Transportation to & in the U.K.
Getting to the U.K. and getting around Britain: trains, planes, rental cars, low-cost airlines and long-distance coaches
- Momondo.com - (Aggregator) Before I get into details, just know this: 95% of the time, I find the lowest fares on Momondo. Momondo quietly blows most of the other aggregators out of the water. It searches more than 600 airline sites, plus booking engines, search engines, travel agencies, online discounters, etc. This is two to three times as many sources as the competition—including the low-cost carriers and no-frills airlines most of the other search engines ignore—and it pays off. You can also quickly see which flight is cheapest and which quickest (and which best overall), as well as use all the usual filters on the results (length of flight, departure/arrival times, number of stops, airlines, etc.). I ran Momondo through many tests, and it almost always found the lowest available fares on domestic, Transatlantic, and inter-European flights. It found fares from carriers none of the others did, and when it did find the same flights as some of the competition, it almost invariably managed to find a lower price for it. For now, at least, I'm calling it: Momondo is the single best resource out there, bar none.Partner
- Flyinternational.com - (Consolidator) The airfares branch of AutoEurope.com consistently offers among the cheapest (and most reliable) European airfare consolidators out there. Barring some sale fare elsewhere, this is where I almost always end up buying my transatlantic tickets for the simple reason that they are almost always the cheapest. This is also why I chose to partner with them for this site.Partner
- Skyscanner.com - (Aggregator) Another excellent aggregator that, like Momondo, also includes the little low-cost carriers and no-frills airlines ignored by most other search engines. I like that you can be as vague on your departure/arrivial points as simply an entire country, rather than a specific city of airport—you never know when, say, a flght into Manchester will actually be cheaper than one to London.Partner
- Hotwire.com - (OTA) Offers regaular fare searches and Hot Rates opaque fares (cost less, but with slightly less control over departure times and other details)Partner
- VirginAtlantic.com - Given all options, I will actually pay a bit more for Virgin Atlantic flight than one on any other airline. They just treat you so much better.Partner
- Google.com/flights - (Aggregator) Google has acquired ITA, the original airfare booking engine long used by travel agents. It's now available to the general public, and niftily shows you the rough current lowest cost for flights to pretty much anywhere from your hometown via a Google map measled with red dots marking major cities around the world. It doesn't allow you to book, but will tell you where/how to book the results it finds. Not really a strong performer on internaitonal flights yet—though, oddly, does a good job with last-minute international fares, so worth checking.
- Expedia.com - (OTA) Expedia—which does a fine job on middle-of-the-road fares—is the last remaining of the Big Three online travel agencies. (Expedia bought both Travelocity and Orbitz in 2015; Travelocity's search results are now identical to those at Expsia, and we can only hope Orbitz's lackluster results follow suit.)Partner
- Hipmunk.com - (Aggregator) The aggregator that rethought how searches should be delivered—and I always like those who think outside the search box. All results are shown on a timeline, and the default sort-order for flights that match your search is "Agony"—a combination factoring in price, flight duration, and stopovers—so that the least annoying options pop up first. You can also sort more traditionally by price, duration, departure time, arrival time, non-stop only, and ask it to favor your preferred airlines (or airline alliance). One drawback: It really only serarches the airlines directly plus a few booking engines like Expedia, so you're not getting the full story (no discounters are in the mix). Still: handy.
- CheapOair.com - (OTA) Upstart consolidator and discounter using the power of the Web to weave together the best bargains and negotiated discounts with three reservations systems and fifteen travel service providers—something of a mash-up of a traditional booking service and a wholesaler. It claims 18 million exclusive flight deals, a low airfare guarantee, and 84,000 negotiated hotel rates.Partner
- Vayama.com - (Aggregator) One of the original international airfare aggregators, and still one of the better ones.Partner
- Nationalrail.co.uk - Covers all of the lines once operated by the (since-privitized) old British Rail, as well as info on all British rail stations, including maps and services. This includes most major British railways, but notably does not cover many urban area light rail systems (such as London, Glasgow, Manchester, Blackpool, Sheffield, and Midland Metro), nor does it cover the Eurostar, Heathrow Express, nor a handful of heritage or privately owned railways. Still, it's the closest thing to one-stop shopping for finding train connections across the mainland U.K. (though not Northern Ireland).
- BritRail passes - Book railpasses good for travel all over Great Britain—or just in parts of all of England or Scotland.Partner
- Eurostar.com - The super-fast train through the Channel Tunnel connecting London with Paris (2.5 hrs.), Brussels (2 hrs.) and—though those hubs—the rest of Europe. » more
- Europetrainsguide.com - General train info from a private site devoted to European rail travel.
- Seat61.com - General train info from a private site devoted to rail travel, including detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to get from London to just about any other country in Europe via rail.
- Traintaxi.co.uk - Search stations to find out whether they have taxi ranks/stands, and the phone numbers for pre-booking a cab. (Not being updated after April 2016, but still handy.)
- Sleeper.scot - overnight train
- Heritagerailways.com - An association of historic, heritage, and narrow guage railways—many operating steam trains on historic scenic routes. The site is pretty bare-bones, but if you click on a railway and then look for the link in the box below the map (not teh name on the map itself), you can get to the website for that heritage rail line, train museum, or tourist train
- Train map - A rail network map courtesy of Nationalrail.co.uk.
Rental cars links
- Autoeurope.com - Wholesale prices on rentals (and short-term leases) from major rental companies. You end up picking up the car at the local Avis, Hertz, Europcar, or whatever office; you just pay less than the rack rate from those companies.Partner
- Rentalcars.com - Comparison shop the rates at multiple rental companies all at once.Partner
- Momondo.com - Comparison shop the rates at multiple rental companies all at once.Partner
- Europebycar.com - Offers both short-term rentals and short-term leases, making it easy to compare prices on a single site.
- Priceline.com - Actually finds good prices on U.K. rentals.Partner
- Vayama.com - aggregatorPartner
- Carrentals.com - This Expedia.com property searches about a dozen major rental companies at once.Partner
Vacation packages links
- Go-today.com - Hands-down the cheapest and best packager of air-hotel vacations out there (along with fly-drive packages). They seem to operate under a "we will not be undersold" attitude, and their exceptionally low rates on basic, (largely) six-night city breaks reflect that. I used them once for a family trip to Paris, and everything went pretty smoothly. One drawback: it's Net-only; you have to pay extra for customer service on the phone
- Gate1travel.com - One of the consistently cheapest tour providers around. They cover the entire world and offer a range of travel "products" from air-hotel packages to escorted tours.
- Sceptrevacations.com - Among other packages, does excellent air-car-B&B week-long escapes in England and Scotland (I've done the Ireland one, and it's a great deal). Also has standard air-hotel packages.
- Untours.com - Sort of like the Platinum Edition of a vacation package, taking care of all the major costs, details, and logistics but leaving you to plan your daily sightseeing and travels. For one price, you get airfare over there, some form of transport (rental car in Scotland; Travelcard in London), an apartment, and a local contact who will help you get settled in, show you the ropes, then be on-call to help with questions. You also usually have one activity during the course of the week when all other "untour" participants in your area are invited to get together.
- Expedia.com - The big booking engine can also bundle air-and-hotel, air-and-car, or air-hotel-car into a vacation package.Partner
- Hotwire.com - Hotwire can bundle air and hotel together, or air-car, or even air-car-hotels.Partner
- Hotels.com - This famous lodging booker can also bundle in airfare.Partner
- Tripmasters.com - Good generalist vacation package and tour company.
- CruiseDirect.com - One of the top cruise discounters in the business, consistently underselling the higher rack rates you'll see posted on the web sites of the cruise companies themselves. CruiseDirect.com even has a last-minute page with discounts on soon-to-leave ships.Partner
- Cruisecompete.com - You know the commercials for LendingTree.com? That whole "When banks compete, you win..." spiel? Well this the same thing for cruises. You put in the date and destination and ship (any or all of those), and it sends your cruise request to a whole bunch of cruise brokers and discounters. Each of them then contacts you with a quote on how little they can do that cruise for you. Basically, it does the shopping around for you, pretty cool, huh? Partner
- Priceline.com - The famous discounter of hotels rooms also does cruises.Partner
- CruiseCritic.com - Editorial site with ship reviews, plenty of good crusing intel, and very active forums. (Disclosure: I have written for them, and have several friends on the editorial staff.)
- Singlescruise.com - Books groups of singles (ages 21 on up, but mostly 35–55) onto cruise ships, offering its own onboard program of events and mixers—and, most importantly, matching you with a same-gender cabinmate (of roughly the same age) so you don't have to pay the dreaded "single supplement."
Coaches (buses) links
- Nationalexpress.com - The largest coach operator in the U.K., with more than 1,200 destinations served, including connecting aiports to cities.
- Uk.megabus.com - Budget coach operator—advance tickets can cost as little as £1.50—connecting London to around 90 major U.K. destinations, plus the Continent (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Colgone, and Barcelona)
- Eurolines.co.uk - The National Express, linked above, is the U.K. branch of a vast European network of coach lines. If you are looking to connect Great Britain to the Continent by bus, start here.
- Flixbus.com - This German coach line connects London to Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Prague.
- Ouibus.com - This French coach company connects London to Paris, Lille, Amsterdam, and Brussels.
- Berryscoaches.co.uk - Berry's connects two dozen stops in the U.K.'s West Country with London.
- x90.oxfordbus.co.uk - Connecting Oxford and London by coach.
- Oxfordtube.com - Despite the name, this is actually a bus between Oxford and London.