Planning the “perfect” holiday – Flights and Accommodation

So now that I know the destination and have chosen my dates. It is time to start spending money.

Important note: Try to get your holidays approved before booking anything you cannot cancel for free.

First of all I book the flights. At this point I have a rough idea of what flights are available as I used that information to pick the dates.

My airline of choice is Easyjet as I know their rules and never had any major issues with them. Also their hand luggage allowance is quite decent with no weight limit.

My preferred airport is Luton as it is not that far from home and by train is only about £13 each way. Gatwick is not too bad to get to either and even though it is a longer journey it is cheaper to get to than Luton as you can use an Oyster card.

Nowadays I use Skyscanner a lot to check prices from different airlines and book the cheapest as long as they don’t have any ridiculous hand luggage rules. It is important to always do your research before booking with an airline you are not familiar with in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. I also avoid booking through third-party websites as I prefer to book directly with the airline even if it is a bit more expensive. Again to avoid any nasty surprises.

All that said I choose the flights that suit me and pay for them. Then I take a deep breath and get ready for the next step.

Accommodation. This step usually takes many hours and can be quite stressful. Too many decisions to make and a lot of information to take into consideration.

I check the main places I want to visit wherever we are going. I draw the route in my head (with the help of Google maps). Check driving times roughly from point A to point B and get an idea of how long I need in each place to see everything.

If we are renting a car I filter by places with parking. Other filters I use are the price and the customer rating (usually set this to higher than 7 or 8).

Reading reviews can be tiring but it is a must! I do it all the time. Please try not to be put off by a slightly lower score if the reason for that is mainly because of something that you don’t really care about. In Menorca my favourite place has bad reviews because of ants but they don’t bother me so I still booked it the first time and two times after that.

If there is a chance you have to cancel the holidays or you are not sure about a certain place you can try to book places with free cancellation.

I have done it before and was happy I could just cancel it without paying a penny.

Always read the small print when booking to check if you are paying online straight away or if you pay when you get there. This is usually pretty easy to figure out on Booking.com so I tend to mostly book with them.

When booking accommodation I open a million tabs, go through the pictures first and close the ones I don’t like straight away. I check the location on the ones left open to close any that are no good. And finally I start reading reviews.

After all that hopefully I will make a decision and go ahead with booking the place.

Often I stay in different places throughout the same holiday so I repeat this process for the different locations.

airbnb posh danish house

If there isn’t anything I fancy on Booking.com I tend to check Airbnb.

On Airbnb I always pay attention to check in times and rules as those can be tricky as you don’t usually have a reception desk. It is likely you will have to communicate with your host in advance and sometimes on the day to arrange to pick up the keys and the times might not be very flexible.

I hope all this was useful and you got an idea on how to book flights and accommodation to plan your own “perfect” holiday.

Planning the “perfect” holiday – Where do I Start?

First of all, it is hard work! And that is why travel agencies still exist.

I have been planning holidays since I moved to London. I enjoy doing it but it can be tiring and sometimes stressful. I even had nightmares about it once but I’ll leave that for another post.

Now, how do I do it?

Usually I travel in mid or low season. Which for Europe is just a matter of avoiding July, August and holidays like Christmas or Easter (I have travelled during Easter before and if you book well in advance you might get away without spending a fortune). Also a good idea to avoid the school holidays like half term (I never know when this is).

This means I am avoiding the big Summer crowds but still enjoying a relatively lively environment and decent weather.

Also I try to book in advance to allow me time to plan properly and to get the best deals. Ideally 2 to 3 months.

A big part of it is choosing the destination.

I tend to do 2 types of holidays. The beach holiday and the city holiday and sometimes I mix the two.

Skyscanner is my go to website to check for flight prices (their mobile app is the best). I check all the destinations sorted by price for the period I am planning (I try to be flexible with the dates and book my time off from work based on flight prices).

Once I bump into something I fancy I go onto Booking.com to check if staying there is affordable.

If all is looking good I go on to check car rental prices. Only if I think that is the best option for that destination.

So the 3 main things I consider on my first approach in terms of my budget are, flights, accommodation and car rental/transfers. I also check the weather for the period I am booking.

Sometimes I am guilty of impulsive booking. But never regretted stretching the budget that little bit extra for special occasions.

Crete, Part VI – The Video

The day before our flight back to London we had a 3 hour drive ahead of us. This is what I was referring to when I said flying to Heraklion is not the best option to visit the West of Crete.

me on the bed tiredWe tried to make the most out of the drive back and added a pit stop to jump in the sea and to have lunch.

Still the drive was long and we were tired of spending so much time inside the car.

When we finally reached our accommodation in Agia Pelagia we just wanted to rest. We had our own little apartment and a balcony with sea view and laid in bed for a little while before heading to the swimming pool.

Dinner was at a beach nearby and we did enjoy the friendly service and the chat  about Crete with the waiter.

agia pelagia swimming poolAfter a good night sleep and breakfast by the swimming pool we gathered our stuff (that was all over the place after just a few hours of arriving there) and packed our bags.

The airport was a short drive away. We returned the car and got our camera case and spare battery back (after a lot of waiting and explaining).

Even with only one battery the entire time we filmed a lot of our time in Crete. Enjoy the holiday video below.

Costs’ details if you’re curious about it:
Apartment = £57 per night inc. Breakfast

Crete, Part V – Elafonisi and Kedrodasos

sfinari beachIt was time to head South to meet another star of Crete, Elafonisi. On our way down there we checked out Sfinari which is a beautiful and almost deserted pebble beach. There the waves make a cool sound when they hit the pebbles.

The next accommodation was promising as they call it “luxury” villas. It is located in the middle of nowhere about half an hour drive from Elafonisi. We got there around lunch time. The swimming pool by our room was really cool and the views impressive but the room was so old and tacky. As that was not bad enough there was a dead bird hanging from the ceiling in the bathroom!

We left quickly to go grab lunch before some beach time. The golden hour at Elafonisi was amazing. The place was busy but still beautiful. Elafonisi is famous for the pink sand, you can even see signs that warn you that it is illegal to take some home. There is a long stretch of sand and rocks to discover past the busy area and that is totally worth your time.

beautiful Elafonisi beach        lady in Elafonisi beach

It was a long day and we needed a shower and dinner. Unfortunately in the meantime we found out that the air conditioning was broken!

swimming pool at luxury villasShowered and feeling fresh I went to speak to the reception to get help. Well the guy tried the same we had already done and asked us to allow half an hour for it to magically start working. Of course that did not work so I went back there to tell him. He suggested a fan! I said that would not do as the night was too hot. He went away to figure something out. When he got back to me he said they had another place free and we could move if I was happy with it. I walked in the dark at 10pm through a narrow road following this guy. Then he opens a gate to another swimming pool and shows me a 2 bedroom massive villa. He sheepishly asks if that place is OK. I said, YEAH!

After that we rushed to get dinner as there aren’t many places around there and we did not want to starve until the next day. The dinner was good and so was the service.

Next day we got back to the same restaurant for breakfast, they serve a good hotel style breakfast.

kedrodasos beachThe second beach of the area to explore and my favourite was Kedrodasos. It is a less known beach, on the wild side and very quiet. Good for swimming but with more waves than the typical Crete beach.

On the way back to our massive villa with private pool and the best view of the whole place we grabbed take away lunch to eat by the pool. The afternoon was spent there enjoying our free upgrade.

Costs’ details if you’re curious about it:
Double room (shared kitchen) = £77 per night exc. breakfast

In Part VI: The Video

Crete, Part IV – Kissamos and Balos

We did not want to leave Giorgi’s Blue Apartments. We ended up checking out at the last possible minute after spending the morning in the sea.

ravdoucha beach looking greatAs suggested by our host we drove to Ravdoucha beach for a quick swim and lunch. Apparently Ravdoucha is not a very touristy place so we enjoyed the quietness there.

After lunch we headed to our next accommodation. We were looking forward to get there as it looked great in the pictures.

Well, the pictures did not show off the busy road just outside the apartments or the outdated bathroom therefore we were slightly disappointed.

After having to call the host to let us in and him not finding the spare keys anywhere we headed to Falassarna to relax.

falassarna beach at golden hourFalassarna is a long stretch of sand easily accessible by car and if you drive further down once you lay down on the sand you can only see the dunes behind you.

The next day Balos was in our plans. After a lot of time spent researching the best way to get there and a breakfast discussion on the subject we decided to take the car route.

Balos is without doubt the most famous beach in Crete.

the most famous beach in crete balosThe road there is not an easy one and it gets quite busy. The scenery is out of this world and driving past goats is quite cool too.

Once you are done with parking the car a long walk awaits you to finally reach the famous patch of sand. One of the good things about driving/walking there is that you can see Balos from the hill.

all smiles overviewing BalosThe walk is so long that you can actually get on a donkey instead of walking! The beach itself is a cool stretch of pinkish sand with super clear water on both sides.

I understand all the hype about this place as it is absolutely stunning but I would not do it again if I am just looking for a day at the beach.

For dinner we had some delicious Greek food at a nearby restaurant and I got drunk on the local beer.

Costs’ details if you’re curious about it:
Double bedroom = £53 per night exc. breakfast
(there’s a link but I would probably not stay there again)

In Part V: Elafonisi and Kedrodasos

Crete, Part III – Chania

cute umbrellas along the strip in Georgioupolis on the way to ChaniaOn the second day we headed to Chania.

Two hour drive away was Georgioupolis beach where we stopped for a quick swim before lunch. A very picturesque little place with cute umbrellas along the main strip by the beach.

Refreshed and well fed we resumed our drive to Chania.

swimming pool and sea view at Georgi's Apartments in ChaniaAlmost an hour after that we reached our accommodation. A beautiful spacious apartment with all the trimmings located by the sea and with a very decent swimming pool.

Undoubtedly one of the best places we have stayed at. Perfect for a chilled holiday.

Later we went for a walk around the place to take some golden hour pictures and had a homemade dinner at the apartment while we watched YouTube.

The next day we were out exploring the beaches in the area. Stavros, Seitan Limania and Marathi.

Seitan Limania the most amazing turquoise water in ChaniaAll worth a visit but Seitan Limania is specially beautiful and has the most amazing turquoise water. Unfortunately I was too lazy (and a bit scared) to go down the hill to reach it. Maybe next time.

We had lunch at Marathi’s beach and sat almost on the beach. It was a busy place with a cool local feel to it and the food was good.

In the afternoon we walked around Chania. It’s a beautiful town worth a few hours of your time.

We spent the rest of the time diving and swimming in the private little patch of sea by the apartments. Only being disturbed by an unknown sea creature that decided to nibble on my back! Even made me scream.

To recover from the scary incident I laid down sunbathing with the most amazing sea view.

Costs’ details if you’re curious about it:
Apartment = £88 per night inc. breakfast

In Part IV: Kissamos and Balos

Crete, Part II – Heraklion

The day had come and we flew to Heraklion. London is just a 4 hour flight away from warm Crete.

We got there around 11pm and rushed outside to pick up our rental car. We had selected the cheapest/smallest car available but we were given a mini van! After getting our stuff in it we decided to request another car. They had one old automatic white Peugeot 107 and we took it!

All the rental cars seemed pretty old and worn out.

Thankfully the hotel was a quick drive away and I made sure parking was available when booking.

We were quite hungry at this point.

We found the hotel! But no parking… I quickly ran in there to ask about the parking. Had to wait as the receptionist was busy on a call. Once that was out of the way he kindly wrote the name of the parking down and provided useless instructions on how to get there.

After driving around for a bit we found the parking. It was pitch black in there. And we carried our bags through dark alleys in a new city.

The room was decent and the hotel very central. Once we dropped our bags we were desperate for food.

We had no clue where we could have dinner after midnight! So we decided to walk to the city center and hoped for the best. A few places were closing. We kept walking until we found the cutest outdoor restaurant area and luckily they were happy to serve us! The food was delicious and the portions very generous.

Belly full we walked back to the hotel through these streets that reminded us of Athens.

After a good night sleep we woke up to a busy roundabout view with a little bit of sea in the background. The breakfast was super nice and on the top floor the view was considerably better.

Once we were gathering our stuff to leave the hotel we realised the camera case and the spare battery were missing.

They were left behind in the mini van! We called the rental car place but the mini van was already rented out so we couldn’t go get our beloved camera case and the much needed extra battery anytime soon.

Costs’ details if you’re curious about it:
Flights (Easyjet) = £380 return for two
Hotel = £47 per night
Car rental (Sixt) = €25 per day

In Part III: Chania and the evil sea creature