Booking is an exciting, part of travel. But it can also be nerve-racking. Bad bookings inevitably lead to bad travels. And a lot of money is at play! A lot of it is done on the internet, and there are scams at every corner. On the flipside, the best online tools have rendered travel agents obsolete. It’s all in your hands!
There are affiliate links in this guide!
Don’t worry. I’ve booked hundreds of flights and hotels. I’ve experienced first-hand everything that can happen – good or bad – when booking trips. Here’s my guide – what to do, what to avoid, and where to go to get the best deals!
Booking flights is very easy. You simply have to follow these simple, universal and straightforward rules.
#1- Direct flight or layovers?
Choose: do you want a direct flight or will you accept layovers in order to save a bit of money? The large majority of websites that sell flights will give you the option to choose to look for either/or or for any route.
#2- Use a content aggregator
Nowadays, the large majority of websites that specialize in selling flights will search dozens of different databases all at once and aggregate the data for you. These websites will then redirect you to the cheapest place for your ticket. That’s a good first step. I always use Google Flights!
#3- ALWAYS buy your ticket right on the website of the airline
I’ll probably lose a few bucks over this because my affiliate links pay better if someone buys “the cheapest ticket”. But here’s a VERY important tip: NEVER, EVER, EVER buy off of third-party websites. ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS buy your flights on the official website of the official airline. And if your content aggregator found you a series of flights that you can’t find on the website of the airline, then pick up the phone and call the airline’s booking service and explain what you found. They’ll book it for you over there.
There are plenty of reasons why you want to book your flight directly with the airline. I wont dive into them here. But remember that cutting the middle man is always the best way to go.
Here’s how I use Google Flights: I enter my destinations – you can also leave the field empty to get a bigger picture of your options – and then I enter my dates – you can also choose a whole month to know when’s the best time to fly – and hit the search button. I then see if the price difference is significant between a flight with a layover or a direct flight. If I don’t have a set destination, I’ll also compare the cost of direct flights from one point to the other which can save me big bucks! Once I have found what I’m looking for, I click the “Select” button. At the “Book your ticket” section, I look for the official website of the selected airline.
The idea, here, is to take full advantage of Booking.com’s great system. It works with most other similar websites, but Booking.com’s my favourite.
First of all, you need to choose the ideal location of your hotel – neighborhood, atmosphere, safety, proximity to sights, etc. Every city is different. But it’s important!
Enter your destination and dates. Hit search. Then, use the filters. First, go hit the “Wonderful 9+” checkmark. Second, select your budget. Third, on the top-right, hit “Map View”. There, you’ll have your selection. Then, put your mouse on top of the hotel that could interest you to get a glimpse. Click on in it you like it. Then hold down CTRL (or COMMAND on a Mac) and click on the link of the page of the first hotel to open it in a new tab. Do the same for all of the hotels that would interest you. Take a good look at the pictures of each. Notice if there’s a free breakfast or not. Proceed by elimination until you’ve reached the ideal hotel, and book it!
One last tip: if you know the general area where you’d like to stay and are looking for a 4- or 5-star hotel, give Hotwire a try. The savings are sometimes staggering!
These are not really tips. They’re actually warnings.
#1- Double-check with your credit card company if you get insurance coverage when you rent a car. A lot of credit card plans give automatic free insurance when you use it to pay for the rental. This means that you wouldn’t have to buy the rental shop’s insurance.
#2- Make sure that you take the full damage coverage insurance plan. A lot of rentals already are damaged. Sometimes, the desk employees might try to charge you for damage you’ve never committed.
#3- When you take possession of the car, make sure that you do a complete damage assessment with the clerk witnessing everything and that you take lots of pictures using your smartphone. Every scratch, every bump, every broken item needs to be documented, even if you take the full damage coverage. You just never know.
#4- Don’t forget to ask if you have to return it with a full tank of gas. You might end up with a surprise bill if you don’t.
A Note On Motorcycles
A lot of people like to rent motorcycles/motorbikes/scooters in Southeast Asia and South Asia. It’s a trend. It’s a lot of fun – whizzing through the streets of Hanoi or through the beautiful landscape of southern Taiwan on a 150cc scooter is a stunningly liberating feeling – but it’s also extremely dangerous.
These destinations are NOT the right place to learn how to drive a motorbike.
Thousands of travellers get injured driving a motorcycle illegally while abroad. Be very careful.
If you plan on riding a motorcycle, you theoretically need an international drivers license. Some will even request to see your motorcycle license, even if, theoretically, you wouldn’t need one to drive a scooter back home.
On top of that, you become a target of the local corrupt police force.
Please note that your travel health insurance will not cover if you sustain injuries while doing something illegal.
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