Travel resources to make the most of your time. 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.
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, iI 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 I turn to to help me get the job done.
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The Best Travel Websites for Booking Gorgeous 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.
TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR FINDING FLIGHTS
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.
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.
The Best Travel Resources 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...
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. 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.
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.
Get up to 20% off your car rental with Hertz if you book using this link from Inside the Travel Lab.
The Best Travel Websites for Your Health
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.
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 swish First Class travel through glossy transport hubs.
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.
Best Travel Websites for Booking Flights & Hotels Together
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.
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 websites I've mentioned above.
The Best Travel Websites for Finding a Hotel Anywhere
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 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
The Best Travel Websites for Specific Advice
Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum
I'm always touched at the detailed responses I find on the Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum. When a rail strike in Serbia left me stranded, strangers on this travel website found me an alternative route.
Again, it's not just for backpackers!
The Best Travel Websites for Extra Bits and Bobs
Priority Pass works on a membership scheme that provides access to airport lounges in over 1200 different airports across the world. This is really useful for frequent flyers on different routes.
Happy travelling everyone,