January isn’t always the most fun time of year: everyone is broke, it’s cold and suddenly you have to pay for indulging yourself so much over Christmas. Spring seems like a lifetime away.
But the New Year is a great time for travel planning.
With so many posts about this year’s best destinations, it’s a brilliant time to prioritise where you want to go, when you want to visit and how you’re going to get there – and there are some great sites out there to help you do exactly that.
Here, I’ve compiled a list of the travel sites I use most often for finding flights, plotting routes and catching trains, which should give you a helping hand.
Deciding when to go
- Travel advice calendars – trivago
Unless you have friends in good places or are a serial couch surfer, accommodation will generally make up the bulk of your 2015 travel costs – but picking when you go can help save you a bundle.
trivago’s travel advice calendars show you the most expensive and cheapest times to visit popular cities across the world, using past hotel price data.
Finding budget flights
Like most frequent travellers, I have spent far too long daydreaming with Skyscanner’s addictive ‘Everywhere’ travel option. However, I am around an hour to 90 minutes’ travel away from four different airports.
Skypicker lets you set a search radius encompassing several local airports in one search. It also features all budget airlines (including Ryanair and WizzAir) which aren’t always found on Skyscanner.
- Fare Finder – Ryanair
The budget airline that everybody loves to hate, Ryanair has really upped its game recently, with a better site and very responsive Twitter team.
Part of the new site includes the Fare Finder, which can find the cheapest days to travel to a specific destination, as well as the most affordable places to fly to from a certain airport. Simply enter your departing airport and your dates of travel to find the cheapest place to fly to.
- Inspire me – easyJet
I really like this feature from EasyJet, which has been around for a year or so. Simply enter your departing airport, a timeframe and a ‘theme’ of travel (i.e. city break, beach, winter getaway), as well as a price limit, and you can see all your possible easyJet connections. Simple.
Top tip: Some flight comparison sites, such as Skyscanner, don’t always show Ryanair connections, so it’s a good idea to go straight to the website of a budget airline to double-check.
Planning a route
Probably the site on this list I use the most often, Rome2rio is great for plotting the best way to get from A to B.
Much more comprehensive than Google maps, Rome2rio shows you a number of different routes via plane, train, bus, car, taxi and more to give you a sense of how long it will take. I haven’t tried booking anything with them yet, but the site is great for checking the feasibility of day trips.
Top tip: Consult travel forums to find recent threads about local bus routes or train routes if you’re worried they might not exist anymore.
On the ground – apps
- DB navigator app – Deutsche Bahn
Though it might not be the most exciting app in the world, you can’t beat the wisdom of Deutsche Bahn. Functional but entirely uninspiring, the app is perfect for checking train connections and invaluable when it comes to checking platforms when making a tight changeover.
Again, while it won’t win any prizes for its simple design, you simply can’t beat XE when it comes to exchange rates. The app is very quick, so it’s great to refer to on the road.
So there you have it. This list is definitely not exhaustive, but these are the sites and apps I depend on the most when I’m planning a trip – or even pre-planning a trip. I’m always keen to discover new sites, so please comment below if there is another site you couldn’t plan without!
COMING SOON: My travel plans for 2015