One of the biggest changes the internet has made to our lives has to be around the way we plan and book travel. It must seem incomprehensible to millennials that we used to book a holiday without ever having seen a picture of the hotel, let alone read a wide range of reviews of the place and compared the resort in detail with several others all at the click of a button. If you were fancy back in the day you might have got a brochure and spent several months poring over the glossy pictures portraying the sunlit wonderlands of the Costa Del Sol or Majorca (I’m from the UK, these were the big destinations of choice back in the 80’s and 90’s) then you’d pop along to your travel agent and sit down with an actual person to discuss your requirements. If you weren’t fancy you often took potluck on teletext and booked a two week holiday to somewhere hot. Often we didn’t care where, anywhere with two weeks of sun was enough for us pale white Brits desperately seeking a temporary respite from the rain that seems to afflict every British summer.
To not have seen a picture or read a review of where you were travelling to seems as archaic to me now as watching TV in real time (I’ve heard people still do this!) and buying CDs. Now the only way I book a trip is via endless hours of research online. I compare pictures, both professional and guest, I read reviews of the hotels and resorts and I follow notable instagrammers based in the city or country that I’m visiting to get a feel for the trendy hotspots. I also look up the best restaurants in the city, checking The worlds 50 Best list and the Michelin guide to see if there are any establishments we might want to try while we’re there. Eating at fantastic restaurants is a big part of my travel experience.
These are my favourite travel research websites I use when planning and booking a trip:
It’s usually where I start when looking for hotels in an unfamiliar city. The site can give you the most popular hotels and at least give me some indications of the kind of accommodation I can find in the area.
HotelsCombined is an aggregate travel site and brings together all the travel deals from similar booking engines into one website. You can often find some great deals on this site, if I’ve chosen a particular hotel I nearly always look it up on HotelsCombined to find out if they have it listed cheaper or with a better deal e.g. breakfast included or a room upgrade.
TripAdvisor is an absolute must for me. I know there have been several incidences of fake reviews on the site but I reason that they can’t all be fake on every hotel. Once I’ve selected the hotel I always look it up on TripAdvisor to see what others are saying about it. These opinions really do affect my choices and if somewhere is getting consistently bad reviews I’ll double check my options again. It’s also a great place to check out the ‘true’ pictures of a place, rather than the professional edited ones the hotels want you to see.
Instagram is a cool way to tap into the local knowledge of a place and find some hidden gems that guidebooks and websites might miss. It’s always bang up to date with the folks on there posting about their latest favourite hangouts. Perfect if you’re looking for the hippest bars or coffee shops in an unfamiliar city.
If we’re off on a city break I always check this list and see if there are any dining rooms on it that take my fancy. We’ve had some fantastic hits using this list such as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London and Amber in Hong Kong. They also have Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants as part of the site which has also provided some gems that we otherwise might not have found.
Of course, even if you do all these there’s no rule that says you won’t still end up with a dodgy hotel or a less than fantastic restaurant experience however, as I mentioned in last week’s post, sometimes the most fun, hilarious travel experiences can be the ones that look the worst on paper. Nothing bad comes out of travelling more.
This post is sponsored by Hotelscombined.ae