This post focuses on resources that you can use for travel. With the sheer amount of information now available online, you can research and plan your trip or work experience from start to finish wall on your own. However, utilizing effective and reliable resources is key in your planning process. There is so much information out there, that sometimes it’s is hard to know where to turn for the best information and deals. Below I outline various resources, tools and even companies that are worth a look before booking your next trip.
Note: The resources and companies that I have personally used AND booked with/signed up on/downloaded/helped make my trip more enjoyable are noted below with **. Other recommendations below are sites, apps and companies that have been suggested to me, but that I have not yet tried myself.
Shopping for Accommodations, Flights and More:
Airbnb** – I love using this site because I get the local experience at a reasonable price. The hosts are always welcoming and willing to share highlights in the area. Plus, you have a variety of choices for accommodations in an area and all of them are different!
Couchsurfing – I personally haven’t used this site, but have heard great things about the concept of couchsurfing. It promotes meeting locals and building relations, and accommodations are free!
Hotwire** – Last minute deal seekers – this site is for you. I have used Hotwire several times to book recommended hotels a few days out and they offer great last minute deals. Although you can’t see which hotel you are booking on the last minute deals search, it usually doesn’t disappoint.
Booking.com** – A good ‘go to’ for accommodations and excursions. Well known in the industry and often flexible with their terms and cancellations.
Google Flights** – Google does everything well, and their flight search function is no exception to the rule. The site has various filters and one of my favorite features is viewing the lowest price through-out that week (or month) to see when the best dates would be to fly out and return home.
Skyscanner** – Find and compare cheap flights, fast. Easy to utilize and filter to the cheapest flights by location, date, number of stops, etc. This site searches various other third-party sites directly to come up with the best deal for you and redirects you to the third-party site. You can also search other booking engines if you choose to.
HipMunk – This site operates similar to Skyscanner, but views a little differently (visually shows you departure and arrival times by timeline and by airline, as well as number of stops) and uses various other booking engines to come up with the lowest prices.
Discover Car Hire (affiliate) - Need a ride? Search for a rental with trusted providers in any country via Discover Car Hire. The reviews speak for themselves.
CheapAirportParking.org – Search various parking options and get a discounted parking rate and based on your airport. A good resource for those flying in and out of the states. Read reviews from others too!
BONUS: Check out this article for some useful travel hacks for frequent flyers [or anyone taking a flight in the near future].
P.S. Make sure you are using incognito mode when searching for flights!
Tour Booking/Local Highlight Resources:
Viator** - A great option for booking excursions where you are visiting. I personally used two different tour operators via this site when I visited Taiwan and both were great and reasonably priced. I was also travelling solo, so I liked that the tours would be organized with a small group. Easy to navigate website and the third party operators reach out to you directly after reserving to coordinate pick ups.
Klook (affiliate) - Klook offers an array of travel inspiration! From local day tours to experiences like cooking classes and hot air balloon rides, there's likely something for you to explore.
Rome2rio – An incredibly handy tool for planning how you are going to go from A to B (to C and back to A). This site provides various transportation options (with price ranges) and breaks down how long each takes. I also like using this site because there is a ‘Things to do’ section, which features highlights in your destination – a good resource for attraction ideas.
Spotted by Locals** – I like this app because it highlights various ‘hidden gems’ and ‘off-the-beaten-track’ spots that are actually recommended by locals. If you’re looking for the authentic experience and to be immersed in the local culture and step away from the tourist masses, this is the site for you.
TripAdvisor** – I’m a big supporter of peer reviews and often go to TripAdvisor for future consolidation when looking at a hotel, attraction, restaurant, etc. It is also another good avenue for ideas as you can search for local attractions and the ‘top things to do’ in an area.
BONUS: Reviews.com (for Travel Insurance) - see the best offerings on the market and compare criteria to make the right decision for your specific needs.
Work Opportunities and Voluntourism Trips (Short- and Long-term)
Backdoorjobs – Short-term adventures available to help you discover and learn through working abroad. Search by job boards or country that link you to third parties providing those positions.
CruiseJobFinder – Want to work hard on a cruise ship and earn some serious cash? If the fast-paced life is for you, a career in cruising (often for periods of 6 months) might be for you. This site also features resort jobs and you can search by job industry/title.
GoAbroad – Offers a range of different job styles and types, including a focus on TEFL jobs and internships for students. Search by job type or country for different positions.
ResortJobs – Primarily focuses on hospitality jobs in the restaurant and hotel sectors. You can search by keyword, country and city/state.
Workaway – Promoting cultural exchange and learning, workaways are designed for short- and long-term travel, and are designed to work in exchange for food and accommodations. (non-profit)
Green Heart Travel – Encouraging cultural immersion and learning targeted towards youth and adults. Through their travel programs, they also promote sustainability and community efforts. (non-profit)
Cuso International – Connecting qualified graduates with positions that can have a positive impact on improving community efforts, health and livelihood (helping to alleviate poverty and promote entrepreneurship). (non-profit)
SWAP Working Holidays – An organization promoting cultural exchange for Canadian youth. Work, volunteer or teach - they help you set up everything you could need, including flights, insurance, accommodations, local support, etc. (non-profit)
Go International – Paid and volunteer work opportunities abroad offered to Canadians. Another company promoting growth and cultural exchange. And again, they’ll help you with all of the arrangements and provide support onsite.
Hippohelp – a free map-based service that allows you to connect with global hosts to offer volunteer hours in exchange for food and accommodations.
G Adventures** – The leaders in sustainable tourism. These guys offer a range of tours and promote small group travel while traveling responsibility. I booked by trip in Turkey with them and was very impressed with the level of authentic cultural exposure you get traveling with a local guide and local businesses. Highly recommended!
Intrepid Travel – Another well-known small group tour operator, with a focus on authentic experiences and responsible travel. Another suggestion that comes highly recommended from friends.
Contiki Tours – For the 18-35 years young travelers who are looking for excitement and adventure on their trips. Friends have said they had a lot of fun on these trips (and partying is definitely part of the itinerary).
Google Translate** – THIS IS A MUST IN A FOREIGN LAND! The app is unbelievably smart – just hover over another language (once you have downloaded that language of course) and it magically translates into text you understand.
Easy Currency Converter** – Conversions in your head are not always easy, so I use this app to do a quick conversion rate, especially when shopping and I want to know how much the item costs in my currency.
SeatGuru** – This app is useful in that you can look up the type of air transportation you will be traveling on, as well as the layout and where you will be seated. I find referencing the summary of your flights helpful on-route (you don’t have to sift through emails or paperwork). You can also look for flights and check your flight status if you don’t already have your flight provider’s app installed.
AroundMe – New to an area and looking for an ATM, coffee shop, gas station or meal? This app appears to use Google Maps and can help you locate just the right spot for your outing. It will even provide ratings for hotels.
Citymapper – Want to take the fastest route to reach your destination? By car, air, Uber, bus or even by foot, this app will help you plan an effective route (and using real-time data too).
TripAdvisor**– For the same reasons outlined above, I keep the app handy on-route too because I can quickly look up a restaurant and can even do a review while there.
Embassies and Consulates** – You should know where to go in the event of an emergency or attack. Before leaving look up your where to find a local embassy in the country you will be visiting. You can never be over-prepared.
Register with Your Country of Residence Before Leaving** – It is a good idea to register with your local government before traveling because, again, you can never be too prepared. They can provide you with updates on travel advisories, terrorist attacks or other important information, and also reach out to you in the event of a personal emergency.
Aside from the above, I have an extensive list of over 150 resources on Twitter that can help you plan your next adventure. From useful travel tools, deal sites, travel news, location specific tips, social enterprises, guides, accommodations sites, etc. – I bet you can find at least one useful resource on my list.
I’m working my way through life in Canada and traveling when I can afford to explore beyond the border. Sharing my tips, trips, opinions and rants on life and travel in the meantime.