Making that perfect holiday come true seems ridiculously easy these days, thanks to technology. Travellers can now create, book and organise their customised itineraries right from the comfort of their own home. With services ranging from picking the cheapest tickets and accommodation to recommending (and booking) activities, it seems that travelling in this day and age is all about bringing your mobile phone with you.
A home away from home
With a growing population opening up their homes on sites like HomeAway (for larger spaces) and Airbnb, travellers can gain access to all sorts of accommodation. Even without a budget, Couchsurfing’s global community is willing to open their homes to strangers. The only caveat is that by booking with hosts (via Airbnb, for instance), there’s a high chance of cancelled bookings, often last minute with no option for replacement rooms (unlike hotel bookings where you may be upgraded).
To keep up with competition, traditional hotels have gone on online wars. Platforms like Agoda and Booking.com offer some form of ‘Best Price Guarantee’ and have a range of hotels from hostels to luxury resorts, while Priceline lets travellers pick their price for blind-booking hotel rooms. Some specialise in last-minute bookings (HotelTonight) or sell cancelled rooms (Roomer). Then there are comparison sites like Trivago, HotelsCombined, and Kayak.
In order to make the most of whatever booking, remember not to get distracted by anything that attempts to rush you into a booking (ie. ‘selling fast!’), and think about the price rather than the discount it supposedly represents. It’s easy to use these booking sites to search for hotels in the area, even if you don’t book through them. It’s also a good idea to check the hotel’s own website – you may find better deals there.
More and more travellers are looking for unique, bespoke experiences, so some sites are providing small-scale tours that give them the flexibility and intimacy that’s not found in a big tour group. Bike tour companies were among the first to offer bespoke trips, but in recent years, many more startups are getting on board, so platforms like Get Your Guide aggregates all bespoke activities so you can book them easily on one platform.
Since then, brands like Expedia, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and Booking.com, are all looking to add tours and activities into their online platforms. There are also others with a regional spin, like Voyagin, Klook, and Be My Guest that specialise in tours and activities in Asia. In India, you have options, like Make My Trip and Clear Trip. Some also include discounted tickets for entry to various activities and attractions, ranging from Broadway to Universal Studios.
Making Trip Itineraries
So much of life is spent getting bogged down in the details, but there are plenty of free travel planning apps that can simplify the process for you. Some simplify the travel planning, while others make the actual travel easier.
Apps like Tripit, Tripcase and Worldmate create master itineraries for all your travels — from hotels to car rental and flight bookings, even if they’re booked on multiple travel sites – from every confirmation email. You can sync the itinerary with your online calendar, and include maps, directions, and weather forecasts, and share them with your contacts. Tripit integrates with Packpoint, an app that helps you pack for your trip.
Then there are apps that also let you book everything in addition to organising it in an itinerary. Trekeffect and Kayak lets you build and edit your itinerary, and book hotels and flights directly through the app.
If you’re travelling in a group, Travefy helps you handle finances by allowing you to collect money for things like car rentals, hotels, and restaurants from your group. It also lets you build and book itineraries which can be shared.
Road trips are becoming increasingly popular, so there are apps catered to drivers.
By connecting drivers to one another, Waze creates local driving communities that help travellers decide the best routes to take. Users can report the cheapest gas stations, avoid traffic jams and police traps. If you’re on an American road trip, Roadtrippers finds millions of roadside attractions based on your route that Google Maps is prone to miss.
packing for travel
Some of us may need a little help when it comes to packing for trips that are out of the norm – like a 10-day backpacking trip instead of the usual 4-day business trip.
PackPoint generates a packing list based on your destination, weather, travel dates, length of stay, and the kind of activities you’re looking to do. It also integrates with Tripit. Similarly, PackKing
offers packing lists based on a long list of activities, from Hiking and Photography to Mobile Office.