We travel a lot, which means we’re always scouring the internet for the sites to help us find the best deals for everything from flights to hotels to walking tours.
Below you’ll find our current list of favourite tools, apps and websites that help us save money on our travels. We keep this updated as trends change, and have included any discount links we have been able to source for you.
Our current picks for finding the best deals on flights are:
Originally just a flight search engine, Kiwi has expanded to include bus and train bookings as well.
Kiwi is unusual, because they source the best deals by finding flights that might not be with partner airlines. You also have the option to include the bus and train on your trip. For flights, this means that sometimes you have to collect your baggage and re-check it, but in our experience, the prices they find are the best out there.
They also have an amazing guarantee, where they’ll get you to your destination if you miss any of your connecting flights. Definitely worth checking out.
Priceline are huge in the US, but not so popular in Europe. They’re the parent company of Booking.com, and they search a whole range of airlines and comparison sites. They’re usually our second choice for finding good flight deals, especially on flights that include the USA.
3. Google Flights
Google also operates a flight search tool, which hooks into the data provided by airlines from around the world to provide pricing information. It’s a really handy tool for searching for different routes and dates, and finding when the best time to fly will be.
4. Other Tools
In addition to the above, there are a number of websites which specialise in spotting hot flight deals on the web, including error fares. These include Holiday Pirates, Secret Flying, The Flight Deal and Scott’s Cheap Flights, which are all worth checking out, particularly if you are flexible with your flight arrangements.
If we can take the train rather than fly, we will always try to do so. There are a few sites we use to book train travel, depending on where we are travelling.
When we travel by train in the UK and Europe, we primarily use Trainline to book our tickets. We’ve tried a number of the other websites, and have found that trainline has the easiest interface.
Plus they support train booking across Europe, as well as long distance bus reservations, making it a great one stop portal.
If you are planning train travel in Europe, do try and book your tickets as far as advance as possible to get the best value fares.
2. Rail Passes for Europe
If you are travelling in Europe for a prolonged period of time, you might also find that a rail pass works for you.
We’ve used these passes on a variety of journeys around Europe, and love the convenience, but you certainly need to do the math on them versus booking individual journeys. You also need to take into account the fact that on long distance trains you will have to pay a seat reservation fee, which will vary by country.
That said, it can definitely work out to be great value if you do use them to your full extent.
We spend a lot of time on the road, which means finding a good deal on accommodation is key to keeping costs down. We’ve tried a lot of the options out there, but the following are our current favourites:
Booking.com have an incredible selection of hotels across the world, and usually offer good rates. We also like that if you have booked with them a few times, you become eligible for further discounts as a “booking genius”. I’m not sure we’re geniuses exactly, but we’re happy to take the discount!
Another favourite of ours, which often features hotels that don’t list on booking.com.
Hotels.com is usually the second site we check when searching for accommodation.
When we travel, if we’re staying somewhere for a few days we usually prefer to book an apartment, and AirBnB is our go-to choice for apartment rentals.
They tend to have the widest choice of properties, even if they aren’t always the cheapest.
If you like the idea of AirBnB but have gone off them because they’re not quite as homely as they used to be, Homestay is the answer for you. You’re guaranteed to have an actual host whose home you’ll be staying in, and breakfast is usually included.
We’ve stayed in a number of Homestay properties around the world – you can read our thoughts on them here. Using our Homestay link also saves you 5% on the booking fee, which will be automatically applied at checkout.
Self-drive road trips are one of our favourite ways to travel. Check out some of our favourite road trip planning guides, including Route 66, Scotland’s North Coast 500, the Pacific Coast Highway and the USA’s Deep South for inspiration.
Of course, you can’t do a road trip without a car, and this usually means you’re going to have to hire a car. These are our favourite car hire sites. Note that pickups from the airport are nearly always going to be more expensive than from a downtown location, so you can save yourself a bit of money by getting a taxi or public transport into the city centre and doing your pickup from there if the company has a town centre location – this is nearly always the case with Enterprise.
Yep, we like Priceline. We find their price comparison service – especially for trips in the USA – works really well, and usually gets us the best price on car hire.
There are some exceptions to this rule though – notably we’ve found that on one-way trips, especially those across state lines, Priceline doesn’t always get the prices right as there are often one-way fees it doesn’t include. Still, for most normal rentals it works pretty well and is our first port of call.
If we can’t find a deal we want on Priceline, our next stop is to go directly to Enterprise. We’ve found they have the most rental locations, so are good if you’re looking to pick up a car somewhere other than an airport – even in smaller cities and towns you can often find an Enterprise location.
They also have reasonable one-way fees, and we have always found their prices to be very competitive.
Last, but not least, we’ve also found AutoEurope to be a good option. They compare rates across all the major suppliers, and have a 24/7 support hotline during your rental to help you out.
Again, like Priceline, they can sometimes have issues with one-way fees or other addons not showing correctly, but they are definitely worth checking out.
If you’re looking for an RV, campervan or motorhome to rent, you should check out Outdoorsy. They cover the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, and are described as the “AirBnB” of RV’s – meaning you rent direct from a vehicle owner rather than a rental company. This means prices are more competitive.
If you’re an RV owner, you can list your RV for free.
If you’re looking to take a tour, be that a walking tour for a few hours, or a multi-day trip, we have found a few companies that we are happy to recommend. These are:
1. Intrepid Travel
Tours are available at a range of price points and comfort levels, and we’re sure you’ll find something to suit. They also operate Peregrine Adventures, for those looking for a smaller, more premium experience.
GetYourGuide is an online portal to guided tour experiences all around the world. They offer tours that range from a few hours to a few days, and they have an excellent review system so you can see what other travellers have to say about the tours.
We always check out GetYourGuide when travelling somewhere new, to see what they have on offer.
3. Take Walks
Originally launched in Italy as Walks of Italy, Take Walks are one of our favourite small to mid size walking tour companies. We’ve taken tours with them in Florence, Venice and Rome, as well as in New York. They run walks in locations all over the world, including a number of exclusive access tours to locations like the Vatican and St. Mark’s Basilica.
These are good value tours and we’ve always had a lot of fun and learnt a lot on their tours.
We’ve taken a number of walking tours with Context in various cities around the world. We love how small their tour groups are, and how the tour leader is always a true subject matter expert – usually holding an advanced degree on the topic of their walk!
We’ve also got a discount code for Context, booking through our links will get you 10% off automatically.
5. Iceland Travel
If you’re heading to Iceland, we can very much recommend Iceland Travel for your trip. They offer self-drive tours, multi-day guided tours and single day trips. They’ve been running tours in Iceland for decades, and know what they are doing.
6. Travel Talk Tours
Travel Talk Tours operate budget friendly tours to a wide range of destinations around the world. They’re particularly popular with Australians and New Zealanders, but the tours are open to everyone.
City / Attraction Passes
We’re big fans of buying passes when visiting a new location and planning on doing a lot of sight-seeing. Some of our favourite passes are:
1. European City Passes
There are a number of passes available for cities in Europe, including the London Pass (see our review here), the Go Barcelona Pass, (see our review here), the Vienna Pass, the Rome Pass, the Dublin Pass and the Paris Pass (see our review here). We think that these can save you good money if you plan on visiting a number of major attraction in these cities and are definitely worth looking into.
2. US / Canada City Passes
As with Europe, the US has a number of city passes offered by a variety of companies. We recommend you check out the Sightseeing Pass website, which has passes for cities like New York, San Francisco and Miami.
We can also recommend the LeisurePass group of passes, who offer the London Pass (amongst others in Europe). In the US, they have the excellent New York Pass, as well as the New Orleans city pass, amongst others.
Finally, there is the GoCity Card, who offer passes for a variety of cities in the US and worldwide.
3. Specific Passes
There are a number of quite specific passes that you might find will save you money when seeing specific sights. For example, in Germany there’s the Bavarian Castles Pass (see review here), which can be a cost effective way to save money if you plan on visiting a number of castles in Bavaria.
Along a similar theme, France has a variety of Loire Valley Castle Passes, which may save you money if you plan on visiting a few castles in the region. It’s always worth checking regional tourist office websites and searching the web for this sort of thing before you visit somewhere to see if similar passes exist that can save you money.
Apps and Software
We travel with smartphones and laptops, and over time, have come to rely on a number of apps and programs. These are the essentials you should look at installing yourself.
If you connect to wireless networks with your phone, tablet or laptop when you travel, you need a VPN to keep your data secure. VPN software sets up a “virtual” private network between you and the VPN server and encrypts the traffic between you and the VPN server. Meaning that anyone snooping on the wireless network you are connected to isn’t going to be able to see any sensitive data you are sending.
We recommend the NordVPN VPN service. They consistently come at the top of the rankings for customer service, performance and security, and are good value too.
2. Google Maps
Whenever I’m asked to name my most used phone app, I invariably respond with Google Maps. It’s just the best mapping software out there, and since you’ve been able to download areas for offline use, has become entirely invaluable. Plus, it’s free. What’s not to love!
These days, we all have so much data stored on our devices. And not enough of us back that data up. Imagine how distraught you’d be if you lost all your photos as a result of computer failure! The solution? Backblaze.
This unlimited cloud backup service is one of the best in the business – just install it on your laptop or desktop, and let it do its thing. We use it to backup all of our photos and other critical data, and can’t recommend it enough. We also have a guide to keeping your data safe when travelling, for more information.
Snapseed is hands down our favourite photo editing app on our phones. It’s really easy to use, but has all the features you could want from a photo editing app. I used to bounce between different apps for photo editing depending on my mood, but now I just use this one. Available for Android and iOS.
Part app, part SIM card, Knowroaming are an easy solution to getting online when you travel without having to worry about roaming charges. Their service includes a little sticker that you put on your SIM card in your phone, which works as a SIM card when you travel. It’s definitely one of the easiest ways to get online when you’re on the move.
If decide to go for KnowRoaming, we’ve got an exclusive discount code for you, which will get you 50% off your order. Just enter “JLSAVE50” at checkout for the discount to apply.
For more ideas and solutions to finding internet access when you travel, check out my detailed guide to getting online when you’re travelling.