Attention travel planners!
I thought it would be worth sharing links to some resources that I have found incredibly helpful in planning my trip. If you have ever tried to plan an adventure, I’m sure you will have shared in some of the frustrations that I have felt in trying to find information and (of course!) the best deals available online.
I hope this post will be a helpful resource to anyone planning an adventure, and I expect it will also save me time when it comes to organising my own future trips.
When I was looking to book my round-the-world flight I spent a lot of time liaising with STA Travel, the “young” people’s travel specialist. They were helpful, attentive and were happy to revisit my quote many times as I inevitably changed my mind about where I wanted to go. However, I did feel a bit like a statistic (after all, they are such a large international company that my individual sale meant very little to them), and the agents I deal with tried quite a bit of “upselling” (pushing add-ons such as trips and bus passes for countries I was visiting, when all I really wanted was the flight).
In the end, after a bit of shopping around, I settled on a flight from Travel Nation. A much smaller company, based in Brighton, they specialise in long-haul, multi-county trips. I have felt like a valued customer to each of the agents I have spoken with, and thoroughly enjoyed their more personal approach (as well as their cheaper quote!). Even since my flight was booked, Travel Nation have continued to support me throughout my planning, offering quotes as requested and additional advice even where there was no sales incentive. I highly recommend them to anyone planning a round-the-world or complex multi-country adventure.
Other sites that I have found useful for researching and booking flights are Air Asia for cheap flights around Asia, E-Long for flights to/from China, and Expedia for providing a first-stop comparison or ball-park estimates of what flights will cost (although always book direct with an airline or agent rather than via Expedia as it will almost always be cheaper).
If you want to fly into and out of different places, or if you are travelling to several places but don’t want a full round-the-world ticket, then you will need what is called a “multi-stop” or “multi city” flight. Several flight search engines have these, and STA flights proved to be the cheapest site for a ticket from London to Bangkok and Singapore back to London (for my amazing and supportive boyfriend Tom, who will be joining in parts of the adjenture!).
For finding out about the ins and outs of train travel in many countries around the world you really can’t beat Seat 61. The site offers advice on what the rail network is like, the different classes of travel, what facilities to expect on trains, and the best ways to book tickets. I still can’t get my head around the fact that one bloke has built this site, as it’s absolutely chock-a-block with incredibly useful information, and has comprehensive details for nearly 100 countries.
UK train travel, as you have no doubt noticed, can be very expensive. The only way to travel on a budget is to plan your trips well in advance, preferably 12 weeks before you want to travel as this is when advance tickets become available. Thetrainline.com now offer an alert service which will email you when the tickets you want to buy become available (which can be very handy for trains to the airport).
Wow, what a confusing process buying visas is! Even being in the privileged position of owning a UK passport, there is still a myriad of sources telling me where, how and why I must buy visas. If you too have found the labyrinthine embassy websites to be overwhelming, or have struggled to distill conflicting advice into a coherent path for purchasing your visas, then check out The Visa Machine. They offer a service to sort your visas out for you at additional cost but their website does have a really useful “Choose Your Visas” section that allows you to find out exactly what the visa requirements and regulations for a country are without paying a penny. It will also tell you roughly how long the application will take and any required documentation too.
Happy planning everyone!