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Sarah Loughlin’s big top three for flights, hotels and holidays…

I don’t know about you but if left unattended on the internet, after checking for any new Facebook notifications, I always end up holiday shopping. It might be a bit odd, but I think I enjoy researching holidays almost as much as going on them! For those of you who can’t think of anything worse than trawling through the internet comparing hotels, here is a handy little guide to make it as quick and painless as possible.

Three Golden rules to get you started:

1. ALWAYS check tripadvisor.com or other hotel review websites before you book.

2. Research the weather for the time of year in your destination, you don’t want to book a dream holiday to Bali only to get caught out during rainy season!

3. Buy a cheap travel guide from Amazon/ Ebay – they often have an itinerary, or ‘top 10 attractions to visit’ pages to give you an idea of what is on offer, and also a handy map for getting around (ideal if you don’t have time to do much research).


BIG TOP THREE – I just want flights…

1. Sky scanner – Things I love about this site…. you can search by anytime, anywhere. You can filter by length of journey, number of stops, airline, and sort by price/ journey time. Ideal for finding the best prices, and getting some holiday inspiration!

Today’s cheapest flight searching: UK – everywhere for the whole year was £17 return from Birmingham to Dublin in June 2014.

Don’t like the sound of that? Well, there were also 27 different locations you could fly to from the UK for under £50 return.

BUT wait….. it gets better….


2. Google flights – Things I love about this site….. there is an interactive map, you can filter by air-miles, and there is a multi-city option. BUT you have to know your dates, and it doesn’t always show all flight options so shop around!

FYI Kayak (http://www.kayak.co.uk/explore/) offer a similar website and you can search by month rather than specific dates BUT there are limited filtering options which are not very accurate.


3. Thomson flights – deal finder – Things I love about this site…. you can be as specific or vague as you like, you can filter by destination, departure airport or duration. It is great for last minute deals, and good value long haul flights if you are going outside of school holidays. Also ideal if you know where you want to go but are flexible with dates and want the cheapest deal. BUT it will only show you Thomson charter flights, so you are limited to the destinations they feature.

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BIG TOP THREE – I just want a Hotel…

1. Booking.com – Things I love about this site….it always has a lot of accommodation to choose from no matter your budget and you can normally pay when you get there, or cancel very close to your travel date if you change your mind. BUT… you have to know your dates and destination.


2. AirBnb – Things I love about this site….  it gives you the opportunity to stay with locals, what better way to find out the best places to visit than from the people who live there! Great search and filter options. BUT… be aware that even if you have ‘booked’ and entered payment details on the website your accommodation is not confirmed until your host emails you to confirm it.


3. Hotel Tonight – Things I love about this site….it’s a cool easy to use app with great pictures and information about each hotel, great for last minute impromptu trips. You can even set yourself alerts for when hotels go on sale. BUT it is only available via the app, it is not in all cities yet and you can only book on the day.


BIG TOP THREE – I want the whole package! (flight + hotel)

Travel republic -Things I love about this site…. it is really good value, has a great great map view, and shows you lots of board options so you can easily see the best price. You can also filter by customer rating so you can find the best hotel for your budget. BUT you have to be quite specific about where you want to go, and although 95% of the time I have had no problems booking with them, their customer service is not the best!


BA holiday finder – Things I love about this site…. you can search by temperature, and be as specific or vague as you like; when you click ‘more details’ it tells you the flight times and gives you a calender view so you can see other dates and prices.

Great value short breaks, even over popular periods such as public holidays. There are several packages under £200 for this coming bank holiday weekend (Saturday 24th – Monday 26th of May) to destinations such as Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm.

BUT the only drawback is you have to narrow it down to which month you would like to go and is limited to destinations British Airways fly to.


Thomson holidays – Things I love about this site…. it is great for last minute package deals with and easy to use website and very flexible search/ filter facilities. BUT the options are normally limited to the destinations covered by Thomson airways.

FYI Thomas Cook holidays offers a very similar website which is worth checking out: www.thomascook.com/lp/1z6-deals/


Happy shopping!