10 websites to help you plan your perfect holiday

10 websites to help you plan your perfect holiday

Whether you want a boutique B&B or a mountain retreat, visit our top ten holiday sites for getaway heaven

Imagine sandy beaches, lazy days in the sun and relaxing evenings with a glass of something long and cool. Seem a long way off? Well, you can start dreaming of your next trip abroad with just a couple of clicks of your mouse. The web is packed with tantalising travel sites and here you'll find some of our favourites. From exotic safaris to weekends in National Trust cottages, there's plenty to stimulate your imagination. Meanwhile, for the lowdown on using the web to book your perfect holiday, our Explained guide has all you need.

1. SeatGuru

If you've ever spent eight hours wedged into the single most uncomfortable corner of a plane, you'll know the value of picking a good seat. Most airlines give you the option to choose your spot and SeatGuru can help you make the most of that. It offers seat maps for every aircraft on every major airline, with each place colour-coded according to comfort (green for leg-stretching heaven; red for sardine territory) and marked with comments from previous passengers.

2. The Man in Seat Sixty-One

Budget airlines have succeeded in making short-haul air travel so ubiquitous that many of us don't even consider the alternatives. However, plenty of journeys can be made more cheaply and with far less stress by train. With that in mind, meet the Man In Seat Sixty-One. This wonderfully detailed site will give you the information and confidence you need to tackle train trips anywhere in the world, from Albania to New Zealand.

3. i-escape

Escape drab hotels with the ultimate fantasy holiday site

There's little to differentiate the major hotel booking sites, with most offering the same familiar-yet-uninspiring rooms. For more unusual accommodation – or simply for an indulgent spot of daydreaming – i-escape is a delight. Himalayan mountain lodges rub shoulders with converted Spanish palaces, and prices are surprisingly affordable.

4. Money Saving Expert

Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert site is renowned for offering tips and tricks to claw back the pennies in every aspect of your life – and that includes your holidays. This guide explains how to haggle with travel agents to make significant savings (hundreds of pounds, in some cases) on already-cheap package deals.

5. lastminute.com

You can save lots of money by booking your hotels ‘blind’ at Lastminute.com

Fancy adding a little intrigue to your next holiday? Lastminute.com offers significant savings on its hotel bookings if you're prepared to book blind. You can guarantee a room in a four- or five-star establishment for around half the usual price, but you're not told the name of your lodgings until you've paid. Lastminute calls these deals Top Secret Hotels, and they have become so popular it has registered the name as a trademark.

6. Time Out Worldwide

Time Out’s authority on what's happening is long established and well founded. The online version of the popular what/where/when mag is a great starting point for planning your trip, with travel advice on cities as diverse as Bahrain, Kyoto and Madrid. The guides here cover where to stay, where to eat, what to see – and plenty more besides.

7. On The Go Tours 

Looking for adventure? Want inspiration for your next holiday? On The Go Tours has the answers

On The Go Tours is a travel agent about as far away from the bucket-and-spade brigade as you could hope to find. Sailing trips around Croatia, train travel on the Trans-Siberian railway and tailor-made holidays to China are among the adventurous guided tours on offer. No matter whether you end up booking with this specific company, its broad selection and striking imagery will provide plenty of inspiration for your next expedition.

8. Groupon

Yet to discover Groupon? Be sure to visit this bargain-hunter’s paradise before you book your next trip away. The site has become increasingly focused on travel, with the ‘getaways’ section packed with tempting deals. When we last checked, two nights in Barcelona (including flights) was available for £119.

9. Airbnb 

Take a more informal approach to your accommodation with the help of Airbnb

Airbnb is one of those innovative ideas that could only work on the internet. This community site enables people to advertise their place to rent, no matter what that place may be. So you can book to stay on a sofa in Soho or in a treehouse in Tuscany, for instance. It’s a fun and rewarding way to find a somewhere to sleep – and if you happen to have a spare room at home, you could even join in by adding your own listing.

10. Sawday’s 

Pick a holiday with character with the help of Sawday’s

Chain hotels are fine if all you need is a bed in which to crash out. But if you’re after something with rather more character, spend some time exploring this interesting selection. Head to the 'Collections' page and you'll find boltholes, cottages and B&Bs listed according to type (family-friendly, good for groups, and so on). Particularly interesting is the ‘Eras Collection’, with historical houses dating back to the 11th century.