I have created my step-by-step guide to the essential products, services or websites that I use for all my traveling! Enjoy your reading and if you like my advice, feel free to follow the links! 🙂
BEFORE THE TRIP
When I decide to visit a place, the first thing I buy must be the Lonely Planet guide of the destination! There are many travel guides out there, especially online, but I have always been loyal to Lonely Planet, because over the years, it has brought me to many places, giving me the best advice in a simple and cheerful way! And today, just a quick look to the “Lonely Planet shelf” in my living room makes me smile, thinking of each and every place where I have been and thinking how many others I want to add!
When it comes to the best Flight Search Website, there is only one name in my mind: Skyscanner.
I have used this website for so many years that I cannot even remember life without it! I consult Skyscanner ALL THE TIME: both when I know where and when to go, or when I am looking for inspiration. It works miracles if you have some sort of flexibility about your trips!
Skyscanner is very comprehensive and easy to use, even for first-time-users. I usually take it for granted, but lately I have realized that there are still many people that don’t know how to use it, so I am going to write a post exactly to help you!
Its visual layout is simple and appealing, clear and very efficient. Try it as soon as possible, follow the link and let me know your thoughts!!!
Deciding where to stay when I travel is one of the most important aspects of my planning.
As you might know already, I am not a backpacker and the comfort of a real place to stay is a real priority for me. This is why I only use three (amazing) tools for my accommodation; and this is “why”.
You can find all type of places, from high end hotel, to simple hostels, to privately owned apartment.
I can choose among a number of different offers, the best being the “Free Cancellation” and the “No Prepayment needed“.
As a result of choosing these options:
I feel free to book far in advance and also
to book more than one place if I am not 100% of my final choice.
I feel more inclined to go ahead with my bookings, knowing that I still have a lot of time to change my mind and also that I will not have to spend money until I get there.
This means that I can book at the cheapest rates (months in advance) even when I still have other holidays/projects to spend money on, before going on this trip.
It means not risking to book at the last minute, no rushing, no settle with a lower amount of choices. Love it!
Plus, Booking.com has many search options, lots of filters, thousands of properties, and easy-to-read map, destination guides and a fantastic review system.
If you book more than one place, setup an alarm on your calendar/phone few days before the free cancellation ends! If you forget, you’ll end up paying more: be careful!
It features mainly private apartments and some guesthouse or hostel.
When I am planning to stay longer in a single place, I tend to book from AirBnb, because it is important that I have some space, maybe a sofa, a table with chairs or a small kitchen where I can prepare some food if I’m tired to eating out (rarely!).
Staying in one of these properties gives me the classic feeling of “home away from home“, which is important, especially when I’m not coming back for few weeks.
The total price for selected dates will include the rent, the cleaning fee (if any) and the AirBnb fee. On average, these totals are still cheaper than a hotel, for a standard 3* category. Of course, none will clean your flat every day when you are out, replenish your toiletries or pick up the phone and bring you some room service, but it is all about finding your right balance between comfort, luxury and price at any given time.
The website is extremely easy to use, the review system is amazing and they are adding more and more filters every day, to help us find the perfect place!
This website and its review-based system is an amazing way to make sure you choose the correct accommodation for my trip.
Tripadvisor can sort the hotels, apartments, hostels in any way you want (ranking, price, distance, etc)
For every property, if you select the dates of your trip, Tripadvisor will show you the best available prices on the main accommodation websites. You can book directly from here just by clicking on the links.
When you are transferred to the main website, check the dates are still correct and read all the hotel and room information and make sure you are happy with the specific T&Cs of this site!
Most of my trips are the “fly & drive” type: I absolutely LOVE the independence of getting on a car without timetable and go!
It works as a search engine, analyzing a number of rental car websites with availability in your chosen area.
It scans the web in search of the best deals.
Purchasing from here also gives me that feeling of security that comes with the long-term trust of a company that I have known for years!
I find this to be the most user-friendly website, among the many choices available online.
It works with the biggest rental companies and also with the local ones, finding the best deals.
It usually gives you Free cancellation for up to 48 hours before your rental starts (check each time, though!).
It gives the optional “Full Insurance”, which is not extremely expensive, compared to others and you get cover for everything that happens (again, better to check each time…).
Most rental car companies require to take a deposit that covers the excess amount. They need to get this from a Credit Card with the same name of the main driver. Make sure you have this when you get at the counter, or you might have lots of problems!
DURING THE TRIP
When I travel around Europe, or for a short period of time, I tend to move with my hand luggage only. This is, of course, a matter of comfort, but most of all, of money! When using low cost airlines, such as Easyjet or Ryanair (which I use constantly to save £££ on my trips), the price difference between bringing the carry-on only or adding a hold luggage is huge! It’s up to you, of course, but I found feasible to go away for one week with my hand luggage only, and I tend to take my bigger bag on longer holidays, instead.
My carry-on is the IT Luggage. I feel very comfortable in suggesting this bag, because, even without being the most beautiful on the market, it has so many desirable features:
It is advertised as the “world’s lightest“: I can’t guarantee it to be true, but what I can tell you, is that it truly is extremely light indeed!
It has 4 (big, smooth and silent) wheels. The 4 wheels have now become one of my “must-have” in a suitcase, and these are working perfectly, both when dragged on 2 wheels and when pulled on all 4 on your side.
It is a very cheap product. Compared to what I found on the market, with the same characteristics, it is a great valued bag.
It has 2 big pockets in the front, very good for your in-flight accessories.
It is only 20 cm deep, which is the allowed measure even for Ryanair flights!
Overall, I think it’s a FUN luggage to take with me on every adventure and so far, I’m loving it!
The Samsonite B-lite 3 Spinner is my favorite hold luggage, instead, and I love it for these reasons:
It is extremely reliable and resistant. I have taken it all around the world, from Australia, to Brazil, to Canada and so on, plus it has been my “wardrobe” for months, when I did not have a stable home.
The 4 wheels are smooth, strong and silent.
There is an extremely useful integrated combination lock on the side.
It has a great capacity, both in terms of space and weight. I filled it with up to 32 Kg and it is like new.
It is a great value-for-money. Some luggage can cost much more than this and, honestly, I couldn’t say if it’s worth it. But with this Samsonite bag, I am really satisfied. I had never bought a “branded” luggage before and I kept changing it after a couple of flight. Now I have been using this suitcase for 6 years and it is just a bit dirty 😉
And let’s not forget how elegant and contemporary it looks, and it comes in different colors, too!
Where to eat
When I am in a new city (but also in the place where I live), I rely 100% on the amazing Tripadvisor. Food is extremely important for me and it plays a huge role in the success of my trips. I have high expectations when I try a new place and with the fantastic method of reviews on Tripadvisor, I have the -almost- guarantee that I will leave the restaurant happy 🙂