Travel Planning – Part 2 – Online Planning + Research

If you are wanting to plan a holiday off the beaten track or outside of the reaches of the high street travel agent, it can be a daunting task the first time you go it alone. There are thousands, if not millions of hotel, flight and holiday websites out there and choosing the right one for you can be a minefield so I have put together my top websites for planning holidays.

I always plan my holidays from scratch myself. Start to finish we can make our holiday 110% suited to us. I am not disputing that package holidays aren’t great… they are, but they don’t cover all the areas or things we like to see and do.


Not only a holiday booking website but also a source of inspiration for those early planning stages. Bargain prices, reliable service and the added bonus of being able to earn Quidco cash back AND Nectar points (See my handy hints below). The great thing about Expedia is you can book everything in once place, from flights to hotels to hire cars. Not only is it a site I would always trust, when you book flights + hotel together you are covered by the ATOL guarantee which along with your travel insurance, forms a great peace of mind.

If I am visiting a city for the first time and I am unsure where is the best location to be based, I generally search for the most expensive 4+5* hotels in the city via the map feature, find out where they are and then work around that area within my budget – you never get a 5* hotel in a rough area, do you


My favourite website for flights. You can check the whole month instead of specific dates which is very handy if you are not constrained to going on set dates. You can make some huge savings just by going a few days earlier or later than planned.

Skyscanner shows all the major airlines across routes and you can see the various suggested routings for your trip. With selectable options such as direct only and a price limiter, you can customise your searches.


Not only is this the holy grail of hotel review sites, the country specific forums are an absolute god send. If you are visiting a country or city for the first time and really want some authentic experiences off the beaten tourist path, jump on the forums and find out what the local experts recommend. From the best bars to small museums to that restaurant you just need to visit, a Tripadvisor forum has it all. There are many help posts in the forums which are very useful for the first time visit to a place you are unfamiliar with, including how to get to your hotel from the airport or train station.

Once you have found your shortlist of hotels via Expedia, you can hop on over here to check out reviews and guest photos. It helps to be in the know. If it is a beach resort and you want to be close to the main resort, a review will help you narrow down which block to request on booking, or you want a great view from your city centre high rise, a review or forum request can help you big time.

Google Custom Maps

We all know how to view Google maps right? Did you also know you can make your own custom map? By creating a customised map, you can plan road trips with points of interest or walking distances between shops and museums in a city. This is perfect for pulling together a daily schedule or finding way points along the journey.

I also use it for planning my work load visiting clients as I can work out which is the most logical route to visit everyone!

This is Mr Tramp’s favourite tool as you can build your layers to cover different days and modes of transport / routes.

British Airways + Avios

I am loyal BA flyer, where possible I use them for the vast majority of my flights. From doing this I have a loyalty card with a stock pile of miles on there which are great for upgrades or even free flights via the Avios air miles system.

Not only do I build miles from flying but I can convert my Tesco Clubcard points in to BA miles and also use their online shopping portal to also boost my air miles ready for redemption time.

As I do not live in the radius of an airport with good international flights, I find the BA feeder service from Newcastle to Heathrow to be very handy as I can literally go anywhere in the world from my doorstep.

Flyer Talk

My husband will confirm this but I have an unhealthy obsession with this website. From checking out great tips for boosting air miles or bargain secret flight sales, Flyer Talk always plays a big part in my holiday planning as it often serves as inspiration.

Divided in to many different subsections you can join in forums for your favourite hotel chain, frequent flyer club, offer savvy travel tips or just drool over all the beautiful trip reports from far flung places.

I have learned many handy hints, tips and tricks from using Flyer Talk that have served me in good stead not only for flying but for travelling and working away from home.

Seat Guru

Probably a self-explanatory website but when it comes to booking flights, Seat Guru is very useful. If you can’t decide whether to take those last middle 2 seats on a 12hr flight at a bargain price or pay extra to upgrade to economy premium, Seat Guru will help you out. With facts, figures and layouts of all major carriers and their equipment, it is always good to be prepared. Some planes offer in-seat charging points which are handy for gadget loving travellers on long haul flights.

It’s even good to work out how quickly you can deplane, where the exits are, proximity to the toilets and even if you will get the drinks trolley first or not!


Much like Expedia, you can use the Marriott website to stalk some top notch hotels and base yourself near them. 9 times out of 10 I find the Marriott room rate to be pretty competitive and I find myself staying there. I know I am guaranteed a specific standard regardless of the city or country I am in and I know the staff speak English or can get me to an English speaker should the extreme circumstance ever arrive.

From working away, I built up my Marriott Points to Gold and I get added benefits from their Marriot reward scheme as well as some great email offers such as free night offers or executive lounge access.

Aspire Airport Lounge 

When checking for flights, I never discount bargain flights with long layovers or multiple connections if it saves me money. But you may wonder what you are meant to do with a 4hr layover in Philadelphia for example? If I am travelling in Economy and I am with an airline for which I do not have lounge access I recommend you check out an airport lounge. Usually around £20pp you can stock up on food, soft drinks, alcohol and most importantly a comfy chair and some peace and quiet away from the hubbub of the departures lounge. Some are fitted with shows which is ALWAYS good. Sometimes just a round of drinks and sandwiches can come to more than £20! It’s just a nice way to get your holiday started and they often come with bonus deals on parking charges or cashback via Quidco.

Handy Tips for booking

*   Join loyalty schemes. Hotels, Airlines, Hire car, if you use it, join it. You can turn your Tesco shop in to hotel points or air miles if you fancy ‘free’ trips. Thanks to my Club Card + my BA Executive Club, I managed to get a free 4* trip to Rome for Mr Tramps 30th.

*   If you book online, check for cash back opportunities via Quidco etc or look for an online code

*   Ensure any website you book on is covered in the relevant way, for insurances or ABTA / A TOL protection

*   When researching flight times, hotels, point memberships etc, don’t forget to use my handy Planning Prep post HERE

Hope this has whet your whistle a little bit and made you feel a bit more confident at branching out without a travel agent.



Travel Planning – Part 1 – Get organised

As I mentioned, I am starting a holiday planning series for people wanting to break away from the holiday brochures and go it alone planning their holidays. Whether you want to go off the beaten track or want to source individual elements to save money, holiday planning is my ultimate favourite thing to do.
I have holidays planned years in advance, I am that organised. When I see a great tip, or museum review or some key dates, I like to jot them down for future reference. 
To start with, I like to keep notes. I mean lots of notes. From tips on travel website deals, frequent flyer log in details, hotel recommendations, taxi numbers and booking confirmations. I make lists of lists. I am THAT person. I’m not even ashamed. I make shopping lists to compare prices from UK to duty free to the destination which is handy if you know you want to buy that new perfume but you can work out where it is the cheapest and make note of it and all the other cool brands you might want to try on holiday.

I quite often like to theme my notepads around a venue or theme of the holiday. For example,  I have a notepad for an upcoming trip to Paris, I have  New York specific Moleskine from their City range, a notepad with cars on the front from our trip to Cuba and a book with cherry blossom on for Japan which I hope to visit in the next year or two. I always aim for A5 as I find that fits in most of my bags and isn’t too cumbersome if I carry it with me while I am on holiday or read on a plane.

I find stationery helps me get organised and focused. I usually buy my stationery online and always err on the side of functionality over appearances. From hard covers and wipe clean plastics to multi packs. My most recent haul of stationery was courtesy of Viking Direct. An online retailer, Viking sell everything from paper to pens to office chairs. The whole works in one handy place.  Viking have a great selection of notepads and diaries from utilitarian to cutesy coloured ones and everything in between. If you have a home office it’s a good place to start to keep yourself stocked up!
In my handy notebooks, I can pin clippings from travel brochures or magazines. I always keep a handy highlighter and pack of page markers with my pad for annotating guide books and passages on print outs and booking confirmations.
Mr Tramp is a recent convert to Planning journals. He would amble through a holiday with scraps of paper and beer mats with addresses on or just wander round hopelessly looking for a bar he heard was good. With good planning, you can jot the address down and have it to hand. Having a planning journal isn’t about planning your holiday time out with military precision it is about having all the information you could need in one place.
While we are away I find it a good place to keep tickets, receipts and business cards that you would want to keep as momentos safe and undamaged. You can jot down what you ate in restaurants or people you have met along the way.
The other good thing about keeping books like this is if a friend goes to the same place, you can pass on the notebook for their use. If you revisit a place you can always add more to a book and it makes a nice keepsake to keep as a memory, especially if things change over time. I am big on experiences and getting the most from holidays so I find this is my sure fire way to get organised so I don’t miss anything and certainly wont forget anything.
Are you a holiday planner or do you like to just turn up and let a guide lead the way?
* Stationery, in part supplied by Viking Direct – Paris book, Destination book, Red Moleskine + Highlighters. Everything else bought by myself

OOTD : Springtime Sight Seeing

OOTD : Springtime Sight Seeing

Hello Lovelies,

The weekend before last, I whisked my Mam away for a lovely trip to Edinburgh to celebrate her birthday. We walked our little socks off, soaking in all the sights and sounds ( and the torture of Arthurs Seat!). I’m glad these brogues are so comfy!

I thought I’d show you my outfit of the day (OOTD) as it’s a spring look I am absolutely loving and it is perfect for the adaptable weather. In one day we had baltic temperatures, baking sun and torrential downpours. 

Coat on and a vest top under the shirt helps warm up with the scarf on a chilly day but the coat open, rolled up jeans and no socks for one of those warm rare spring days.

Belted trench   |   £23.20   |   Yours Clothing
Spot shirt   |   £17.99   |   New Look
Brogues   |   £54.99   |   Clarks
Coral Scarf   |   £2.10   |   Ebay
Jeans   |   £26.99   |   New Look
Pewter bag   |   £65   |   Zatchels (seen previously HERE)
Sunglasses   |   old   | Patrick Cox ( seen previously HERE)

What are your staple pieces for Spring?
Twitter | Facebook | GFC | Hellocotton | Bloglovin | Bloggers

Travel Planning….

Travel Planning….

Hello Lovelies,

It may be the tail end of March and not even really Spring yet but I have already booked this years “Summer” holiday. Unfortunately it is in December so no scope for tan lines here!

I have been very lucky because this entire holiday has been planned with military precision to maximise flight sales, cash back bonuses and lots and lots of Marriott reward points. I have holiday planning OCD.

We generally build and create our trips ourselves rather than use package tours so I have started my new blank travel journal where I put all my research and details. 

Over the coming weeks and months I am going to share my top tips of maximising your holiday for little to no effort, for either this year or a future stay.

As the summer months roll round I will be running some of my travel favourites and tips for shopping, packing and styling!

In the mean time, why not check out one of my travel money saving posts I wrote last year HERE 

The first post in the series is how I get organised when planning.

Twitter | Facebook | GFC | Hellocotton | Bloglovin | Bloggers

Wynyard Hall – Food + free gifts!

Wynyard Hall – Food + free gifts!

Hello Lovelies, 

Every year, despite being married, we still celebrate the anniversary of us getting together. It falls on December 23rd and even though we have our wedding anniversary to celebrate, it’s nice to take a day out of the Christmas madness and spend some quality time with each other as we are always running around tending to everyone else.

Image from Belle Bridal Magazine

Over the last few years, we have been going for a festive meal at Wynyard Hall in the Wellington Restaurant. For a ‘Christmas lunch’ in such a luxurious venue, we find the prices to be extremely reasonable and the setting, just out of this world.

Greeted with a red carpet at the door, you are escorted through the grand reception rooms of the Hall, all bedazzled and decked with beautiful decorations and on to the restaurant. Sitting in the ante room overlooking the lake and terrace with a pre dinner drink to peruse the menu, it’s like sitting in the set of Downton Abbey.
We have our table all booked already but what landed in my inbox this week? Only a bloomin’ exciting email about a free gift pot luck for all diners! I have done a quick copy + paste for you below.

 Wellington Restaurant Christmas Giveaway

Join us in the Wellington Restaurant for Afternoon Tea, Lunch or Dinner between 23rd November and 24th December 2013 for your chance to win a luxury gift from Wynyard Hall!

On arrival each guest will be given an envelope which (if you’re one of the lucky ones!) will reveal your prize.

Prizes up for grabs include overnight stays, spa treatments, Sunday lunches, afternoon teas and much much more.

To make a reservation for the Wellington Restaurant, book online or call 01740 644811 Option 2.


I thoroughly recommend Wynyard Hall for a special lunch or a perfect afternoon tea with your girlies or loved one in the run up to Christmas.

Twitter | Facebook | GFC | Hellocotton | Bloglovin | Bloggers

* This is not a sponsored post. I am a customer + receive email offers as such.