts.
If you can afford to travel you can afford insurance"
My mother drilled into me the importance of having insurance for things you could not afford to pay to replace from a young age so the first time I went travelling insurance was at the top of the list.
The old saying "if you can't afford insurance you can't afford to go" is very true. An accident in the USA could cost you your house, literally! The question is not really should you get insurance, it is really, which insurance should you get? We have experience with a few brands and the two below are the ones I am most comfortable with.
When the ash cloud covered much of Europe in 2010 we were in London at the end of a two-month trip and funds were running low. Getting home was a priority. Our friends were in Germany and were stuck for 10 days. Their insurance company gave little details on what was going on and it was really stressful for them. Cover more communicated clearly and quickly so we felt reassured we would be covered for out of pocket expenses while we waited to fly home. I feel very comfortable recommending them.
World Nomads is a great choice for multi-country trips. It's not the cheapest but it is affordable and covers a ton of options.
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home.. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.