Far-off destinations like Rio are easier to fly to and get around with the websites below / Getty Images

Whether you want to know where to go, how to get there, the finest places to stay or what to avoid at all costs, this list is a treasure trove of information for the trip of a lifetime

The experts:

Mark Hodson founded 101holidays.co.uk, and 101honeymoons.co.uk

Abigail King is a travel writer and blogger, insidethetravellab.com

Srin Madipalli is CEO of Accomable

Julia Buckley is acting head of travel at The Independent

Mathura Premaruban is PR director at Hills Balfour's HB Luxe

Cynthia Drescher is a freelance travel journalist and digital editor

John Walton is an aviation journalist and deputy editor of Runway Girl Network

OpenTable

“If, like me, the idea of queuing for a restaurant while on holiday turns your stomach, this is your website,” says Srin. “With more than 40,000 restaurants to choose from, it’s still the biggest and best – and lets you search for places to eat by district, cuisine and review score, before booking your table for free. It’s particularly handy if you’re travelling through busy cities like London, New York or Sydney, where bagging a table at a peak time in a popular spot can be impossible without a reservation. For European cities including Paris and Madrid, French website, the Fork, is a little fiddlier to use, but does the same job.” 

opentable.com

Sky Park Secure

“While no one’s going to get excited about airport parking, the fact remains that the costs – and inconveniences involved – can quickly mount up,” says Abigail. “This site compares more than 300 airport car parks at over 28 airports to help find you the best deal, but the algorithm goes beyond budget alone. Car parks are monitored for quality and the deals include official airport parking and meet & greet options as well as the more economical park and ride end of the scale.”

skyparksecure.com

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Viator helps travellers navigate holiday activities 

Viator

“So you’ve landed at your destination and you’re overwhelmed with options of what to see, eat, and do, but there are some challenges to accomplishing it all,” says Cynthia Drescher. “Viator offers activities that help travellers get to the heart of the local experience while removing some of the roadblocks. For example, I was in Tallinn and wanted to a see more of Estonia without having to rent a car on my own. Through a Viator experience, I joined a small group daytrip to nearby beaches and hiked through a quarry known for its otherworldly scenery. On my first night in Hoi An, Vietnam, I left all my dinner decisions to a translator and a Viator tasting tour of the best banh mi sandwiches. Greatest idea ever.”

viator.com

Google Maps

“It might sound obvious, but with its local information, handy satnav directions and downloadable map options, Google Maps is a godsend for the modern traveller,” says John Walton. “There are so many options – walking, driving, transport and more – that you should make sure you have a handle on all of them before travelling.”

maps.google.com

FancyHands

“The last few years have seen a growth in the number of websites and apps that promise to act as a personal travel assistant, but in my experience, this non-travel focused site wins hands down,” says Abigail. “For a monthly or yearly fee, you can submit 20-minute requests by email, phone, text or direct to a 24-hour cyber-team who will spring straight to work. Savour your travel time by allowing someone else to zip through your to-do list: confirm the hotel booking has a cot, find three suggestions for dinner, call to explain flight is delayed, find quickest way to the art museum, and so on. These days, I wonder how I got things done without it.”

fancyhands.com

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Find out about legroom, power sockets and more plane stats on Routehappy 

Routehappy

“Want to figure out how to travel in comfort as well as style? Routehappy (where I used to be Director of Data back in 2014) will help you pick a flight based on whether there’s good legroom, wider seats, new planes, faster wifi, fewer neighbours and a lot more,” says John Walton.

routehappy.com

Adioso

“This is a flight search engine for people who are flexible on when they fly,” says Mark. “So you can type in a request such as, ‘London to Los Angeles leaving next week under £800’ and see what comes up. If the fares are too high, you can set an email alert that will let you know when the price reaches your budget. It’s intuitive, fun to use and nicely designed.”

adioso.com

Tripit

“Can't remember the name of your hotel?  Simply forward all your email booking confirmations to this nifty planning tool and it will pop them into in one sleek, shareable itinerary, covering everything from flights to restaurants,” says Srin. “It's particularly useful if, like me, you're a bit of a planning nut, or if you have a complex itinerary and plan to venture from place to place.” 

tripit.com

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Eater has up-to-date food news for cities worldwide 

Eater

“Perhaps one of the best things about travelling to a new place is trying new food and drink when you’re there,” says Cynthia. “Eater is a site that reports on everything from the latest trends in ingredients (and where to try them) to which chefs are opening new restaurants and where. Eater’s fantastic and exhaustive airport dining guides even aid you in deciding what to eat when you’re in between places.”

eater.com

​Euan’s Guide

“Looking for accessible places to visit? Euan MacDonald, the man behind this eponymous guide, and a fellow power chair user, has dedicated the past four years to digging out the best accessible attractions with unfailingly honest and detailed reviews,” says Srin. “It’s particularly useful for the UK, though more than 30 countries are covered. I particularly like that it goes beyond the usual well known tourist attractions to include more esoteric stuff like pop up festivals, farmers’ markets and little community theatres.” 

euansguide.com

Hipmunk

“Yes, Hipmunk is a travel search engine for the likes of airfare, hotel rates, and rental cars, but it’s also an innovator in that space,” says Cynthia. "Instead of simply organising results by what’s cheapest, Hipmunk applies an ‘agony‘ filter to show which flights, ranked by length of travel time combined with layovers and price, will be best for your money. They are then displayed on a grid that better represents what part of your day the plans will occupy, in order to help you plan around it instead of giving over an entire day to travel.”

hipmunk.com

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Let Skyscanner take you away - anywhere

Skyscanner

“Skyscanner faithfully pulls in airfares into an easy-to-search, easy-to-use flight finder and fare comparison website,” says Abigail. “What sets it apart is the number of ways you can filter your search results. You can narrow it right down to a preferred airline, flight duration and departure time or go wild and search for ‘anywhere in the UK’ to ‘anywhere in France’. It’s an essential part of my travel armoury.”

skyscanner.net

Owners Direct

“There’s a lot to dislike about Owners Direct, starting with the buggy 1990s-style website,” says Julia. “But it’s also a brilliant resource for self-catering accommodation that bypasses the middle man – you’re communicating direct with the owners. Where Airbnb is great for short city breaks, Owners Direct is unbeatable for longer stays – especially in the UK, where most cottages in places like Cornwall rent by the week. It’s part of the HomeAway behemoth (including VRBO) which means that you can also find great places in Europe and the US as well – two of my all-time favourite stays in Greece and California I found on here. Just remember to make sure the person you’re communicating with is the real owner of the property, and bypass the ‘reserve’ button and make an ‘enquiry’ instead – that way, you don’t pay the site the commission fee (about 10%) for putting you in touch.” 

ownersdirect.co.uk

Accuweather

“Like a true Brit, I like to keep a keen eye on the weather,” says Srin. “This site is one of the best for travellers, as it lets you home in on off the beaten track destinations, from lesser known Greek islands to villages in northern Thailand. You can see an hour-by hour forecast for on-the-day planning, as well as an extended forecast for the entire month ahead, though the accuracy of this is somewhat doubtful.”

accuweather.com

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The Sawday's site has fully vetted glamping options across Europe 

Canopy and Stars

“Sawday’s was one of the first companies to jump on the glamping bandwagon, and it really shows,” says Julia. “This website is always my go-to if I want something slightly different. Glamping can be grim, but I know that these have all been vetted, and the reviews, though brief, give a great impression of what you’re in for. There’s a huge worldwide selection.”

canopyandstars.co.uk

Google Flights

“There’s nothing better than Google Flights for figuring out your flight options,” says John. “Top tip: if you know your airport codes, you can search to or from up to five airports at a time, which is ideal if you’re within striking distance of several airports or want to hit a region but don’t care which airport you fly into.”

google.com/flights

Time Out London

“I grew up in London, but still feel like I haven’t scratched the surface when it comes to the capital’s myriad attractions,” says Srin. “This regularly updated guide is here to help you out, with comprehensive listings that cover everything from the biggest exhibitions and musicals to roof top bars, new street food hangouts and intimate gigs. I love the regular weekend guides, which always include free things to do.”

timeout.com/london

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Rome 2 Rio tells you exactly how to get from A to B 

Rome 2 Rio

“A door-to-door travel search engine that shows times, prices and even carbon emissions, whether you plan to fly, drive, take the train, bus or ferry,” says Mark. “For example, it’s a two-hour flight from Gatwick to Venice, but from my front door to Piazza San Marco will take six hours 24 minutes, apparently, including a 41-minute ferry ride to Ospedale, followed by an 18-minute walk. Getting to the Falkland Islands would take me 31 hours 40 minutes. It’s a fun and addictive site, but it can be beaten: it couldn’t find a way from my house to the South Pole.”

rome2rio.com

Google Translate

“I remember when Google first offered its translation service, just over 10 years ago, the results were either dodgy or indecipherable (generally both),” says Srin. “These days it’s pretty slick. I use it for translating websites into English, but it comes into its own when you’re travelling, and are struggling for a word or need to ask a question.”

translate.google.co.uk

Vital Vegas

“There’s nothing like local blogs for finding out the newest openings and trends in a place, but make sure you’re getting a blog that’s free from PR influence,” says Julia. “Vital Vegas is loathed by many Sin City PRs because it consistently breaks the stories they don’t want you to hear about, whether that’s charging for ice in drinks or decreasing the shot size in gamblers’ free drinks. But it also has its finger on the pulse of what’s going on.” 

vitalvegas.com

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TripAdvisor's app is helpful on the go 

TripAdvisor

“Love it or hate it, TripAdvisor is the daddy of hotel review websites,” says Mark. “Yes, it can be manipulated by unscrupulous hoteliers, but it has such a large bank of hotel reviews that the occasional bad one rarely influences the overall score. And it’s not just hotels – reviews of restaurants and tourist attractions are generally reliable, too. Its smartphone app is particularly good too.”

tripadvisor.co.uk

Duolingo

“If you’re heading to a country that speaks one of the languages Duolingo covers (including, most recently, Japanese) you could do a lot worse to learn the language than this fun language learning app,” says John. “Some of the phrases are delightfully weird, and its AI gets hung up on grammar points occasionally when you might really be preferring to learn vocab, but it’s free, easy and includes oral and listening options.”

duolingo.com

Bouteco

“This is the perfect site for the eco-luxury traveller, ” says Mathura Premaruban. “Founded by Juliet Kinsman, she has travelled the world to bring together the finest luxury and boutique hotels that positively contribute to and change their local communities and ultimately the wider world. It is ideal for those that don’t want to compromise on luxury but still want to be environmentally and socially aware.”

bouteco.co

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Get emails about your wishlist destinations when prices hit rock bottom with Hitlist

Hitlist 

“The world is so huge, and there are just so many places to go that organising your ‘must visit’ list can be a daunting task,” says Cynthia Drescher. “Well, Hitlist is here to help. Not only does it organise your ever-expanding destinations and allows you to share your picks with friends, but it constantly scrapes for updated airfare data to let you know when ticket prices are a steal. Technically it’s an app, but Hitlist has also rolled out a Google Chrome extension named the ‘Wandertab’ that draws from the company’s wealth of destination and airfare deals to inspire you with destination images and information every time you open a new tab in the browser.”

hitlistapp.com

Holiday Pirates

“Amid all the cheap deals sites, there’s nothing like Holiday Pirates,” says Julia. "It combs the internet to find the very best deals on package holidays, city breaks and flights – even super-cheap ‘mistake’ fares. You can regularly get a week in the sun for about £100 and longhaul flights from around £200. What’s even better is that it often packages up things for you to suggest the best deal, so it’ll tell you to book this flight, that hotel and that hire car individually.” 

holidaypirates.com

Weather2Travel

“Some travel brochures and tour operator websites have selected climate information, but it can be misleading,” says Mark. “For detailed climate information about any destination, Weather2Travel is the place to go. It shows everything from humidity levels to sea temperatures, for any month of the year, as well as current conditions and there’s an interactive tool to find your chances of getting caught in a tropical storm.”

weather2travel.com

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If you book hotels through the SLH site, you also get perks 

Small Luxury Hotels of the World

“The leader in the world of special escapes, Small Luxury Hotels of the World is exactly as the name suggests,” says Abigail. “In addition to vetting boutique hotels for you, its membership scheme provides extra perks such as free upgrades, late check-ins and sometimes wine on arrival.”

slh.com

Flight Aware

“You could use Flight Aware to check if a flight is due to land on time but that would kind of miss the point,” says Srin. “More than anything else, this is a really cool piece of tech. It tracks thousands of aircraft in real time as they cross countries and oceans to reach airports around the globe. On a map it’s mindboggling to look at, and a must for tech and travel geeks alike.”

uk.flightaware.com

WeLove2Ski

“There’s a lot of ski information on the web, much of it badly written or out-of-date,” says Mark. “WeLove2Ski is put together by specialist travel writers and is packed with balanced resort reviews, snow reports and advice on everything from technique to clothing. It’s the best all-round ski website.”

welove2ski.com

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Easy Taxi has revolutionised private transport for travellers abroad

Easy Taxi

“Easy Taxi has changed my life,” says Julia. “I’m not a fan of Uber or other ridesharing apps, but this works by hooking you up with real, licensed cab drivers in 170 cities in the world – and you can pay by credit card or cash. It’s not just about not needing to queue anymore (the taxi comes to you). It has changed the way I travel in South America – in places like Buenos Aires or Rio, where you’re warned to be wary of flagging certain cabs, this provides extra security, and it also helps with language barriers, because you’ve already input your destination into the system. 

easytaxi.com

The Local

“If I want to know what’s going on in Europe, I go straight to The Local,” says Julia. “It’s a great curated feed of news with nine editions from around the continent, and it also has more fun content – like a recent piece on Italian hand gestures. I love it.”

thelocal.com

Matrix Airfare Search

“This one is definitely for travel nerds,” says Mathura. “This no-nonsense site allows you to plan complex multi-route journeys and find the lowest fare. The only snag is that you can’t purchase directly from ITA Software but if you find a fare you like, you can give the information from this site to your travel agent or airline when making a booking. I spend hours on it planning far-flung trips.”

matrix.itasoftware.com

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You can plan car routes across Europe with the AA, even if you're not a member

AA Route Planner

“Available to members and non-members alike, the AA website includes a free route planner that goes beyond the UK into the rest of Europe,” says Abigail. “It’s perfect for checking driving times, distances, and other useful tools include lists on what you’ll need for driving in different countries, from snow chains to fluorescent jackets.”

theaa.com/route-planner/index.jsp

Rentalcars.com

“I rent a lot of cars in the US and have never found a cheaper deal than what Rentalcars.com offers,” says Julia. “They’re unbeatable in America (and add on extras, such as free one-way rentals in California and Nevada which is great for road-tripping) and they’re also very strong on UK and Europe rentals. They have excellent customer service too, if anything ever goes wrong. Always my first port of call.” 

rentalcars.com

Context Travel

“An afternoon with Context will change your impression of guided tours forever,” says Abigail. “Context recruits academics who are passionate about their subject and who live in the area they’re working in. Thus, you’ll find experts on the Cold War in Berlin and architectural experts tracking down Roman remains in central London. In-depth, informed and interesting, these walking tours are simply outstanding.”

contexttravel.com

CDC Travel Health

“This is THE website my doctor friends swear by when it comes to getting trustworthy travel health advice,” says Abigail. “Of course, you should always consult your own healthcare professional, but this website can give you a crucial heads-up when it comes to working out what vaccines you’ll need. It also provides the latest news on travel health updates country by country and region by region. Essential reading.”

cdc.gov/travel

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Instagram's great for travel inspiration (@jetsetcd)

Instagram

“Instagram gets a bad rap,” says Julia. “And for good reason – the rampage of tourists visiting sites that have become famous on the ‘Gram and spending more time on their filters than on looking at a destination really grinds my gears. And yet Instagram is still a great place to get inspiration of where to go and what to see. I tend to skip over professional travel Instagrammers for more authentic feeds – I love @jetsetcd, run by a travel journalist who takes amazing photos (fellow panellist Cynthia Drescher), @lisajanemurray who highlights climate change through her photography and @megancstarr, a solo traveller who specialises in Eastern Europe.” 

instagram.com

Green Traveller

“If you’d rather not fly – whether you hate the experience or worry about your carbon footprint – Green Traveller is packed with holiday ideas,” says Mark. “There’s everything from yurt camps in the south of France to ski touring in Scotland, all of which you can reach by train, coach or ferry. The site is well-designed and written by expert journalists.”

greentraveller.co.uk

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office Travel Advice Guide

“While it may not be the most exciting recommendation, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website still earns a place on my essential travel checklist,” says Abigail. “Problems abroad change fast and it’s always good to have reliable advice on what you’re dealing with. In addition to the latest security alerts and some travel health advice, you’ll find useful tips on what you can pack in your hand luggage plus the necessary emergency information should the worst occur while you’re away.”

gov.uk/foreign-traveladvice-guide

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Spotted By Locals gives you genuinely good recommendations for where to go

Spotted By Locals

“Rather than rely on an outdated guidebook, Spotted By Locals allows you to get tips from insiders,” says Mark. “Locals in 40 European cities blog about their favourite restaurants, bars, shops and festivals – it’s like having a friend show you the best spots. You can buy a PDF guide to each city or download the free smartphone app.”

spottedbylocals.com

FairFX

“A travel currency service is never going to be the most inspiring thing on the web,” admits Srin. “But a few clicks on this site gets you free next day delivery and more bang for your buck than the high street. They’re a young company, and keen to please, so I got a friendly follow up call from their team too. If you travel a lot, I find their prepaid currency cards are handy. You just transfer money from your bank onto the card, and can spend or withdraw it anywhere that accepts Mastercard worldwide.” 

fairfx.com

UberWAV

“Specialist wheelchair accessible taxis can be ruinously expensive, so this new service is a bit of lifesaver,” says Srin Madipalli. “It costs the same as a regular Uber but wait times are generally longer due to fewer vehicles. It’s not available everywhere but I’ve found good coverage in London, and you can also use it in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto.” 

uber.com

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Runway Girl Network focuses on the inflight experience

Runway Girl Network

“Runway Girl Network is run by the kind of aviation experts who know when you’ve used a photo of the wrong plane type in a story,” says Julia Buckley. “But it’s different from other aviation websites because it focuses on the passenger experience, rather than intricate geekery – right down to inflight film reviews. Their knowledge is second to none. Also, it’s run by a woman, Mary Kirby, and makes a concerted effort to increase diversity in its coverage, writers and sources – which is the icing on the cake.”

runwaygirlnetwork.com

Travellers Point

“One of the world’s largest travel community sites, Travellers Point features 30,000 blogs and more than 1.4m photos,” says Mark. “It has active forums where you can ask just about anything, plus a neat travel planning widget. Starting up your own blog takes seconds.”

travellerspoint.com

Design Hotels 

“As the name suggests, this website relishes good design when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep on the road,” says Abigail. “Design Hotels presents a collection of more than 300 independent hotels in over 50 countries, with benefits for members ranging from discounts on car hire to deals on the hotels themselves. But the real joy lies in uncovering hotels that please the eye, as chrome bedsteads compete with bare brick and thick velvet curtains for the most surprisingly stylish place to sleep.”

designhotels.com

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Airbnb has changed the way we travel in the past few years

Airbnb

“The idea behind Airbnb is simple: rather than stay at a hotel, you can rent somebody’s spare room,” says Mark. “Since it launched in 2008, it has become a global phenomenon, with more than 300,000 listings in 192 countries. Not just spare rooms, but apartments, family houses, villas, treehouses, you name it. The site is simple and easy to use, with lots of photographs, user reviews and star ratings.”

airbnb.co.uk

The Man in Seat 61

“If you’re planning a rail trip anywhere in the world, Mark Smith should be your first port of call,” says John. “With suggestions for trips as well as clear explanations of what you get in each class or for each railpass, this is an invaluable resource for figuring out how the trains work and how to buy tickets.”

seat61.com

AccessNow

“I came across this cool mapping tool at an accessibility event in Toronto, and was immediately hooked,” says Srin. “Set up by Maayan Ziv, a bit of a rockstar in the disabled community, it uses crowdsourced data to pinpoint accessible locations on an online map. Perfect for when you’re on the go, and want to pop into an accessible café or bar without the faff of having to do tonnes of research or planning in advance.” 

accessnow.me

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Find out how to stay healthy while travelling with Furthermore

Furthermore

“This blog from posh US gym chain Equinox goes beyond the ‘what to eat’ and ‘where to stay’-style articles to dispense real advice from sport and nutrition professionals for active travellers,” says Cynthia. “Their guide to holistic eateries and traveller-friendly workout studios in Berlin as well as articles that detail healthy ways to spend a layover offer real, creative solutions and insight you don’t typically find on travel sites.”

furthermore.equinox.com

In Your Pocket

“On a trip to Johannesburg last year, this was the only guide I could find that was up-to-date and informative about the city,” says Julia. “Everything else I saw skirted around what there was to offer and treated it as a hub for Kruger National Park, but this really got under the skin. I’ve been a fan of In Your Pocket since then. Whatever the city, they really know their stuff.”

inyourpocket.com

i-escape

“Hotel websites can be impossible to sift through, and sometimes they can feel like little more than targeted ads,” says Julia. “But that’s where i-escape comes in. It’s genuinely curated, offers a fantastic selection of mainly independent hotels, and has proper, genuine reviews that tell you who this is and isn’t for, rather than pretend everyone’s going to love it. It’s one of the first places I check if I’m going somewhere.”

i-escape.com

Additional research by Sarah Barrell