Book your holiday online

Book your holiday online

Save time and effort – and hopefully some money – by booking your next holiday online

Booking your holiday online can be an enjoyable experience. You can easily lose hours as you click from site to site, exploring all the options and slowly building up the details of a fantastic trip. But time spent online can also result in some decent savings. Price comparison services, hotel review communities and travel information sites all combine to make your PC the best travel agent you could hope for.

Where to go? 

Firstly, you need to choose a destination. If you fancy somewhere a bit different, try 101 Holidays for ideas. This blog-style site is run by travel writers and is a mixture of articles and adverts. The advice is divided into holiday type, price, time of year etc, making it easy to zone in on your perfect trip. You should also look at the travel sections of online broadsheets for ideas – the Telegraph is particularly good.

If weather is key to your choice of destination, Holiday can help. This simple-to-use site serves up forecasts for popular resorts, as well as seasonal averages – so you can get a good idea of when and where the sun will shine.

Do it yourself?

Craving the easy life? A package deal that bundles together flights, accommodation and useful extras, is your friend. All good travel agents have constantly updated websites, and checking the likes of Thomas Cook or First Choice is a great way to find a good deal. But don't limit yourself to names you know from the high street. Expedia is a well-established online-only travel agent with a great reputation. Ebookers is another site jam-packed with good-value, exciting deals.

Take advantage of Expedia’s great reputation as one of the premier online travel agents

Packages are great but the real power of online holiday prep comes when you shop around for each component separately. You can search for the best price on flights then look for a top deal on a highly rated hotel. Planning your break this way does take time but it can often save you money: even when it doesn't, you'll still have the satisfaction of choosing every part of the holiday yourself. Travel agents will let you book flights and hotels separately, but there are plenty of specialist sites to consider as well.

Booking flights 

With airline prices more competitive than ever, now is a great time to find bargain flights. If you're travelling shorthaul, check out budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair. Their headline ticket prices are always tempting but remember to factor in the added extras, such as surcharges for checked luggage or paying with a credit card.

For further-flung destinations, try long-haul airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, or use a flight comparison site to save time. Hipmunk is a great service that lists the best flight options on a simple and clear timeline. It’s worth bearing in mind that when it comes to booking online, it pays to plan in advance. It’s common for flights to go on sale at least six months before departure, and if you're one of the first bookings you'll normally grab a sizeable discount.

Book your own tailor-made holiday by visiting airlines and hotels direct

A bed for the night 

As you finish your flight booking, your chosen airline will probably offer you the option to book a hotel through the site as well. But don’t be too hasty – it pays to spend more time researching. Start with a hotel search engine such as or Late both sites let you reserve a room that you only pay for when you arrive.

Don’t feel pressure to book a deal because the site says there’s only one room left – these sales techniques are the online equivalent of a travel agent hassling you for a deposit. Instead, look for hotels that offer a price that suits you, but that also has a good rating. Most hotel sites include their own review system and you can also read independent reviews on travel sites such as Trip Advisor.

Holiday extras

With the bookings taken care of, it’s time to start ticking items off your holiday checklist. Don’t wait until you arrive at the airport to buy foreign currency: you’ll be stung by commission charges and poor exchange rates. Instead, visit an online currency exchange such as Travelex or the Post Office; sites that will deliver your cash next day for free – and charge no commission.

Make sure you’ve got your holiday money sorted before you go

Also don’t forget travel insurance. Type "compare travel insurance" into a search engine to find a website where you can compare stacks of quotes in one go, and single trip policies can be snapped up for as little as £6..

If your passport is due to run out soon, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office site can help you get a new one. The site offers all sorts of other useful advice, such as vaccination requirements and safety concerns.

Visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for up-to-the-minute travel information

Travelling with your laptop 

Finally, when it’s time to dust off the suitcase and start packing, don’t forget your laptop. Most hotels now offer some kind of internet connection (some paid, others free), and your own computer can prove an invaluable on-the-ground aid for finding local restaurants and activities, and keeping track of the weather.

If you’ve got a smartphone or tablet, install some relevant apps, such as translation services, or local city guides, before heading off. Picking the right travel apps for your Android or Apple device is like having a personal tour guide in your pocket.

Bon voyage!