The best tools I use for planning my trips
I have been asked more than once how I plan my travels, or whether I use any special tools I can recommend. So I decided to make a blog post about this, to let you in on all my travel secrets. Except, they really aren’t secrets at all. Just some trusted websites I have come to love and trust over the years. So, here we go!
The essentials: getting there
The first thing I do once I know where I want to go is sorting out transport. With a far-away destination, that obviously means flying. My personal flight-website of choice is Google Flights. It’s easy to use, shows you which are the cheapest options, and also gives prices for alternative days. If you’re a bit flexible with your dates this can be a great chance to safe some money, so make sure you check this out!
You can’t book directly on Google Flights, but it links to the websites of the airlines, so you can book with them directly. I much prefer this anyway, because if I have to make any changes I’ll know the airline takes care of that themselves and nothing gets lost in translation.
Other means of transport
If you’re not flying, or you need some transport at your destinations to get from one city to another, I highly recommend the page Rome2Rio. I came across it after I read about it on another travel blog. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which one that was, or I’d give them a shout out here.
Rome2Rio shows you the different ways of getting from spot A to spot B, no matter where in the world those two destinations are. Depending on distance, it includes information on flights, buses, trains and cars. It tells you travel time and price for each of the given options.
To do a booking you’ll have to follow the link to your chosen transport, as you can’t book on Rome2Rio directly. It’s only meant as an information provider. But for comparing different modes of transport all in one place, I simply don’t know any better tool.
Personally I swear on booking.com. I use it for pretty much all my trips, and so far I’ve never had any problems. It always gives a good choice of accommodation, and you can filter according to price, rating, or such features as included breakfast. You can also search by map, show only single rooms as opposed to dorms, or get recommendations for single travellers.
Once you have an account and booked with them a few times you can get all kinds of discounts.
There are loads of other good hotel search sites out there, and I have heard good stuff about a few of them, especially Hostelworld and Agoda. As I’m happy with booking.com I never saw a reason to change, and so never used those myself. Still, if you want some alternatives, by all means check them out.
Getting information on your destination
Once you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to get some further intel on the place you’re going. I usually start out with good old Google. Among the first hits that come up are usually Wikipedia, which is good for a general overview of a destination, and the official websites of the town or region. Those often have a section on “attractions” or “what’s on”, so it’s worth taking a look at those.
Another good site is WikiTravel, which is like Wikipedia but with information more specifically gathered for tourists. It tells you how to best get to a destination, how to get around, and what to visit. There’s also such things as safety advice or accommodation and restaurant tips.
If I already know of any specific attractions I want to visit I will look those up online as well. Sometimes it’s cheaper and less hustle to pre-book online rather than doing it on the day.
I’m also one of those people who still like to buy guidebooks. Old fashioned, I know, but I like them. Maybe it’s just that I appreciate having an actual book that I can look at and carry around, rather than only online-information. I don’t prefer a specific brand though. I just go to the book store and browse through their guide collection, to see which one strikes my fancy.
When I’ve covered enough of the general information to have an idea of a place and its most important attractions, it’s time to go deeper. By far the best situation is if you personally know someone who has travelled there. Then you can pester that person with questions to your heart’s content! Don’t worry, they won’t mind. Travellers love talking about their trips and give advice to others.
When you don’t know anyone, you’ll have to look somewhere else for the desired information. I love travel blogs for this (what a surprise!). Because they are more personal, they often give a better idea of what it feels like to actually be in a certain place. I’m following a lot of blogs anyway, so if one of them covers the destination I’m interested in I’ll obviously read that. But if not, a simple google search will provide you with a whole bunch of blog articles on your chosen destination. Bonus effect: you might find some new awesome blogs to follow!
I also use blogs to look for practical tips, especially if I’m going a place that’s completely new to me. For instance, before my recent Africa trip I looked up a few articles that talked about what gear you need (or don’t need) to pack for a safari.
I don’t necessarily do every step for each trip. It depends where I’m going, with whom, and in what way I’m travelling. If I go somewhere I’ve never been and I have to organise everything myself, my research will obviously be more intense than when I go to a destination I already know well, or I do a pre-organised trip. But these are the general steps I follow when planning a trip, and the tools I use for that.
I hope it was informative and you found something useful in here!
How do you plan your trips? Any travel planning tools or websites you swear on that I need to check out? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!