I spend way too much time researching and planning my trips. I create detailed itineraries and like to know as much as humanly possibly before traveling. I realize that most people do not put as much time in as I do, so here are some quick general resources that I use. As I visit specific places, I will add posts about websites or articles for them, but these are the general websites or apps that I use when booking trips.
Since, I usually travel solo, I typically stay in hostels. They are affordable, decently comfortable, and typically are near major bus stops or train stations. In the US or when I am traveling with someone else, I will stay in hotels, but eberyone and their mother knows how to look up hotels and their rates. But if you are traveling overseas, check out http://hostelworld.com or the hostelworld app. It has a great filter that helps you sort out what is important to you. I always make sure the hostel I am staying in includes linens, free wi-fi, and if I am arriving or leaving late, 24 hour check-in. It also has filters to search for private rooms and in-suite rooms. (In-suite means the bathroom is in the room.) Tip- a “double” room means a bigger bed meant for 2 people, where “twin” means a room for 2 people with 2 smaller beds.
One of the best things about booking through hostelworld is that it only charges you a downpayment and you pay the rest at the hostel when you arrive. You can also add a deposit protection so that your deposit can be added to another trip or refunded if you have to cancel.
You can also see pictures and reviews and search for hostels on a map so you can choose a certain location to stay in. I have used the app for several different hostels and have had very pleasant results every time.
I bought most of my tours and activities through viator. Not only does it have multiple tours for the same places or activities so you can price shop, you can also search for types of tours! I usually find so many places I want to see through this app or website. I love having all my activities in one place! But the absolutely best thing for me is that they charge you in your home currency meaning no pesky foreign transaction fee! Yes, to saving a few bucks.
Free Tours by Foot
There are a lot of tour companies and even a few free ones, but I have really enjoyed my tours through Free Tours by Foot. Because the tour guides work for tips, they are usually engaging and informative! Why pay a company 40 or 50 dollars and still have to tip the guide when you can just pay the one doing the work. Tip: Be generous! These people have to live on the tips alone and you are getting the tour free otherwise, so don’t be stingy!
There are a lot of bogus sites and pins on Pinterest, but I usually search for packing tips, itineraries, and travel hacks for wherever I am visiting. You can usually get a really great overview of what to expect by browsing through pinterest.
Visit A City
As I have stated, I am an extreme planner and visit a city is my favorite! You start by choosing a length of stay and it generates an itinerary. You can add places from a list they have, which also gives you great information about the location. Then you can move the places you want to visit to a different time or different day. It has a handy map so you can see where in the city you will be. I usually create my outline of activities on this site because of the next 2 points. First, it tells you how long it takes to get between each place by either transit or walking. This is incredibly handy to see where everything is in relation to each other. Sometimes things look close together, but end up taking forever to walk between, or sometimes 2 places that are on opposite sides of the city might have a quick subway ride between them. Secondly, and amazingly, it tells you if the place you are visiting is closed when you are planning on going! Sometimes museums or parks are closed on certain days or have very limited hours! I typically don’t stay right on schedule, because life doesn’t go according to plan and sometimes you spend more time in a place than expected or take a long lunch… or a nap! But knowing the opening times in one handy app is so helpful. You can also download your itineraries so you can view the offline.
TripIt is my favorite app to use for keeping my trips organized. It basically creates an itinerary for you on things that you have booked. You link an email address and when it finds an appointment, it adds it to a trip. This includes flights, theaters, tours, restaurant reservations, and more. You can add your own plans in as well. Sometimes the emails are in a wierd format and it recognizes that you have booked something, but it can’t understand what or when it is, but it will alert you to that and you can go into the app or website and put in details as needed!
I love using this as a way to make sure I do not schedule too much on one day. Sometimes, I go trigger happy and schedule so much and can overbook or even book things at the same time! So using TripIt, helps me look easily what each day of my trip will look like.
I think it is so important to know some of the language before visiting somewhere. Not only to be respectful to the culture and the people, but also to help you travel better. I always look up simple phrases such as “Thank you, You’re Welcome, Please, How are You?, Where’s the Restroom?” etc, on youtube. There are always amazing videos out there. But I love to start doing lessons on Duolingo a few weeks before my trip. It starts with basic building blocks of language and common phrases. It is easy to use and only takes a few minutes a day. Plus, it has the cutest owl mascot that you can win points and dress up!
Doing this for a few weeks, you are not going to be a master at the language, so why do it? Memorizing a few phrases isn’t going to help you navigate your way around a strange city. Also, knowing phrases and speaking them is 2 separate things! Duolingo makes you practice saying the words aloud which helps you become more comfortable in the language, It also has you listen to the language, which is SO IMPORTANT! A lot of time, I can read and speak some of the language, but I get completely flustered when trying to listen and translate when native speakers are talking to me! So being able to listen to words and phrases being spoken in your target language is so helpful.
Duolingo is free and available in iOS and Android.
Skyscanner is a website I use as a search function. What sets this site apart is the “everywhere” and “whole month” function. Normal websites, you search for specific locations and specific dates. But sometimes, you just want to travel and have no real plans, Sometimes, you have a place and a general time frame or vice versa. Skyscanner lets you search “everywhere” and breaks down different places by price points, which is so helpful! You can also search with the “whole month” feature and you can see what days are the cheapest to fly in and out, becuase who doesn’t want to save money!
Hopper is my favorite! It makes searching for and buying plane tickets so easy! with Hopper, you put your destination and dates in the search bar and it tells you the price tickets are at now and whether you should wait to buy, or buy right away. You can watch several flights and wait until a price is low before you buy. You also buy straight in the app, so it saves your name and card information for quick check out. And you just have to go to the app to find your flight information. I get dozens of emails a day and I am horrible at managing them so trying to find my flight information is a absolute mess! But maybe that is just me!
One thing to be careful about, since you are booking through a third party site, any of the discount airlines will not include baggage and even carry ons in some cases. Before you check out, look at the restrictions and visit the airline site to see what ec=xtra fees may be added. On my way to Iceland flying WOW!, several people in line didn’t pay attention while booking and didn’t realize they would have to pay for their carry on luggage. You also have to buy any food on the plane. But don’t be bitter, when you are paying such a minimal price for flying intercontinental, expect them to charge in other areas!
Google Maps may seem like, duh, but I had to include it! I save everything on it! Places I want to visit, places I want to try, suggestions from other people, and even friends apartment numbers because I can never remember what apartment to buzz and I always forget and I get stuck at the front door like a chump. (I realize that may be a NYC problem, or maybe it’s just a me problem, but it can save addresses and you can label them so you can search by the person’s name. Handy!)
It also has the best directions besides talking to an actual local. It gives you multiple routes, and detailed instructions on each. You can even see the approximate cost of ride sharing services in that area. I also love the layers you can add to the map like public transportation, traffic, or satellite. I switch these out based on where I am and what I am doing! I use Google Maps everyday and I would be in the depths of despair to gi back to a time before we had gps and map capabuiliities on our phones. (The first time I came to NYC was before smart phones and I legit had a binder of detailed maps and instructions and addresses and we walked back and forth a lot! I also had no clue what local vs. express trains were and would get very frustrated that the MTA kept skipping my stops!) But the best part is you can download a city so you can view it offline and that way you can still pull up addresses and see where you are even when you have no service.
I hope that these apps and sites are helpful! Please comment with any questions, corrections, or suggestions! I would love to hear from you!