How to Book a Trip Online: What You Need to Know

You’re finally ready to book your next trip.  You’ve answered the questions in the first two stages of travel planning:

  1. basics of travel planning and
  2. research your trip.

Now you are ready to book a trip online.  I have to admit it’s a little scary at this point, especially if you are booking international travel.  This is the stage where you have to hand over your hard-earned cash.  You hope like hell you’ve made the right decisions on your travel destination, accommodation and how to get there.  Plus you don’t want the feeling of being ripped off after you’ve booked your trip.  You want to ensure you’ve got the best deal possible for your vacation.

So let’s have a look at how to book a trip and what you need.

In this Article on Booking a Trip Online You Will Learn:

A group of people finding travel tips to book a trip on computer
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What You Need Before Booking a Trip

Before you start booking your travel arrangements you will need to know your travel dates and whether you can be a little bit flexible on those dates.  Sometimes you can save money by travelling a day or two earlier or later, this a great little tip to on how to find cheap vacations.

To make your international travel booking you will need to have:

  • your valid passport (most countries require at least six months validity for travel)
  • your loyalty cards for airlines and accommodation
  • your credit or debit card for payment

For domestic travel bookings, you still need loyalty cards and credit/debit cards.

If you are using a travel agent you can make your booking without these documents.  This can be really handy in situations such as needing a new passport but wanting to take advantage of a special one.  You can book then get your new passport.  Travel agents also offer more flexibility with payment options like BPay and direct payment transfers.

Tips for Booking a Cheap Trip

From researching your travel plans you have already determined your preferred accommodation, tours and airline or cruise company.  So now it’s time to find the best deals.  You can either do this yourself online or have a travel agent take the stress out of the situation.

If you choose to utilise the skills of a travel agent it is worth doing your homework first, knowing roughly what you should be paying for and getting for your trip.  Also, choose an accredited travel agent.  You can learn about why you need an accredited travel agent here.

If you are choosing to book your trip online yourself my advice is to stick with well-known and accredited vendors like* for booking flights and accommodation.  And the safest option is to book direct with the airline, accommodation or travel operator.


Review and Compare

To review travel prices use comparison websites and the official website of your preferred airline, cruise and accommodation.  You will probably find that travel prices are forever fluctuating.  It can become quite overwhelming and frustrating.  So keep the following things in mind when investigating your travel costs:

  • Traditionally there are cheaper times of the year to book certain parts of your vacation eg. early bird specials and last-minute deals versus the rest of the year.
  • There are also cheaper times of the year to travel eg.  high season versus low season versus shoulder season.
  • Take note (I mean, literally start writing this down as it gets confusing as to who offers what) of the price and what you get from each company.  For example, booking directly with some cruise companies will guarantee you the lowest price even if it alters after booking and some hotel companies offer packages not available elsewhere.
  • To learn when specials are being released:
    • sign up for company e-newsletters
    • join the company’s Facebook pages
    • read the travel section of the newspaper.

Finally don’t forget a good old pen and paper to write down prices, dates and suppliers.

Top Trip Tip: Many people also advise that website cookies can increase the prices quoted due to repeat visits.  So clear your computer cache or use the Incognito TAB to prevent the website cookies from upping the price.

Booking a Cruise

Some of the best deals for booking a cruise can be found during the early bird sales.  Traditionally most cruise lines release their next cruise itineraries about 12-18 months before the year begins.  For example, toward the end of 2017, cruise itineraries for the latter part of 2018 and early 2019 were released.  These specials are often advertised in the travel section of the newspaper or in e-newsletters of your preferred cruise company.

Don’t fret if you miss the early bird sales additional last-minute sales will also be released.  The main disadvantages of booking later are that you may not get your preferred cruise date, cabin choice or tour preferences.

cruise ship in port at sunset
Book a cruise
Image by Dimcho Panayotov from Pixabay

When booking a cruise take note of these fare inclusions:

  • Luggage or space allowances.  Remember if you have flown to your departure point you will also have to work with the airline luggage allowances.
  • Cabin inclusions and layout.  Do you need a balcony, cabin views, a family suite or a cot for a baby?
  • Can the ship cater for special meals and dietary requirements?
  • Go online and check out your ship’s amenities.
    • What activities do they have for all the age groups or your travel party?
    • What restaurants are included in the fare?  Which are extra?  Will everyone like the food?
    • Check the meal times.
    • Are there medical facilities?
  • If travelling with kids:
    • Check the minimum age a child is allowed to travel on board your desired cruise.
    • Do they have kids’ clubs?  What are the age allowances for the kids’ clubs?  This should mean the cruise is more child-friendly and there will be other families travelling providing playmates for your kids.
  • Checking out family-friendly facilities is also a good thing to look at if you don’t have kids and don’t want to be surrounded by kids.  If there are child-friendly facilities then there is a guarantee of kids being about.

Top Trip Tip: Booking early ensures you get your choice of cruise dates, cabin preference and choice of tours.

Booking Flights

I find airfares fluctuate just so much.  As with cruises, there are early bird specials and last minute deals plus occasional destination specials.  To find out when these specials are released sign up for e-newsletters, Facebook pages and read the travel section of the newspaper.  Also, don’t forget that little top trip tip I mentioned earlier about clearing your computer cache.

Plane taking off into sunset
Book a flight
Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

Tips on how to book roundtrip flights:

  • Consider the pros and cons when deciding to fly with a full-service versus low-cost carrier.
    • If you choose a low-cost carrier, remember to book everything before you travel including luggage allowance and food as you will pay extra at the airport.
  • Pre-book special meals and extra assistance required at the airport.  It is too late to organise once you get there.
  • Look at flight times and whether the departure and arrival times match with your preferred routine.  Everybody is different some people like to travel at night and others during the day.  Do what is best for your travel party.
  • Book all your travel party together if your travel arrangements have been made separately contact the airline directly and inform them you are a group travelling together.  This will help the airline with seating you together.
  • Note down all reference numbers.
  • If travelling with kids:
    • If you have a young baby under 6 months request a bassinet.
    • Choose a flight time that matches sleep/nap times.
    • Request a child’s meal for each fare-paying child – but pack snacks as well.
      • Do not leave this until check-in as you will not get your meal request.
      • This also goes for any other special meal requests you require.
    • Consider whether to use a car seat for the flight.  This must be pre-booked and you will have to purchase a seat for the car seat to be strapped onto.
    • If you are a sole parent travelling and/or have long distances to cover during transit request an assistance cart to help.  This must be done prior to travel.
    • If your child is under 2 years consider whether it might be worth the cost of purchasing a seat for the guarantee of more space and more luggage allowance.
    • If your baby or toddler is booked on an infant fare check the luggage allowance – it is not the same as a full or even child fare.

Top Trip Tip: If wanting to ensure you are seated together take the time to book your seats – this sometimes incurs an additional fee

Booking Accommodation

Before booking your accommodation do some research.

  • Go directly to the accommodation website.  Look at the facilities an accommodation offered, then the rooms and restaurants.
  • Make sure the cost is what you can afford.  Remember costs fluctuate according to the session (high, shoulder and low).
  • Don’t forget to check out nearby facilities like restaurants, shops and transport options.
  • Consider how you are going to get to your accommodation, are transfers included, is parking available for your car and at what cost?
Bed in a hotel room
Booking an accommodation
Image by bottlein from Pixabay

If travelling with kids:

  • Choose a place that will suit all ages of your family and will comfortably fit all of your family.
  • Does the accommodation provide baby services such as cots, high chairs, food warmers and babysitters?  Book these items when you book your accommodation.
  • If you are spending a lot of time at your accommodation do they have kids’ clubs that are appropriate for the ages of your children?  Or at least playgrounds or games rooms to keep them occupied?
  • Do they offer children’s meals in the restaurant?

If you don’t want kids around during your vacation check to see if there are any child-friendly facilities.  The more child-friendly accommodation is the more kids there will be staying there.

If it all matches your preferences read some travel reviews to ensure what the accommodation promises actually deliver.  Personally, I like to use Trip Advisor* and travel blogs.  Don’t just read one review – read lots.  If lots of people complain about the same thing – then that could be an issue for you.  But not all complaints are worthy, for example, “the mini bar is expensive”.  The mini bar is always going to be expensive, it’s how the hotel makes extra $$$.  So it’s also about learning to ascertain worthwhile comments and reject the others.

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Then it’s time to book.  You can book direct through the accommodation website, through a third-party comparison website like* or utilise a travel agent to put a package together with flights, cruises or train fares and possibly even tours.

Top Trip Tip: If an accommodation has a reward loyalty program join before booking – you may get some bonus deals eg. upgrades, free WiFi, complimentary meals or just dollars towards your next trip

Booking Tours

Before booking your tour read reviews of the tour which may be found on Trip Advisor or through travel blogs.  Ensure that the tour is showing you the sites you want to see.  I have been caught out on tours that spend more time at local shops hoping to make a commission sale than at the actual site the tour is all about.

Also, check if the tour will collect you from your accommodation or how far away the collection point is from your accommodation.  If it’s all too hard another tour choice might be better.  Then take note of what is included on the tour, eg. entrance fees, food and drinks.  This will help confirm you are getting good value for money and advise whether you need to bring extra cash.  You can book tours through Viator* or GetYourGuide* which shows you all the details of what is and isn’t included on your tour.

Many tour websites will advise what else you need to bring with you eg. a hat and sunscreen.  If there is no advice or you are wondering what else you should pack for the day check out the day trip packing list.

Top Trip Tip: Always take some extra cash on a tour – you never know what you may want to buy along the way.

What to Include When Your Book Your Next Trip

Before you conclude your booking make sure you have added in all your contact details – including how to contact you whilst overseas.  For example, I do all the travel booking for our family, yet whilst we are overseas I don’t have international roaming on my phone – my husband does.  So the airlines and accommodation need to know the right contact number in case of changes.

Don’t forget to add your loyalty card numbers to your booking.  Particularly those with your accommodation and flights as they can entitle you to discounts and extra benefits.

Include any special requests and any anomalies like allergies or health issues.  Airlines, cruise ships and accommodations will do their best to ensure that they have food options available to you.  Add in any further special requests like wheelchair and mobility access or requirements for a baby or toddler.  Get these inclusions added to your booking now, it is usually too late once at the airport to arrange extra staff or move people around on a flight.  This goes for your accommodation as well.  Options for mobility rooms, cots and extra bedding may already be taken by those who booked earlier.  It is often a case of first in best dressed.

Top Trip Tip: If you forget to do any of this during the booking don’t panic you can always email or call the airline, cruise company or accommodation and ask for this to be added to your booking.  Just try to do it sooner rather than later

What to Do Next

Once your trip is all booked it is time to sort out your travel documents and a few extras:

  • Travel insurance – as the old saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.  Here are six reasons why you need to get travel insurance now!  We use CoverMore*.
  • Visas – if you are not sure if you need a visa you can check your destination country through your country’s Department of Foreign Affairs website.  For example here in Australia, if I was travelling to Thailand, I would go to Smart Traveller then browse the countries and choose Thailand.  On this page, it lists any embargoes, civil unrest, passport requirements and visa application information.
  • Vaccinations – some countries require you to be vaccinated against various diseases before travelling or take medication eg for malaria.  Check with the World Health Organisation to find out what you need.
  • Book pets in kennels or arrange for a family member to look after your pet.
  • Start preparing your trip packing list and purchase any extra travel accessories required.  You may like to check out my list of travel essentials for any trip.

Next, up – it’s time to prepare your travel documents.

Travel Planning Series

How to book a trip online is stage four in our travel planning series:



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