Travel Planning Resources That I Actually Use
There’s a lot that goes into travel planning. I’m not going to sugar coat it—travel planning can result in hours and hours of research at times, especially if you’re planning for yourself or even for the rest of your group.
If you’re looking to really streamline the travel planning process, then you’re in the right place! I’ve compiled a list of my most useful budget travel planning resources for you. I’ve been using some of these for over 8 years and they continue to be useful to this day.
Trust me, these resources will help you save a lot of time and heaps of cash along the way!
Please note: This page contains affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more for any of the services you choose, but the small affiliate commission I receive in the event of a sale will help keep free content like this coming to you. Thanks!
Google Flights | Whenever I begin looking for flights, Google Flights is always Step #1. It’s the most user-friendly among all the airfare search sites. So much information is provided when you search, such as the best options for the cheapest, fastest or best overall flight options. It’ll also allow you to compare the flight prices between various airlines so you know you’re getting the best deal. If traveling domestically, also consider checking the Southwest website directly because Southwest flight prices are not pulled into Google Flights interface (yet they offer some really affordable flights).
Scott’s Cheap Flights | The best travel email subscription ever. Get notifications whenever there are mistake fares or extreme sales on flights, right to your inbox. Scott– whoever you are, I don’t know you, but what would I do without you…
The Flight Deal | My go-to flight sale site when I want to browse for places to go. They have an email subscription as well.
Secret Flying | I’ll check out this flight deal site every once in a while. Very similar to The Flight Deal. It’s awesome because it allows you to filter by departing city, destination, or both, as well as your travel timeframe.
Priority Pass | Before heading to any airport, I’ll always check for the presence of airport lounges that I have access to through my Priority Pass membership. This membership buys you access to a ton of airport lounges around the world that offer meals, drinks (including alcohol), showers, comfy sofas, private wifi, and even $28 dining credit per person at participating restaurants. Must-have.
Omio | Omio is a very user-friendly search engine that lets you compare and book train, bus, and flight tickets–anywhere in Europe! Typical train websites are clunky and hard to use… with Omio, you can easily book tickets with your credit card at essentially the same prices as Europe’s National Railways websites. Omio also has an app so all your tickets can be downloaded digitally to your smartphone. No more printing required!
Rome2Rio | This is my go-to transportation resource when I’m already traveling and need to figure out how to get from point A to point B. Rome2Rio is a super useful tool when you have absolutely no idea how to get around between cities, between countries, or even between continents! Simply type in your starting point and destination and it’ll show you how to get there by plane, train, bus, ferry & car – as well as an estimate of how much it’ll cost you. Trust me, this is a really powerful tool for getting all your travel options displayed in one place.
Priceline Rental Cars | Need to book a rental car? If you are the type to compare prices between rental car companies as I am, use Priceline’s rental car search. Not only does the tool allow you to compare rental car prices, but most of the time, you can book with no prepayment and no cancellation fees. Seriously, if you don’t show up for your reservation and forget to cancel, there is no penalty. These two reasons are exactly why we love using Priceline to lock in rental car reservations, even if we aren’t 100% certain we’ll go on our trips.
Booking.com Airport Taxi | If you are going to places where ridesharing is not legal (such as in Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula), your options for getting around are limited to public transportation, taxi, or private transfer. Taxis are expensive and public transportation can be too inconvenient. Private transfers are the way we like to travel! We love using Booking.com for airport to hotel transportation. The vehicles are as affordable as they are comfortable!
The Man In Seat Sixty-One | Useful for planning ground transportation across Europe. Don’t know where to start? Well, the site breaks down your train options extremely well. Enter your starting city and he’ll show you where you can go by train. Tip: Take advantage of those overnight trains– a very cheap and comfortable way to travel!
Seat Guru | Seat Guru is for the flight nerds who wants to understand everything about their flight, down to the type of seat they’re getting. Use it when you’d like to know which seats on an airplane are your best or worst options.
Booking.com | This is my go-to accommodation booking site. This site has free cancellation and no prepayment required on reservations which is huge. It also has amazing abilities to filter accommodation options by rating and price. Honestly, it’s shaved off so many hours of endless research for me and has made booking hotels and other accommodations a breeze. It even have apartments / vacation homes for rent on there now!
What I like to do to filter down options and expose the best value for money options:
- throw on a filter of Review Score: 9+
- then sort by Lowest Price First
- if no decent results that fit your budget, lower the Review Score to 8+
Agoda | Agoda is my favorite site for booking apartments, villas, and hostels in Asia. Based in Singapore, Agoda naturally has an extensive presence in Asian countries, but they do offer lodgings worldwide. Aside from their great prices, they’ll sometimes have additional deals from time to time, so be sure to check out their deals page before booking!
Airbnb | Airbnb is all about the local experience for me. I love how the houses are often in quieter neighborhoods away from the hoards of tourists. I also use it for those solo travel moments when I’d like a little more privacy than a hostel, but I’m not willing to pay for an actual hotel (which is most of the time). It’s also great for booking homes for larger group vacations. Who doesn’t want a full kitchen, living room, and backyard to lounge in?
Couchsurfing | The idea behind Couchsurfing is simple: “couchsurfers” leverage the hospitality of friendly people around the world who open their homes to travelers. There’s an extensive worldwide network of people on there that often just get together for social events (without the couch surfing part). It’s a great way to meet other like-minded travelers. I’ve only used Couchsurfing a handful of times, but I’ve had very good, totally non-creepy experiences. I’ve also met a lot of other female travelers who’ve had nothing but good things to say about their experiences as well.
Trusted Housesitters | Don’t spend a dime on lodging and accommodation while traveling. This is such a great way to exchange your service for a place to stay while traveling! If you don’t know what housesitting is, it is an exchange in which a person (you) stays at someone’s home and cares for their pets and property while they are away. Usually, no money is exchanged between parties.
Workaway | A great way to save money on lodging if you’re going to be traveling for over a few weeks. Workaway is an international hospitality service that allows members to contact one another to organize homestays and cultural exchange. “Workawayers” will work a few hours of their day in exchange for lodging and food, which is provided by their host. I didn’t get the chance to use Workaway, but I have a membership with them and the work opportunities/exchanges look legit.
Hippo Help | Another work exchange site, smaller and newer than Workaway.
REI | REI is the gold standard when it comes to outdoor gear. They carry all the best brands for all things travel and outdoors including backpacks, running shoes, hiking boots, camping gear, etc. There is also the REI Outlet, where you can find really great discounts on the previous season’s gear. If you think you’ll shop there multiple times per year, get the REI Membership (a small one-time payment for a lifetime’s worth of benefits)!
Amazon | My second favorite place to buy travel gear when I’m in a pinch is on Amazon. If you need help stocking up on travel essentials, I’ve got your back! I’ve created a travel-related storefront just for you, featuring all my favorite travel essentials. Check it out here.
LuggageHero | Have you ever found yourself in a pickle when your hotel check-out time is way sooner than your departing flight time? Yet you still want to explore the city before you leave? Well, LuggageHero fills that gap. Simply put, this service relieves the burden of carrying heavy bags around by allowing you to leave them in verified safe places for as long as you need. The company works in a similar way to Airbnb, allowing travelers to leave their luggage with participating ‘hosts’ for just 1€ per hour and max 8€/day. They’re a trustworthy service with locations throughout US, Europe, and Canada.
World Nomads | Travel insurance. I know there are a lot of insurance options out there, but in my opinion, World Nomads is the best travel insurance provider on the market. Be safe, get travel insurance.
SafetyWing | SafetyWing is another travel insurance provider. This is a very solid budget-friendly option if you’re just looking for insurance coverage in case of an emergency abroad. Good for those looking for more basic coverage.
Travel Advisories | Wondering if your travel destination is safe at the moment? As one of your first steps in planning any trip abroad, check the Travel Advisories for your destination.
CDC Traveler’s Health | Before leaving for any trip, you’ll want to make sure you have the right immunization shots and the right meds for your trip. The last thing you want is to contract some preventable disease and have your health suffer while traveling.
Attractions / Things To Do
Viator | Whenever I’m looking for a formal day trip, excursion, or tour, I go with Viator. No matter what you are looking for, whether it be a snorkeling tour, a food walking tour, or a combo destination day trip—you’ll find that they have different tour company options and price points for the same trip, so you can choose what’s best for you.
Go City | Go City offers great value-for-the-money attraction passes in various destinations around the world (including Bangkok, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Chicago, San Francisco, Oahu, Paris and much more). These digital attraction passes provide free admission to popular museums and excursions within a city. With certain excursions, you’re even able to skip the line, saving you both money and time! Whenever I want to play tourist in a city, I always check to see if Go City operates in that city. The money you can save with this pass (as opposed to buying admission tickets for various attractions separately) is unreal!
Culture Trip | Culture Trip is a great travel content site that provides me with tons of out-of-the-box ideas for things to do when I’m in a new destination. I’ll often use this to look up restaurants, things to do, and other local suggestions. What I love most about it is that their posts recommend ideas outside of the norm and are often written from a local’s perspective!
City Price Guides (The Savvy Backpacker) | This is an awesome website that gives you an estimate of how much you’re going to be spending in each European city. It’s great for the planning process, as it allows you to plan for how much money you’ll need to save up.
Travel Zoo | On Travel Zoo, you can find discounted travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, cruises, and entertainment. Once in a while, I’ll check this site periodically to see if any new offerings jump out at me. This site is great for travelers looking for travel packages. That way you won’t need to plan out every single logistic under the sky—a good amount will be done for you!
Intrepid Travel | Ever wanted to go on an adventure but have no one to go with? Enter Intrepid Travel. Intrepid is the world’s largest provider of adventure travel experiences! I love Intrepid Travel because they curate truly immersive itineraries for smaller groups, led by local guides that’ll deepen your experience that much more. They are all about sustainable, experience-rich travel and there’s nothing overly touristy about their itineraries! Highly recommend.
New to travel and don’t know where to start? Start here.
Looking for the top travel apps to download for your upcoming trip? Check them out here.
Looking for life hacking and money-saving resources? There’s a separate page for that here.