I may be the only person alive to get a thrill from reserving hostels or booking airplane tickets, but those seemingly insignificant tasks are what signify to me that yes, this is happening!
This is when the countdowns start. I love countdowns.
Step Five–The Booking
I normally book all aspects of a trip myself online (or over the phone, though very rarely). Of course, the option to go to a brick-and-mortar travel agency is viable, especially if you are looking for a package vacation or certain tours–just remember that travel agencies will tack on pretty heavy fees for their services, and remember to budget for that!
The first thing you should get out of the way before you even look at flights or hotels is the visas. If you don’t need to prepare a visa ahead of time, then great! If you don’t have to pay for a visa upon arrival either, then even better! But if you do need time to secure a visa, be sure to set up all the necessary appointments or send in the required paperwork well in advance.
Flying and Sleeping
The next step is to book your flight (if you aren’t driving), or bus, or train, or whatever to (and from) your destination, and your accommodation. I generally book flights et cetera before I book accommodation to make sure the dates line up all right–I want to make sure I’ll actually be there before I reserve a bed.
Here are some of my favorite websites for flights:
- Skyscanner: flights (you can use it for hotels, but I never have); I then go directly to the airline’s website both to double check the price and to book directly with them. This can sometimes lead to extra discounts, or a realization that the ticket is not going to actually be the cheapest because of hidden fees that Skyscanner might not take into account.
- Peach Aviation: an LCC based in Osaka
- WillerExpress: night buses
- KiraKira Hot Dog: night buses–cheaper than Willer, but the site is only in Japanese (if you need help, feel free to ask!)
- Jorudan: you can’t book tickets through this site, but you can check the times of trains in advance. A lot of my friends prefer Hyperdia, but I find Jorudan a little bit more user-friendly.
- EkiNet: Booking site for JR tickets (again, only in Japanese, but ask if you’d like some help!)
After your flight is booked, then you can set up your accommodation:
- Couchsurfing: free accommodation
- hostels.com: hostels, hotels, B&Bs, pensions, etc.
- AirBnB: This is pretty cool if you’re looking to find apartments to rent for an extended amount of time
- Jalan: Accommodation in Japan. We used this site to book the Japanese inn for our anniversary back in February.
Tours and Excursions
Again, I don’t have any experience in booking guided tours, but these should be booked after you’ve gotten your transportation and accommodation settled. Anything that relies on you to be in a certain location by/for a certain time should always be reserved last.
Things to Keep in Mind
These are just some observations and general advice I have when it comes time to book your flight or accommodation.
- Have your calendar open next to you and check and double-check the dates you’ve inputed before you hit “confirm.” You may be given a 24-hour grace period to make changes to your reservation after you’ve made it, but I wouldn’t count on it. Better to make sure that you’ve put the correct dates in from the start! (This is a huge fear of mine… luckily so far I’ve always entered the right dates!)
- If you’re travelling internationally, have your passport number (and the numbers of anyone travelling with you) handy. Make sure you put them in correctly–I messed up one number on a friend’s passport on our Korea trip last year and ended up having to correct it at check-in. He ended up not sitting with Jeff and me because of it on the way there–no big deal, but if you care about keeping your party together, check this bit of input twice too!
- Some airways require you to provide contact information for your destination (for international travel), like an address and/or telephone number. If you don’t have that yet, I would find an address of a hostel or hotel in the area you think you’ll be staying in and use that. You’ll have to provide this information on the customs forms on the airplane again anyway, so I doubt it’s a big deal if the address you give at booking is different from the one you actually go to.
- Forward any confirmation e-mails to anyone else travelling with you and to family members for use to assuage their curiosity and in case of emergency. You always want someone knowing where you are going, when you are expected to be there, and how to get ahold of you.
What are some of your most trusted booking sites?Remember to follow us @slomadstravel on Twitter! Ready for the next step? Click here to continue to Step Six–The Pack.