Thursday, 25 June 2015

How To Travel Good

This is me and Amy "travelling good"


You can tell I spent a long time choosing the title of this post , “how to travel good”.  It’s really good I am putting my English degree to good use, isn’t it.   Anyways, this post is about how the internet can help you plan and travel in the most economical way possible.  I have my own holy trinity of travel tools, but I’ll list a few more options I also use when booking my trips away.  I hope you find this useful!

 Overall “you should use this all the time” website

Top Cashback is EXCELLENT.  I have been using it for the past 3 years perhaps, and every time I buy something online (whether it’s clothes, toiletries, train tickets, hotel bookings, flight bookings, insurance – ANYTHING) I log onto my top cashback account and see if the retailer has signed up to the cashback scheme.  If it has, then I buy from the retailer Via the cashback site, and low and behold I get some nice moneys deposited into my account.


I have earned over £400 (proof below!) and one of the things I really like about it, is you can have your cashback money either as cash by BACS or paypal, or you can swap it for shopping vouchers – in which case they often add an extra 5% on. 



As this post is about travelling, a selection of current retailers at the time of publishing on Top Cashback are:

Hotels.com (8.4%)
Thetrainline.com (up to 3.67%) (useful if you have to book a lot of travel for work)
Booking.com (3%)
Airparks Airport Parking (up to 17.85%)
Travelodge (up to 4.2%)

The percentages may be small, but over time it all adds up.    It’s also brilliant for insurance – my car insurance this year has cost me around £100 for fully comprehensive insurance – I did a few comparison sites and though prices varied slightly, the same insurer was coming out cheapest.  I then realised that my insurer was on topcashback and offering £70 cashback with all new policies – so what was going to be nearly £200 is now £100!

One rule holds though – don’t be tempted to buy via the cashback site if you weren’t going to purchase it in the first place – and equally, still shop around as prices sometimes aren’t the cheapest from the retailers featured on the site. Savings are only made when you were going to buy from that retailer originally.

They also do a good ‘refer a friend’ scheme, so if you join up from this link, I’ll get some money when you have earned £10 of cashback, and you’ll get a £5 Amazon gift certificate plus your own link to pass onto friends.


An additional “also good to use if you have a Sainsburys near you” tool

Nectar points.  Admittedly they take ages to build up – my £120 worth has been built up over 5 years of petrol station fill ups and 5 years of Sainsbury’s shopping but if you’re a regular reader you’ll have seen I recently went to Madrid for the weekend, and my flight cost me 98p.  Amazing!!!

Nectar points can be collected in a variety of places, notably Sainos but also Homebase, British Gas, eBay and Virgin Trains amongst others.  (This is an eyeopener for me - I am probably missing out on thousands on my bills!) 

You can convert your nectar points quite easily by logging onto the Nectar website.  For easyjet, there’s a widget on the booking site where you can adjust how many nectar points to use for your flight, it's easy to use, and their customer service department are really good too. 

Really good transport sites




I recently discovered Rome2Rio and IT’S BRILLIANT.  I am a bit late to the party as it's been about since 2011, but some clever old sod has spent a lot of time creating this quite frankly fabulous site that tells you the best way to get to places, whether it’s from Rome to Rio, Lake Bled to Lake Garda, or Turkey to Tanzania.  It gives you options for flying, coach, taxi, driving, timings, estimated prices – I wish I had found this site sooner!!



Seat61.com is a highly informative treasure trove dedicated to train and ferry travel.  The site’s run by one man, Mark Smith “the man in seat 61” and contains a whole host of information about train journeys, prices and routes across the globe.  It’s incredible – I used it to find out how to get the train from Ho Chi Minh to Dalat in the absence of anything else and it included details on what different classes of coach there was, including photos and reviews of the coaches, a time table and prices.  It was invaluable – Mark Smith I salute you!



I use this site when booking travel at work – specifically this handy tool, “off peak train times”.  The actual site is a bit confusing and offers a variety of different types of train ticket (off peak, super off peak, any time day, first advance – what!?) but the tool tells you which time trains you can use off peak tickets on.  I used to always buy the ‘anytime’ tickets “just in case”! but now I check to see if I can get away with an off peak, and often I can, saving the company a fair bit of dosh in the process!



I love skyscanner, it’s a really easy to use flight comparison tool. (It also does hotels and car hire, but I primarily us for flights)
There are some nifty things you can do with it:
  • Choose your dates, and select your arrival airport to ‘everywhere’ and it'll show you the cheapest places in the world to go on those dates. Perfect for the indecisive traveller!! (though I do wish you could add a few more parameters to your search – like selecting a continent, or the times you would like to fly)
  • If you know your destination, but don't know when to go, you can select an entire month period which will bring up a graph showing you the cheapest times to fly. 
  • Once you have your destination and dates sorted, you can then use the slidey sidebars to filter departure and arrival times and specific airlines and airports
  • Once you have your price, it’ll bring up price comparisons with Opodo, ebookers, Carlton Leisure etc so you can see if they’re cheaper.

Maps.me is a mobile app where you can download maps on to your phone for offline use – brilliant when you’re abroad as data roaming is so expensive.  You can get maps for most places and it works offline using your GPS.  It’s slightly glitchy on my phone but I think that’s an issue with my phone not the app – my mum uses it and says it’s good.  You can also link it to the geocaching app (see more about that below). It’s available on the appstore and google play and as far as I can remember it is free…


Accommodation websites and apps

The first time I used Airbnb was back in 2012 and few people had heard of it.  Now it’s a household name and there’s so much choice and variety.  People basically rent out their homes or rooms in their homes to strangers on the airbnb site.  You can find all sorts of quirky accommodation from houseboats to garden sheds to  treehouses.  In 2012 we stayed in a brilliant apartment in Rome with a view of the Colosseum from our balcony, a living room, kitchen and bathroom – for cheaper than one of the cheap hotels where we’d have all been sharing one bedroom.  It's fairly safe as both the holiday maker and the host leave reviews for each other, but there are some horror stories, so do your research. (I nearly booked a cheap room in New York before I realised it was a nudist apartment)





TripAdvisor is the holy grail of reviews for practically anything, you name it they have it.  (unless it’s a tiny tiny guest house in the middle of nowhere in Sri Lanka that’s basically their spare room.  They didn’t have that.)  I love reading reviews of places, especially reviews by people who have much much higher standards than me, because their reviews are so self entitled and they moan about the littlest things.  Silly people. Anyway. I’ll often use Trip Advisor in combination with booking.com – booking.com has a really good phone app for no-nonsense on-the-go hotel booking.  I also think their reviews are more accurate – I think because tripadvisor is so well known, if people have got something bad to say about somewhere and they want to vent about it on the internet, they’ll go to tripadvisor, whereas booking.com views are more subjective. 

I often find booking.com cheaper than its counter parts such as hostelworld, tri-va-go, expedia etc though I will always do a price comparison.  ALSO the most amazing thing is when I book something on booking.com, it goes into my phone google calendar, and adds a location star on my google maps, along with the dates that I am staying.  AMAZING!  Though I hven’t worked out if this is a google function, a phone function or a booking.com function.  Either way it’s pretty clever/spooky.


Tools for finding out what to do and where to go


A fairly obvious one, but google!! And added to that, other blogs!!!  I often google the destination I am going to with ‘blog’ on the end, and it’ll bring me to someone’s blog where they’ve already been there and write about the places they went and how they got there and whether they liked it or not.  It’s like a travel agent without the hard selling.



This is my mum’s recommendation - geocaching is a really good way of exploring new places.  Essentially it’s a treasure hunt with GPS co-ordinates which you’ll need an app on your phone for, or a GPS machine.  You can download and pay for the official geocaching app, or a free one called c:geo (available on Google Play).  When you’re abroad and you have internet, you can search for geocaches near you, and save them for offline use.  You can then go out hunting for them with your data switched off and your GPS switched on.  Often, people will do trails of caches around a city along with a commentary, so you’re basically getting a  free guided tour, with the added feel good factor of finding the caches.


Triposo is a really good travel app that draws information from Tripadvisor and Wikipedia.   You download packs for your destination, and each pack will include an offline currency convertor, map, information about your destination, tours, offers and events, key phrases, and will locate bars, restaurants, accommodation and points of interest near you.  It’s really good but each pack does take up quite a bit of space on your phone, so I tend to delete the pack after I am done with my trip.   It’s available on both App Store and Google Play.

So the above are my go to's when I am booking a trip, I hope you found useful.  I now have two questions for you:

1) What travel tools do you use that I haven't featured?
2) Where shall I go next? I have 10 days holiday left and the world at my feet....



3 comments:

  1. What a brilliant post!!!! And very useful as we leave in a few days!! Will definitely get that map one! Thank you :) I think you should come and visit us for your 10 days! Pleasssse! Love you lots xxxxx

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    Replies
    1. the rome2rio is such a brilliant site!
      It's so tempting but there's SO many places I want to go!!!!! I just don't know where!!! When are you in Northern Vietnam, as I would love to go there? xxx

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