Well as we’re in the midst of holiday season for most people, and around a month from my own break this year, I thought I’d talk a little about how I use technology to plan, book and organise a trip. There’s so many facets of this subject to cover I’m going to break it down into couple of different posts, starting today with the research and planning phase. I’ve attached links to the products/services in the text wherever possible.

First Steps & Admin

The first thing I do when planning any trip away is start a notebook in Evernote. For those not using this service, it’s a brilliant way of collecting electronic information into different “notebooks”. Once the information is in there its accessible on any of your iOS, Android, Mac or PC devices, searchable, and if you’re prepared to pay the small monthly (£4) or annual (£35) fee, available to you on all your devices even when they’re not connected to the Internet (you do of course have to synchronise before going offline. Right from the start this means I have a repository for storing all my research on the places we’re visiting (days out, hotels, restaurants etc.). You can also share this notebook with other people in your travelling group to allow them to read or add to your notes.

Holidays Email Folder StructureI’ll also create a Holidays 2014 folder in my email client with subfolders for Flights, Hotels, Car Hire etc. to store email trails for each of the subjects including booking confirmations (which will also be added to my Evernote notebook – I think it’s important to keep multiple copies of important information in case any particular service fails on you).

Finally, I use my TripIt account to record all the details of our trips (flight, hotels, hire cars, dinner reservations etc.). This service has its own accompanying iOS apps (although I prefer to use an alternative app called TripDeck which I find to be slightly better designed) to allow you to have a handy record of your itinerary (it also allows you to mail this to colleagues or family before you go if they need to know your plans).


We always book the differing parts of our holiday separately, avoiding travel agents and package holidays. While this might not suit everyone, we find that we get more for our money than we would via an agent, and more suited to our needs than a pre-packaged trip.

With this in mind, we hit the Internet on several fronts to get the different elements of our holiday booked.


Traditionally we’ve used one specific airline but having looked around this year at alternatives there’s a good chance we’ll try elsewhere in 2015. One service I’ve heard a lot about is Hipmunk. While many UK travellers are used to direct flights, many other people around the world are used to having to ‘layover’ en route to their final destination. Having lookied at flights for our usual destinations with Hipmunk, it’s possible to save a lot of money (e.g. a quick test shows a £250 per person saving for a Christmas trip to Miami from London) if you’re prepared to extend your travel time by a couple of hours and fly via somewhere else first and get a connecting flight.

SeatGuru exampleOnce you have a flight booked, if you have the option to pre-book your seat, always take a look at the seat maps using SeatGuru. This app will show you the seats to avoid (and why), as well as the best seats on your flight. Nothing is worse than having to spend a transatlantic night flight next to the toilet door, and a little bit of planning can prevent it being you that has to suffer that fate.


This is one area that is my wife’s exclusive domain. She will spend hours flicking through potential villas and hotels looking for the ideal spot for us. So far she’s never let us down!  Google is your friend here. One thing we always do though is refer back to review sites, such as Tripadvisor to get a feel for what the place is like. We always take into account that nowhere suits everyone, and even the nicest hotel will have one bad room or member of staff, and a spoiled holiday is more likely to have some posting a review than a great holiday. So, if the vast majority of reviews are positive with a couple of absolute stinkers thrown in, we don’t worry too much. But, also take into account the trends; if a hotel has a great overall review, and the last 3 months worth are all lower than average it may be a sign that its changed for the worse recently.

If you’re staying in a hotel, check if it’s part of a chain and sign up for their loyalty scheme before booking. You quite often find that you get a better deal, a room upgrade or something free if you are part of their loyalty scheme.

Local activities

Again, Tripadvisor is a great resource for checking out the local sights and attractions. Most will have customer reviews and photos for you to look at to give you a better idea of what to expect. There’s also a great range of iOS apps by mTrip for a whole host of cities at around £2.99 each (they have on occasion offered them for free, so keep your eyes open for that).

Depending on where you are going, I can also strongly recommend the Brits Guides series of books (mainly for the tourist spots of the USA) as great reference/planning guides. They’re extremely well written by a British couple with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the areas they write about. We buy the latest edition each year to get the latest information, and have encourages lots of friends to do the same – that’s how much we like them.


That’s a fair bit of information to get started with, and a couple of good apps/websites that I recommend very highly when it comes to planning your trip. In the next couple of days I’ll post again, this time on the important subject of the last couple of days before you travel.

Enjoy your day!