June 14

The Best Travel Websites for Thoughtful Travellers – 2020

Plan Your Next Trip

Here's my collection of the best travel websites for all stages of dreaming, planning, booking and remembering your trip based on decades of professional travel. 

For free access to our travel library, try our newsletter service here.

Woman working at laptop with sunglasses

The Best Travel Resources for Booking and Planning Your Trip


As a regular contributor to The Independent's 50 Best Travel Websites feature, I know my way around travel websites. As a frequent traveller myself, I practically live on the things.

From dreaming about a trip, planning a trip, writing up a trip and reviewing trips for work, these are the travel resources, online booking sites, search engines and route planners I use to help me get the job done. Booking travel has never been easier - even if it doesn't feel like it at times.

So here's my list of the best travel websites in the world. 

If you book or buy through the links on this page, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. However, we only ever recommend things we believe in and use ourselves. We also don't earn a commission from all of these travel websites. Alas ;-)


The Best Travel Websites for Booking Hotels

Al Bait Hotel interior in Herat of Sharjah
Rooms in Villa Vager in the Peloponnese

For Somewhere Special to Stay

Design Hotels

Beautiful, stylish and with up to 40% off for members, the chic and sleek Design Hotels website is a firm favourite of mine. Membership is free, quick and easy on the eye.

Best Loved Hotels

 Best Loved Hotels gathers together properties from the UK and Ireland that show a real passion for what they do. From countryside manors to city break boltholes, I've stayed in several of their properties and have loved each one.

Mr & Mrs Smith

You may be forgiven for thinking this gorgeous collection was all about romance, but beyond finding great places for anniversaries and honeymoons, Mr & Mrs Smith cover great child friendly places too. Not just a website for inspiration, you can book directly on the site. 

Small Luxury Hotels

The name says it all. Small Luxury Hotels collect together independently minded hotels on their website and promise - and deliver - an authentic travel experience.

Leading Hotels of the World

Another website that wears its heart on its sleeve, Leading Hotels of the World gather together more than 375 luxury properties (including resorts) around the world. 

Best All Rounder Hotel Booking Websites

These are the best travel websites for booking flight and hotel packages together or for searching for accommodation when you have very specific needs. 

Lastminute.com

I've grown old with Lastminute.com, originally because I fell in love with the name. But over the years, I still find them useful for last minute city break or resort based holidays (vacation packages if you're from the US.) They're an online travel agency with easy to navigate interface and lots of hotel and flight packages.

Expedia

Expedia is SO big and all-encompassing that it's sometimes easy to get lost within the website. But that's also its strength for when your travel plans don't fit into the travel sites I've mentioned above.

TripAdvisor

The great green travel website can really give you an inside look at a hotel. Yes, some of the reviews are fake but even the bad reviews can be helpful. One person's "bad review" because there was no nightlife is another's blissful discovery if they want a quiet, relaxing stay. 

Plus, you get the benefit of booking through a trusted source with backup. AND the TripAdvisor community is really helpful if you have specific niggly questions about a destination.

Booking.com

Booking.com offers more search filters for hotels than anything else I've come across. When the specifics really matter (rather than the sense of atmosphere or design) then I turn to Booking.com It's a powerful hotel search engine, with guest houses and self-catering options as well.

View of sunset from an aeroplane on a long haul flight

The Best Travel Websites for Finding Flights

Skyscanner

Skyscanner is the travel agent boyfriend or girlfriend with special deals you never had. Skyscanner listens, remembers your birthday, cleans your windscreen and empties the bin even when it isn't its turn.

Well, OK, it doesn't do any of that but it DOES make it very, very easy to look for flights. Instead of forcing you to enter the same details in, or tie you to a date, Skyscanner uses filters and choices that simplify the flight-finding process. You can also search by price and switch currencies between dollars, euros, sterling and more.

If you have any flexibility in your planning, Skyscanner can let you search through the whole month for the best fare, slide filters for time of day, number of connections, just about anything. The only weak spot is searching for flights with infants, where the system is a little glitchy. Other than that, it's one of the best airfare sites.

Feynan Ecolodge in Dana Nature Reserve Jordan

The Best Travel Websites for Driving Holidays and Road Trips

AA Route Planner

This is another travel website that I love for its simplicity. Want to know how to get from A to B? Enter it in the AA Route Planner.

See a map. See journey times.

You can just leave it at that or add in stop off points and adjust for traffic and so on. The only problem is that it's limited to Europe...


MAPQUEST ROUTE PLANNER

MapQuest offers fantastic coverage of the United States and is free and easy to use to help plot our road trips. 


Google Maps

Google Maps, on the other hand, cover the world. But it's slightly more fiddly to use. 

It's a lifesaver while actually on the road but it's also useful in planning. You can save destinations, plot itineraries and tweak public maps for your own trips.

Hertz FOR CAR RENTAL AND ROAD TRIP PLANNING

I've driven cars all around the world and used all kinds of car rental companies and rental cars. Sometimes needs must but these days, wherever possible, I book through a reputable, international company. 

Hertz is one of my favourites. It's so widespread and well-organised. Plus, as an inside tip, if you sign up to their Gold members programme (for free) you can quickly get lots of benefits. This year, they announced some end to their US operations but will still be working across Europe. 

I also use the the Hertz Interactive Road Planner for inspiration and route planning. You don't need to book with them to use it, just click and go. 

Healthy Tray of Treats at the One Aldwych Luxury Hotel in London Near Covent Garden

Healthy Tray of Treats Room Service at One Aldwych, Covent Garden

The Best Travel Websites for Health

And Other Essentials


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Clearly, you should consult your own doctor before you travel. But, the CDC Travel Website is the one my medical friends recommend. So, don't rely on it entirely. You do need an appointment with a real person. But it's helpful to get an idea of what vaccinations and medication you are likely to need for certain countries before you decide to book. This applies all the more if your situation has changed due to a recent illness or pregnancy. 


MONEY SAVING EXPERT

Martin Lewis' Money Saving Expert website firmly focuses its attention on a UK audience. It provides regularly updated and researched guides on essentials from currency exchange to travel insurance and finding cheap flights. 

They also crunch the numbers with credit cards, publishing spreadsheets and tables to help you navigate the world of credit card rewards and the best way to save money.

Train in the snow


The Best Travel Websites for Travel by Train


DB Rail Planner for Train Travel in Europe

I love the DB site. It covers almost all of Europe and has an English version that is so easy to use. 

National Rail Journey Planner

National Rail itself may be long gone but as a travel website, the National Rail Journey Planner is the best I've found to negotiate the different rail networks of the UK.

Eurail (Formerly InterRail)

Forget the sweaty backpacker image. The Eurail network includes First Class rail travel through glossy transport hubs. You can buy a range of rail passes or simply use their maps, itineraries and suggestions to help you plan your rail trip through Europe.

Heathrow Express

This remains the fastest way to reach the city centre of London from London's Heathrow Airport, as well as Paddington Station, the gateway to the west, southwest and Wales. Using the Heathrow Express website in advance, you can book tickets for as little as  £5.50. Plus, children 15 and under travel for free.

Travel packing tips and hacks

The Best Travel Websites for Special Occasions

HONEYMOONS

While you can build your own honeymoon through the travel resources above, niche travel website 101 Honeymoons takes the hard work out of the equation for you. It filters honeymoons by month, interest and family situation, with trusted input from some of the top travel writers in the trade. 


CULTURAL CRUISES

Everyone has different tastes. I prefer smaller cruises with plenty of cultural and adventurous options and excursions. 

I would highly recommend Avalon Waterways for cruises in Europe and beyond and Uncruise Adventures for small ship cruising in Alaska.

Self Catered Cottages and Glamping in the UK

For ease of use, the app that comes with Sykes Cottages makes it easy to plan a trip away in snippets of down time in a busy life. Quality Cottages sweeps some gorgeous luxury cottages into view in wales. 

Glampingly remains my favourite site for finding quirky yet comfortable glamping spots in Europe. Want to know why? Check out this collection of the best treehouse holidays in the UK.  

With a mix of glamping and alternative places to sleep, Canopy and Stars fills in the gaps. 


Did you enjoy this collection of the best travel websites? Bookmark the best travel sites for later on Pinterest...

The best travel resources for thoughtful travellers. Bookmark these travel websites and tools to help plan your trip to Europe, Canada, the Caribbean and beyond. #Travel #resources #abiontheroad
The best travel websites for cheap flights and great deals. Find the best travel toolkits and guides for booking flights, finding cheap deals, hotels, car rental, honeymoons, rail journeys, health advice and more. My tried and tested travel resources.


Tags


  • Hi Abi, great lists. As a lover of Seville maybe you could share some of your favourite small hotels for me to check out for my Only Spain Boutique Hotels collection. I know it has many and only 2 hours from home, I donĀ“t have any there yet!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    top picks

    October 22, 2020

    The best road trip quotes fuel the imagination and drive the quest Read more here...

    August 19, 2020

    What do you need to pack if you're travelling during the Covid-19 Read more here...

    April 30, 2020

    The best travel movies can transport us to the other side of Read more here...


    About the author

    Abi King

    Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Find out more.

    Looking for something else?

    >
    shares