I think that the most crucial parts of preparing a trip are 1/ finding a good flight (and by good I mean reasonably priced and without a layover of 15 hours in the middle of nowhere) and 2/ finding a good hotel. Let’s talk about crucial part numero uno, shall we?
I’ve read many articles talking about the perfect time to buy the tickets (at 4 am on a Tuesday??) , erasing the cookies in your computer, the timing, etc. Although there are people and websites (like here) that thrive on finding the perfect deal, there are other ways to find great deals. It all depends on the following criteria :
- What type of trip you are going for : weekend trip, long stay, circuit
- Means of transportation: plane or train *
- What are you willing to compromise or not : budget, comfort, layover
- Would you like to stay in a hotel or not
On this first post, I will be talking about the type of trip.
If you want to leave for 3-4 days, I suggest you look for a package hotel/train + hotel. My favorite websites are : Opodo, Expedia, Voyages SNCF. If you are not sure of where you want to go, you can wait for a last minute deal on Last Minute. Other websites offer the same option as well.
There are special filters that allow you to find more easily the hotel you are looking for. However, BEWARE! Not all cheap hotels are the best, so it is really important to think about criteria #3 above. You don’t care if the hotel smells bad but you want to save money? Then go ahead ! If you prefer a more comfortable setting, then you should be ready to spend a little more $$. This sounds pretty much logical, but sometimes we forget and get carried away. Exhibit A: I planned a weekend trip to Amsterdam. I found a “great” train+hotel package on voyages SNCF for two persons. The hotel was a little bit far from the center of the city, but I thought that with the public transportation we would be fine and wow, the price ! Alas, the hotel was in the middle of a creepy neighborhood, smelled like sweat and cigarette, and it was cold and dirty. We only stayed one night, the next day we found a last minute hotel deal and stayed at the NH just next the Rijksmuseum. Conclusion: research well before getting carried away by the price. Sometimes its better to spend a little bit more and have a good night sleep than to stay in a smelly, cheap and cold hotel.
After the hotel comes the flight. In Europe, the cheapest flights have the most horrible schedules (6 am flight to Berlin..7:35 flight to Rome). I believe that arriving early is a good option since you can take advantage of the city right from the beginning. The return flight should be a little more flexible. Keep in mind that prices vary depending the time of the flight, so remember criteria 3 for choosing it.
Do not take the fist option you find, if you do it in advance, you can scan several websites every day or every two days. That way you will know what is the best option for you. If there’s something you absolutely like and you are pretty much sure that it is the best price ever, then book it. Do not wait for a magical thing to happen and to get a discount of 100 $ , it’s not going to happen unless a one-shot offer or campaign. I’ve let good opportunities go a couple of times because I believe that prices are going to fall.
For a circuit, it depends on whether you want to prepare it yourself or go with a travel company. If you want to avoid the hassle, you can book directly with a travel agent (bit old school). We did this when planning our honeymoon to the Greek islands. A great travel agent found the perfect circuit for what we were looking for, everything is taken care for you: boat tickets, plane tickets, hotel reservations. You only have to decide on the day trips available at the hotel and given by the tour company. If you want to control everything about your trip, it’s another story. I will talk about planning a long stay/circuit in another post.
What are your tips and tricks when planning a trip ? Let me know in the comments below !
(*): won’t be talking about taking a car since I am not very savvy car wise