travel bloggers tell all | tips on planning, booking hotels + the best airlines

Travel Bloggers Tell All

I’ve asked a few seasoned explorers to help me out with a new mini-series on my blog centered around travel advice. If you’ve ever wondered how to plan a big vacation without having to use a travel agent, which airlines you should fly for international travel, the best websites to use for hotel accommodations, and how to skip town on a budget, we have you covered. These ladies are going to share their top-secret methods with all of you (sounds intense!), and hopefully in the end, you’ll book that trip you’ve been dreaming about for months. Hold me, readers! I feel a severe case of wanderlust overcoming me.

Here’s some tips on planning, booking hotels, plus their favorite airlines!

Casey from True Colours
Travel Bloggers Tell All - True Colours
Blog | Twitter | Bloglovin’

What are some tips for planning a big trip?
When I start planning a big trip, the most important thing I do is give myself lots of time. I start months before the trip with research. After I feel comfortable with the research and have an idea of flights and hotels, I book flights first. That way if you need to tweak, hotels are much easier to move around than flights. After booking flights, I immediately type up a trip Itinerary that outlines the days we’re gone and where we are based on our flights. After that, I begin filling in each place with hotels and activities as I do more research. I highlight items on the itinerary that still need to be booked so I can remember. I also book as much as possible in advance, so that when the trip is within a month or so, everything is done and I can focus on preparing.

Trip planning can end up being a really large job, so make sure you schedule your time appropriately to adequately be able to book everything you need to with enough information. I’m the kind of traveler that likes to have everything booked before I leave, so I check back again a couple weeks before my trip and confirm everything to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I actually really enjoy the trip planning process and I find that it really gives me an education on the place. You get to know a lot about the location before you’re there, which has helped me a lot while I’m traveling.

Also remember that traveling is about the experience, so don’t book yourself so full at your destination that you don’t have time to explore the place and take it all in. I’ve seen a lot of the world, but one thing that I always try to remember, no matter where I am, is that traveling really is about exploring new cultures, taking in a place for what it really is and not expecting too much from it. With that, you’ll be receptive to the whole traveling process, from start to finish.

Favorite websites to use when booking hotels and other arrangements?
When I start researching a trip, I start with Orbitz. I may not end up booking the flights there, but it’s where I start so I can see the different pricing and routes. I do really like Orbitz for their “cash back guarantee” if your flight gets booked after you by someone else, they’ll reimburse you the difference. I’ve had great customer service through Orbitz as well in the past, so much of the time I’ll book there or through the airline website.

For hotels, I start with Tablet Hotels. I really like staying in boutique hotels and Tablet has an awesome selection with all different price points. I start there because there is a narrower selection to go through than other sites which helps narrow it down, but then move to Hotels.com to book. I love Hotels.com, and with their rewards program, every 11th night you stay is free, up to the amount of your average stay. Sometimes for us that ends up being up to $350 off of a hotel night. It’s an awesome perk that has saved me so much money over the years.

I also check all hotels and even some airlines for reviews on Trip Advisor. There have been countless times I’ve been about to book something and found many bad reviews and decided against it. People’s reviews can really shine a light on a hotel or airline experience.

Which airlines do you recommend?
Over the years of traveling I’ve found out a lot about airlines I like and dislike. Here’s a few of my favorites and why:

For Domestic Travel in the States:
-Alaska Airlines has become my favorite for trips within the USA. They are comfortable, have great service, have a great record for leaving and arriving on time and have good food selections. One quip I have with them however is that their planes are getting a little old and they need to start updating, as many of their planes don’t have things like USB outlets that some of the other newer planes have.
-Delta is another airline I fly a lot and it helps that Alaska and Delta are partners, because I can earn towards my Alaska MVP status when flying on Delta. Delta’s planes are in pretty good shape for the most part and they offer a lot of great routes in the USA. I have flown them overseas as well, and on that note wouldn’t recommend it, just because the International airlines have such better service. But for short flights 6 hours or under, I like Delta.
– I like Virgin America for a number of reasons, but mostly because of their low fares and their technologically savvy view on flying. I see them as sort of the “airline of the future” and I think over the years they are going to really make a mark on the airline industry.

For International Travel:
-British Airways – I’m a big fan of BA and I take their Seattle-Heathrow flight quite a bit. The service is excellent, seats are larger on international airlines than they are on domestic ones flying overseas usually and I just think you get a better quality of service on non-US airlines when flying overseas.
-Air France – I’ve always liked Air France, ever since flying them a lot as a kid and to this day they are still great. I’ve done their route from LAX- Paris recently and would highly recommend them. Their service and food is fantastic and the overall experience is great. I also like that they fly primarily (at least the flights I’ve been on) 747’s from major airports overseas, because you’re getting a larger plane than some of the Domestic airlines like Delta fly, which gives you more room and more options.
-KLM – I haven’t flow it in years, but it always gets great reviews and I used to fly it a lot coming back to the States from abroad as a kid. The service was always top notch and I know from reviews, that it still is. I can’t wait to fly KLM again sometime soon!

Bonnie from A Compass Rose
Travel Bloggers Tell All - A Compass Rose
Blog | Bloglovin’ | Facebook

What are some tips for planning a big trip?
First I start by researching dream ideas for the location and asking friends who may have been in that area. Once I have an idea of where we are going, what we want to do, and what sort of a focus the trip will have I go about planning it on our own without a travel agent. We like to travel organically to explore a location like a local and stay away from high touristy areas. Starting with a list to make sure we do not forget anything we plan out each part of our journey. However for us that means making sure our big points are covered. We like to have enough wiggle room that we can still be spontaneous on our vacation.

Favorite websites to use when booking hotels and other arrangements?
I have been really happy with AirB&B. We used this to find an apartment to rent while in Paris for our anniversary. It was perfect because we were not in a hotel with lots of other tourists. Even though we were only in Paris for a couple of days it felt like we were living in France and had the comfort of home while the luxury of being on vacation.

Which airlines do you recommend?
British Airways and Quantas have been my favourite for service and Ryan Air has been my favourite on price. However budget airlines can really stick you with hidden costs, so make sure you always research. Know the rules on baggage and bring your travel reservations printed out with you to the airport.

Michelle from Mish Lovin’ Life
Travel Bloggers Tell All - Mish Lovin' Life
Blog | Instagram | Facebook

What are some tips for planning a big trip?
I am a big list maker! From toiletries to shoes to errands that need to be completed beforehand, I write it down! Then, of course, the satisfaction of crossing something off my list always feels good. However, I always quickly realize, days into our travels, that I have indeed overpacked again. If you question anything on if you should or shouldn’t bring something, chances are you shouldn’t and it’ll just take up extra space! Another good tip for packing that we learned was to pre-pack beforehand and practice walking around your block with everything to see how comfortable you’ll be with all of your luggage. Some things were definitely discarded after that practice run!

Favorite websites to use when booking hotels and other arrangements?
Our top sites that we use to book hotels or accommodations are either Agoda or AirBnb. When traveling on a budget, like us, we always try to find the best deals possible (while also trying to avoid hostels). Agoda is great to see several different hotels at once and be able to compare. Plus, the more you book through Agoda, the more points you earn, which in turn will give you free money towards your next booking. We also loved AirBnb, especially in Europe, because it gave us a great feel for living in that city by being able to rent out someone’s home. It’s usually always cheaper than a hotel, plus you get to meet a lot of new people that are locals and can share great information with you. And if you like to cook, it’s great having a kitchen to use instead of being in a hotel room every day!

Which airlines do you recommend?
When we were in Southeast Asia, we used AirAsia a lot. It’s a great site with super cheap flights from country to country. Similar to EasyJet, which is what we mainly used while in Europe, it’s meant for those quick trips that won’t cost you an arm and a leg! Never had a complaint about the planes either!

Postcards from Rachel
Travel Bloggers Tell All - Postcards from Rachel
Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

What are some tips for planning a big trip?
I start out by mapping out everything on an old fashioned calendar. Since we try and take multiple trips a year, I find out my husband’s vacation dates and plan accordingly. We have a never-ending travel bucket list and the destinations we go to every year usually depend on flight prices since this is the most expensive chunk of any trip. After we’ve booked the flights, I start researching hotels and tours. We’ve used Viator.com for most local tours and they’ve all been wonderful. Be sure to search for Viator promo codes online before you book anything.

Staying organized is my biggest tip. Even though you might have a copy of itineraries on your smartphone, be sure to print out everything too. This will come in handy if your email is accidentally deleted, or if your phone dies and you don’t have a charger handy. Always prepare for the worst… or maybe that’s just me?

Favorite websites to use when booking hotels and other arrangements?
To compare domestic and international flights, we check Expedia and Kayak. When we were located in the United Kingdom and wanted to travel within Europe, we went directly to the airline websites to book. We flew on a lot of discount airlines and they don’t show up on websites like Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, etc. I have an entire post dedicated to Europe’s budget airlines.

I have three go-to websites for hotels and they’re Booking.com, Airbnb, and BedandBreakfast.com. When we were traveling in Europe, I had great luck finding decently priced boutique hotels on Booking.com, and Airbnb allowed us to find short-term rentals in popular cities. Since moving back to the US, I’ve used BedandBreakfast.com on multiple occasions to find bed and breakfasts in Savannah, George and St. Augustine, Florida. Finding a highly rated, pet-friendly B&B is a piece of cake with this site.

Which airlines do you recommend?
When we’re flying in the US we usually find ourselves on Delta flights, mainly for the frequent flyer miles, plus their routes are convenient. We flew Delta from Washington, DC to Aberdeen, Scotland once and that was horrible. US travel, go for it — but book another airline if you’re going overseas. For international travel, we love, love, love KLM. My husband is 6’3″ and I’m 5’2″ and we find that we’re both comfortable on their planes. Plus their service is phenomenal. Another favorite of mine is British Airways because the flight attendants are so accommodating.

Do you have questions for any of these travel bloggers?

       
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Filed Under: Hotels, Travel, Travel Essentials20 Comments
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11633002829591046624 Rima

    ah thank you for this series! so nice to read about travel tips. I have an upcoming SE Asia trip (this wednesday!) and reading these tips makes me excited to PLAN for another trip. I seriously just caught the wanderlust bug!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07238434752028472905 Jenna

    Awesome tips Rachel… such a great idea for a mini-series :) I usually use kayak to scout international flights and then book through the airline itself. I have skymiles with Delta and Air France + KLM are partners with them so I usually end up flying on one of those. Gotta rack up those miles ;) xxx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04585816729964741872 Jay

    Great tips!

    Star Alliance flights are most common for us as Canada’s International carrier is a member so it usually works out to fly with them and that’s where we accrue the most points. (Although I’m not saying they’re the best, we do enjoy Air Canada for friendly flight attendants and good movie selection. Singapore Airlines has probably been the best we’ve flown.) Unlike the bloggers above, we haven’t had particularly great experiences with KLM, BA or Air France. For some reason, the international flights we’ve taken with them have always been on ancient aircrafts in need of a complete overhaul.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18243551025002985614 Kate Hall

    I love these tips, got some great new websites to bookmark for searching for flights and hotels! And a great idea for a mini-series, I’m looking forward to more of these :)

    I use Skyscanner.com for my flights which is a great one too!

    Kate – diariesofanessexgirl.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03481775343584575260 Casey Martin

    Thanks for including me! I loved participating! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08468452077289444925 Setarra

    Love this post! I’m planning a trip to Europe next summer and will definitely make use of some of the websites mentioned to look for deals. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03650259915484312321 emi

    great idea! nothing better than travel tips.
    xo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17739295507898824699 Jenn @ A Country Girl’s World

    Great tips! I love this and will definitely be referencing it in the future :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04953214506719119690 Quyen Nguyen

    Thank you for all the great tips!
    http://liveitinerantly.com/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09543798912886827648 Gesci

    I agree with Jenna- I scout flights using Kayak, but book through the airlines. And Opodo was another option for Europe as well. Plnnr.com is an amazing itinerary-building resource, if you’re going to one of the cities on their list (it’s growing!). And while we like to see the “must sees” as well as the lesser-knowns, we also try to get out of the city for at least one day everywhere we go- seeing the countryside or a small village/town can really be the highlight of a trip, no matter how great the city is!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03947207631500713689 gabrielle

    awesome tips, thanks for sharing travel experts!! :D

    my boyfriend & i are planning a trip to puerto rico in december, so we need all the help we can get.

    xo,
    gabby

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08797568345510218583 Megan C. Stroup

    Great mini-series! I’m looking forward to future posts. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00463760502630859035 lauren | eyes/ears/mouth+lens

    I’m all about this mini series! I’m also all about skyscanner.net for booking flights! Can’t wait for more posts like this one :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10564475429275083148 Isa

    I love this – and seeing how my own habits mix and match all of yours. Great post!

    http://lasaloperie.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03636469387388076513 Leah

    These tips were amazing! My husband and I are hoping to travel a lot in the next couple of years so I have been gathering as much information about different things such as this. Thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02488815111583984646 Kam

    These are great tips. I just wrote a post on tips for honeymooners but these tips definitely apply too! Similar to Bonnie, BA is my favorite airline – always had a good experience with them and their frequent flyer club is great too.

    Kam | A Married Couple & Their Travels

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00626881546118179975 Sunshine

    What about budgeting for an international flight? With the cost of airfare always fluctuating its hard to budget. Have you ever used any layaway travel services?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07197840802532204210 uswah andleeb

    Nice interesting and informative stuff
    Discount Deals

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01391923684052676926 claire

    When planning any travel my number one site is trip advisor. Can’t live without it! :)

    http://somewhereyonder.blogspot.co.uk/

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