I've been to Europe more times than I can count, but I still use a few favorite, "go-to" travel sites for planning my European travel, particularly to cities I haven’t visited before. The sites described below offer extensive information and tips to help you book the best flights, seats, hotels and other travel activities and I encourage you to leverage these resources when planning your own travel.
Seatguru.com:This site has the seat configuration of just about every airplane and flight out there. Simply put in your airline, flight number and date, and it will display a seat map with comments on the better and worst seats on that particular airplane configuration. Once you figure out which seats you want, use this information when booking the flight(s) on the carrier's website.
Note, in some cases the airline will have multiple configurations for the same flight (on different days), so check your itinerary on the carrier’s site to confirm which aircraft configuration is to be used for your flight. Also note, airlines sometimes switch planes between when you book the flight and the day of your travel, so it’s best to check back within a few weeks of your flights to confirm that you have the seats you are expecting.
Skyscanner: This site allows you to check almost every available flight/route in the world. I use this site (and others like Orbit.com) when traveling to and within Europe to find the best, and some cases cheapest flights/routes (e.g., London to Milan, or Berlin to Mallorca). After finding the best routes/carriers for my needs, I then go to the carrier’s site to book the ticket (see Rule #1 in the Flying section under Travel Tips).
Rick Steves' Europe: This company's site is referred to in several places on our our website. This is because Rick Steves' Europe have been offering tours of Europe for more than 30 years and provides the most comprehensive and easily absorbable information about European travel. They also offer group tours that touch most European countries and their travel videos can frequently be seen on public broadcasting stations nationwide. If an Original Gravity tour is not right for you, we suggest you check out Rick Steves' Europe.
TripAdvisor: I use this site to research hotels. I rely primarily on customer reviews/ratings to determine where I want to stay and have never gone wrong. There are often numerous customer photos to help you get a good feel for the place (vs. professionally taken, hotel approved photos). I usually book a top 10 rated hotel, and give greater weight to hotels with the most number of reviews.
As mentioned elsewhere, once I know where I want to stay, I book directly with the hotel to avoid possible problems going thru a 3rd party intermediary. See the Hotels section of our site for more information.