Favorite Travel Websites: Transport & Accommodation

I promised Sean I wouldn’t start planning a bunch of trips for 2016. Yeah…I lied. The thing is, I love to travel. And everybody knows that. So I’m pretty much always planning some trip or another. With the year winding down, I cannot help but look forward to what trips I can take next year, so the past couple of days have been spent looking up itineraries and flights and AirBnbs.

I’ve been so fortunate to travel so much over the past couple of years that my friends often come to me for advice on planning trips – where to go, where to get cheap deals, etc. So, since I’m doing a bit of planning on my own right now, I’ve decided to put together a list of my favorite places to go to find accommodation and transport for the many trips I plan in my head.

Flights & Trains

Direct Websites – BA, EasyJet

For loyalty purposes, I go straight to British Airways. It’s always my first stop for flight checking. BA is easiest for me since I’m flying out of London, but when I was Boston-based it was JetBlue. I recommend picking an airline that serves your local airport and covers nearly any destination you could need to get to! I also use EasyJet when they’re having a sale. Honestly, you can get European flights for so cheap…usually about £60 RT even if booked last minute. It’s not the most comfortable airline, but I really don’t mind it that much, especially for the price.

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[A quick (and cheap) EasyJet flight to Nice and bam…this view!]

Skyscanner

When I’m not getting my way on the BA website (aka prices are extortianate), I pretty much always use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight options. It pulls together different airlines and even mix and matches to find the cheapest combination. My favorite part is that I can filter the departure times to get the most out of my stay!

Seat61

Sean and I do so many weekend trips that trains are not usually an option. However, for longer trips (often when I’m doing many cities at a time), I find it to be a cheaper and more scenic alternative to planes, especially when traveling within the same country. Seat61 is great because it tells you the best and cheapest way to get from place to place.

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[My friend Jamie and I did a lot of train travel on our Salzburg – Vienna – Budapest – Bucharest trip. I used Seat61 throughout the entire planning process to figure out our options]

Accommodation

AirBnb

As I’ve stated before, and will continue to state, AirBnb is my first choice when it comes to planning trips. For a cheaper price, you get clean and modern accommodation (if you look carefully) in a great location with a host that will give local advice. I’ve had some amazing experiences and some questionable ones, but I still consider it to be the best source for accommodation. I recommend researching neighborhoods and reading reviews before picking a place to stay – pictures may lie but reviewers rarely do!

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[The AirBnb Marisa and I stayed at in Marseille is probably the nicest one I’ve stayed in yet – I honestly wanted to copy and paste the furnishings into my own home!]

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[Sean and I stayed in a gorgeous and perfectly located AirBnb in Florence with THIS view. It was right on the water, so I’m not even kidding that this was the exact view. I was in heaven for four straight days.]

Booking.com

I found the B&B my dad and I stayed at in Bruge on Booking.com and it is probably my favorite B&B…ever! This website brings out unique options, not all of the main brand named hotels. It has a mix of expensive and inexpensive, so is good for anyone. The only downside is that there aren’t many listings in some cities.

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[Our breakfast at Maison Bousson in Bruges, complete with a flight of juices/smoothies/yogurts]

Expedia

For everything else, there is Expedia. It’s great for last minute deals or special packages, but I don’t think the prices vary much when booking in advance, which is why the above two booking methods always come first!

Bonus: Groupon

I like to keep an eye on Groupon deals because they can sometimes cover both flights and accommodation! Sean and I booked our trip to Milan for about £220 for both flights and two nights accommodation in a 4* hotel. Of course, they try to get you to buy add ons and try to rip you off with flight times and hotel location, but it was a nice to not have to worry about finding stuff for ourselves. I love planning, but for those who don’t (or for a last minute getaway), packaged deals are great!

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Friendsgiving: Advance Planning

Sean and I are so eager to host Friendsgiving at our new house. While we just had the wine tasting, this will be our first event with so many people, and we know we are going to struggle for space. However, being the typical American that I am, I refuse to miss out on the feast this year (Sean loves it just as much!) and we have plenty of English friends who are looking forward to finding out what all of the fuss is about.

Due to work schedules, we settled on 22 November as the date for our Friendsgiving, at the typical Thanksgiving meal time of about 3pm. If it’s not a Thursday, we figured Sunday would be the next option…at least American football will still be on! We will be having twelve of our friends over, over half of which have never experienced Thanksgiving. Therefore, in order to maintain America’s incredible reputation, I’m really stressing about this being a fantastic event!

I’ve broken my planning and errand running down in three stages: Advance, One Week Before, and The Day Before. I figured I would post about each of these stages on here (as well as the final product) for any future Friendsgiving planners! The Advance Planning has definitely been stressful, but I have finally solidified everything…yippee!

The Menu

Since we are having so many people and have such a small kitchen to prepare stuff in, we decided on a potluck style dinner. The menu was therefore the easiest part, but needed to be announced ahead of time so everybody could call dibs. Sean and I are taking care of the turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie (realistically some brie as well, but that’s just a given). We’ve asked our friends to provide the rest: mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, etc. We settled on the basics simply because it is so many peoples first “Thanksgiving” that it needs to be a classic (and easy) as possible. However, everybody is already planning on their own twist on their dishes, so I’m excited to see the final product!

The Turkey

I’m going to admit this ahead of time so nobody is surprised or disappointed down the line – Sean and I are cheating. Not on each other, but on Thanksgiving. As in having the Turkey made for us (cue the gasps). I promise this is justified, though! First of all, he’s never made a Turkey and nobody could live up to my dads. Second, there’s the small oven issue. We’re serving 14 people, which means we need a big turkey. I didn’t want to go out and buy one to come home and find out it didn’t fit in the oven. Third, my dad offered to cover the turkey for us this year since I was so stressed about it. This means that we could actually afford to have the turkey made for us, and the ones from Whole Foods just look delicious. So that’s the situation – we will be picking up a turkey on the morning of Friendsgiving and serving it as if it were our own (don’t worry I won’t actually take credit).

The Furniture

This has definitely been the trickiest part of planning our meal considering our house lacks a dining room table. I’ve searched for hire companies who would be able to get me tables and chairs, but they were coming back too expensive for just one day. Thankfully, I found 12 folding chairs down in one of my offices and one of my coworkers offered me his two folding tables. I pulled out my tape measure yesterday and think it will all fit so everybody will have a seat at Friendsgiving. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

The Amazon Order

The Amazon order was fun. We’re talking attractive paper plates, plastic wine glasses (which are surprisingly nice), and bits and bobs which will be part of the centerpiece. I felt extremely satisfied when I pressed the order button, knowing everything would get here on time as well…except everything was shipped individually. We are now dealing with what feels like a hundred “missed delivery” slips and will have to do a mix of running to the post office and tracking down couriers. At least Sean has the day off tomorrow and can deal with all of this for me. Another thing to be thankful for!

Once all of the Amazon orders have been collected, we will be able to tick off all of the advance planning and will be one step closer to a successful Friendsgiving.