Planning a trip can feel like both the most exciting AND the most overwhelming part of travel. Sure, creating a Pinterest board full of gorgeous pictures is fun, but then you start trying to figure out the actual logistics and it hits you … oh god, this is SO MUCH WORK. Cue panic attacks. Wow, I totally just described our wedding planning process, too. Anyone else?
But planning a trip doesn’t have to be the source of constant anxiety and overwhelm! Through the years, I’ve perfected my trip planning process, and I’ve got it down to a fine science.
Er, well, maybe not a science, but sort of like a general step-by-step outline. Breaking down each of the steps to planning a trip helps me cut through the confusion and tackle stuff in a practical, down to earth way. Plus, it makes me feel like the most organized person on the planet, which is VERY good for my ego.
At the end of my planning process, I end up with a big ol’ document containing all of the information I need for my trip: everything from where I’m staying and how to get there, to what to eat. I take that document with me and refer to it constantly during my trip. And then I come home and turn it into a blog post, for you! It’s like recycling in the digital age.
I’m going to teach you ALL of my travel planning tips, and by the end of this massive guide, you’ll be ITCHING to plan a fabulous vacation!
By the way: I’ve fully tested this entire process on Jeremy. I actually don’t plan most of our travels anymore – he does! During our year-long honeymoon, I downloaded all of my travel planning knowledge into his beautiful ginger head, and he completely took the task off my shoulders, bless him. We both use the exact process outlined in this post.
Buckle in, cuz this is a very long guide. You might want to bookmark it now to reference it again later.
Here’s what’s included in this super comprehensive post to help you learn how to plan a trip.
Table of Contents
Estimated Reading Time: 25 minutes
Psst: Looking for more practical travel tips? Check out a few of our other posts:
- How to Save Money for Travel (& How We Saved $30,000 for a Year-Long Trip)
- Travel Safety Tips: How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Theft
- The Best Travel Pants for Women: Functional, Cute, & Field-Tested
We’ve also got a free, printable 22-page Travel Planning Guide! Enter your email in the box below and we’ll send it straight to your inbox along with our favorite tips to help you plan your next adventure.
What’s Our Travel Style?
I love travel. It’s in my blood: my grandmother is over 90 and has, for as long as I can remember, been in a near-constant state of exploring this planet. So I was born with the travel bug. And because I love to travel, I also love talking about travel. Hello, I created a whole blog just to have an outlet for my travel obsession!
It’s through these many conversations with similarly wanderlust-afflicted friends that I’ve realized something: everyone’s travel style is as unique and different as their personalities.
Some people are spontaneous. Some like to have a day-by-day itinerary. Some consider to get Port Douglas to Kuranda Skyrail shuttle tickets and give it a try. Some are happy just exploring a city on foot with no real plans to speak of. And some just want to sit on the beach and relax – doing stuff isn’t their idea of a relaxing vacation!
I feel strongly that there is no right or wrong way to travel, just different styles and preferences, all of which are valid (and only some of which are terrible, but that’s another discussion).
So, what’s our travel style? Jeremy and I prefer to plan our travels in advance. We’re SOOOO not show-up-and-figure-it-out people. We tried it once, and the experience made us each so panicked and anxiety ridden that we swore never EVER to do it again.
Lots of super chill, go-with-the-flow types can swing that whole scene: not us. We are Type A planners, who like to research and prepare BEFORE we arrive, so we can minimize the amount of time spent in our hostel or hotel frantically trying to figure out WTF to do.
Of course, when I say we plan travel in advance, I don’t mean that we schedule out a travel itinerary minute-by-minute – that’s way too stressful. And frankly, too much work for us. Are we lazy or efficient? You decide.
Striking a balance between over-planning and under-planning is what works best for us. We’re like Goldilocks, except for travel. And after years of traveling together, we’ve perfected our method. And we want to teach you all of our secrets!
Here’s the thing, though: it’s gonna sound like a lot of work. But we’ve found that the planning process actually makes us MORE excited for a trip. Researching all the exciting things we’re going to be doing on our trip enhances our anticipation, and preparing for the worst eases our anxiety.
How to Plan a Vacation: What NOT to Plan
It’s important to balance out planning for a trip so that your days don’t feel overly stuffed. I firmly believe that each minute spent wasted in the hotel looking stuff up is a minute I’m not getting to enjoy my trip!
But in the same vein, if we map out every single day of a trip down to each tiny detail, we get stressed when our travel plans inevitably fall apart and our entire perfectly planned day – or week, or month – is ruined.
As the sort of travelers who are prone to accidents and seem to attract catastrophes and travel fails, we’ve learned that always expect the worst. A well-planned trip requires room for failure and flexibility. Here’s what I recommend not worrying about when you plan a trip!
- Don’t plan an itinerary for every single day.
Planning each day of your vacation can set you up for disappointment: maybe one day you wake up not feeling up for the activities you have planned, perhaps the weather turns, maybe you find something else you’d like to do instead once you arrive.
Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but whenever you can help it, allow yourself room for change.
Instead, we recommend planning out a few day options to choose from: perhaps a group of activities all in one area, or a day of seeing museums, etc.
Each day, you can choose from your options depending on what you feel like doing that day! Pick the museum day when the weather looks miserable; pick the day that involves the least amount of walking when you’re feeling tired, etc.
Also, allow yourself at least a day or two each week that is totally unplanned: that way, you can go back and do whatever you might have missed, explore somewhere new, or just take a day off from exploring to relax!
- Don’t plan out every meal.
Your hunger levels may be unpredictable when you travel (we find ourselves getting hungrier during trips, thanks to our increased activity levels) and holding out for the perfect meal could end up in hanger and frustration.
Instead, pick one or two restaurants that you would be willing to go out of your way for, or maybe write down a few options. But don’t plan on going to all of them, and definitely don’t plan out which ones you’ll go to when!
Leaving your meals totally unplanned is OK too: you can find some fantastic options by asking locals or other travelers you meet for recommendations. Looking for a spot filled with locals is a safe bet, too.
- Don’t plan out every outfit.
Packing individual outfits adds up quickly and can easily make your reasonable carry-on bag escalate to an expensive checked bag. Besides, everything from the weather to your mood each day could change, and your pre-planned outfits may no longer be useful.
Instead, pack clothes that all go together and can be mixed and matched easily. I like to keep all the clothes I bring in the same family of colors, with a few basic templates: pants + shirt + cardigan + scarf, say, and then I bring 2 pairs of pants and 4 shirts and 2 scarves to mix and match.
For more packing tips, we’ve created tons of packing guides to help you on your next trip! Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, beach destinations, and many more. Or just take a look at all of our packing guides.
Now that you know what you don’t need to worry about, what steps should you when planning for a trip? We’ll be laying out each of the steps we take when we plan our travels and all of the resources we use! You can use this as your guideline for how to plan a trip.
How to Find a Travel Destination
Sometimes you know you want to go somewhere, but don’t yet know exactly where. This is step 1 of how to plan a trip! Browsing for travel destinations with an open mind can be really fun (and a little addictive)! Here’s how we figure out where to go when we plan travel.
- We scour pictures on reddit or Pinterest for destinations that look incredible, and then google that location for more information.
- We shop on VRBO and Expedia like we’re browsing for clothes, making wishlists of places to visit. Once we find an amazing property, we’ll Google the town it’s in. We’ve planned a lot of trips to places we’d never heard of before using this method!
- We search on Google Flights or Skyscanner, both of which will show you the cost of flying everywhere in the world from your home airport on the dates you specify. We’ve scored some great deals on places we might not have otherwise visited!
Once you’ve figured out where you’re going and booked your trip, the fun part starts!
Planning What to Do & Where to Go
This is always the most fun part of planning for a trip: finding all the amazing things we’ll do once we arrive!
This is the second step of our planning process. We create a list of things we’re interested in for our destination: a few museums, a couple of cool neighborhoods to explore, a few food recommendations, some walking tours, that sort of thing.
We open up a brand new document – like a shared Google Doc that we can each contribute to – and just start dumping them all in. Just copy/paste all of it in – we’ll go back and edit it down later.
The hardest part of this step is finding things to do. Sure, you can always Google “best things to do in [insert destination]” but that can take a lot of time to sift through, and it doesn’t always get us off the beaten path, which is our preferred style.
Instead of generic travel advice, we prefer first-hand suggestions from travelers who’ve actually been there before – it’s why we like travel blogs so much!
One of our favorite places to search for travel tips? Pinterest! Pinterest is my favorite visual search engine and it’s full of fantastic travel articles and travel tips.
Just search for your destination and you’ll find loads of travel articles that will help you plan your trip! I like to compile a Pinterest board for each destination I’m planning to visit, so even if I don’t have time to copy/paste stuff into my document, I can at least save articles to look at later.
Here are our other go-to resources:
- WikiVoyage is super helpful for planning for a trip. It’s basically like Wikipedia, but for travel! Compiled by travelers and frequently updated, you’ll find everything from where to go and what to do, to how to get around and other useful information.
- I like using the /r/travel subreddit or Trip Advisor to pull suggestions. Again, search for your destination and see what comes up from other travelers. This can be a gold mine of specific, first-hand experiences and suggestions. You can find some real gems here if you dig deep enough!
As you find things that sound interesting, throw everything into your travel document. Literally just copy/paste it all in there.
At first, your list will be enormous, but eventually, you’ll go through it and remove everything that’s repetitive or doesn’t pique your interest now that you’ve found other cool stuff to do.
How to Plan Vacation Accommodation
After we figure out where we want to visit and have started to get an idea of what we want to do there, our next step when we’re planning a trip is booking our accommodation.
At this point, we typically have some idea of where the stuff we want to focus on is – where are the cool neighborhoods, where is most of the stuff we want to see? – and we can search for accommodation near what we want to do. This way, we’re not just booking blindly – we can look at the map for each accommodation and decide based on whether we’ll be doing things nearby or not.
We always prefer to book sleeping arrangements in advance: showing up and figuring it out is something we have tried and found that we really didn’t enjoy. Like, at all. Like we hated it and it gave us panic attacks.
If that’s your preferred method, feel free to skip this step, but don’t tell me because it makes my heart race.
Here’s how we find our accommodations when planning a trip:
When we’ll be visiting a major city, especially within the USA, we typically look for a unique boutique hotel – but it needs to be within our budget! We recommend looking for a hotel as close to the city center, “Old Town,” or public transit as possible – NOT the airport. Airports tend to be far away from where we actually want to be. (The exception is if we have an early flight, then we’ll book 1 night at a hotel the evening before our flight next to the airport, just to get some extra sleep.)
If we’re traveling somewhere without many options for hotels, we look for a vacation rental on VRBO. After having many, many issues with Airbnb we switched to VRBO – they have fewer fees and more flexible cancellation policies than Airbnb, and their properties are typically professionally managed. Also, we’re not fans of Airbnb’s unethical track record and lax security.
When traveling to backpacker hotspots in places like South America or Southeast Asia, we like to use HostelWorld to find cool hostels. We love HostelWorld, and we’ve found all of our favorite hostels through it! Their rating & review system is extremely helpful and accurate, and we also love their flexible booking option.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming “hostel” means sketch, dirty, or full of young college students partying – those are certainly out there, but carefully reading reviews and looking at photos can help you find some REALLY amazing options!
Before we commit to booking, we’re careful to sift through reviews to make sure that the hostel is clean, safe, and not a party hostel – that’s not our style. We also use TripAdvisor to see if a place has more reviews or photos before we book it. Sometimes photo angles can be deceiving, and we want the full story.
These days, we typically book a private room, which feels just like staying in a hotel but with the benefits of a kitchen, a community, and event organization – all the perks of staying in a hostel!
How to Plan your Arrival
I want my first moments in a destination to be as low-stress as possible. I don’t want to step off a long plane ride, bleary and tired, in a new place with loads of exciting and confusing new things, and then have to puzzle out how to get to my hotel safely and without getting scammed.
It’s so easy to get confused and lost, especially when arriving somewhere that isn’t primarily English-speaking. That first experience of leaving the airport and navigating to your accommodation is our first impression of a place, so we always want it to go smoothly!
Pre-planning your arrival when you plan travel is a huge step to reducing misery and stress.
Once we know where we’re sleeping (which is always the first place we’ll go when we arrive at a destination) we plan out how we’re going to get there.
We record this information somewhere that we can access offline – like written down in a notebook or on a document downloaded and saved to your phone. Remember the document I mentioned earlier? This will be the master document we end up using for everything!
You’ll want to trouble-shoot some things in advance so that you know the best way to get to your accommodation.
Look up things like:
- How much should a taxi cost?
- Is a cab the cheapest option? Or do cabs at the airport take advantage of tourists and up-charge them like crazy?
- Can I get a cheaper fare by walking down the street and hailing a taxi?
- Is my hotel right off a local bus or train line?
- Can I take transit from the airport?
- Is there UBER or LYFT, is it legal, and is it safe to use?
- Is there Wi-fi in the airport? (There almost always is!)
And so on, until you know how you’re getting from the airport to your accommodation.
We also write down (or have on our phone) the name & address of our hostel/hotel, clearly visible and readable. This way we can show it to someone we’re having difficulty communicating with – a lifesaver in places where English speaking isn’t common.
To be extra safe, we might screenshot it on a map, too. This is helpful for asking someone at the airport or bus station how much it should cost to get there or what the best way to get there is (in case information wasn’t available online) and especially for communicating with taxi drivers when you don’t speak the local language. Plus it’s insurance just in case you get lost and forget where you need to go!
In our master document, we always include walking, driving, or transit directions to the hotel so that in case there’s no Wi-Fi or data while we’re in transit, we can still find where we’re going.
We’ve had to walk a taxi driver through getting us to our destination many times, so this is really a lifesaver in a pinch.
You can write down instructions in your notebook or offline document, or use Google Maps. You can create an itinerary using Google Maps and save it for offline use. Just follow this step by step tutorial: How To Export Your Google Map Itinerary To Your Phone & Use It Offline!
We also recommend throwing your booking/confirmation info into your document along with those instructions, so that when you arrive, checking in is a breeze.
- Travel Planning Tip: Whenever you make a booking or reservation, take a screenshot of your details & confirmation number and throw it into your master document immediately. You’ll be able to tell at a glance what you’ve already booked and what you still need to. Include absolutely everything: flights, hotels, tours, tickets, anything you’ve paid for!
If you’ve got a gap between your flight and your check-in or check-out time and you need a place to store your bags – or if you have a very long layover and want to do some exploring outside of the airport – you can use a service that helps you find a safe place to keep your luggage while you’re out exploring.
Planning Travel Logistics
By now, we’ve got a messy document with our accommodation information & how to get there, plus a bunch of stuff we’re interested in doing when we arrive.
At this point, we spend time researching logistics for all of those places and things to do in our destination. It’s time to pare down all that “stuff” that sounded so exciting in your Travel Document!
Remove duplicates of “things to do” and things that don’t sound as good now that you know more about where you’re going, and start to figure out what you actually might want to do.
Once you’ve pared down your list, it’s time to flesh out the stuff you know you want to see. Here’s what we add to our travel document for each point of interest or attraction we’ve found while researching and planning for a trip.
- How do I get there/what transit do I take?
- How much does it cost?
- What are the hours it’s open?
- What travel tips have I found online for this attraction?
Once we’ve got all of the logistics taken care of, we won’t have to spend any time sitting in our hotel room frantically Googling our plan for the day, or worse, wasting our time to get somewhere only to find out it’s closed or too expensive.
Instead, we simply wake up, scroll through our document and find whatever we feel like doing that day, and have all of the information we need already available.
We like to map stuff out a little bit too to group things into manageable days – if you find a cluster of things close to each other, group them together and call that an option for a day’s itinerary.
You can also begin to plan out your itinerary day by day, although that’s not always necessary!
Many destinations are easy to navigate using public transit – and although it’s more confusing navigating transit in a foreign country (especially when you don’t speak the language), it will save you a TON of money versus taking taxis/Ubers everywhere! The key is to research your route in advance (on English speaking websites) and, if you can, book your shuttle/bus/train in advance, too.
- We use Omio to book trains in Europe
- We use Bookaway to book buses, shuttles/collectivos and ferries in South and Central America
- We use Google Maps to plan out transit routes in the USA and most major cities, and Rome2Rio for international transit
How to Minimize Risks While Traveling
We love travel, but we don’t like dangerous travel. There are several steps we take to minimize risk on our travels. For more details, check out our complete guide to basic travel safety.
First and foremost: we NEVER travel without Traveler’s Insurance. Why? Because it’s saved our a$$ several times. We actually had to file multiple claims during our year-long honeymoon, because we are disaster magnets.
Make sure you’re covered in the event of emergencies, medical issues, trip delays, or trip cancellations – it is WELL worth the expense for international travel. Not sure if travel insurance is worth it? We’ve got a detailed guide to travel insurance that will help you decide.
After experiencing the claims process firsthand (again, several times) our favorite Travel Insurance provider for short trips is World Nomads. For longer trips, or if you’re a frequent traveler or digital nomad, we recommend SafetyWing, which offers affordable medical and travel insurance for a month at a time.
Once you purchase your insurance policy, we recommend sending all the policy information to your family members, just in case they need to help coordinate medical help or, worst-case, send a helicopter to pluck you from the top of a mountain or whatever. You can easily take a screenshot and stick it in your master document and then share them on it before you leave!
For more information about travel insurance and a breakdown of what you need to know, head over to our travel insurance guide.
A good travel insurance policy will cover everything from trip cancellation to a long flight delay, but you’ll still want to do plenty of research and advance preparation on your own!
Before traveling abroad, we always research vaccines or medications we will need using the CDC website. We also visit a travel clinic or doctor well before we leave to get all of our health needs taken care of in advance. Note: for our non-American readers, your process for getting vaccines may be somewhat different.
In addition to getting all recommended vaccines, consider whether you’ll need to bring emergency medications or extra supplies of your regular medications. We have a small traveler’s kit of basic meds that we bring with us which includes things like Tylenol, Emergen-C, Dramamine, Immodium, and Dia-Res-Q.
We also look up what documentation we will need for each country: proof of vaccines, Visa requirements, etc. LonelyPlanet has a “survival guide” that covers all this information for each country. Don’t make the mistake of showing up somewhere only to realize you needed to apply for a Visa months earlier!
We also research the likelihood of theft. We look up things like what neighborhoods to avoid and common ways that travelers get taken advantage of in each location we’re visiting. Sometimes that information is easy to find on blogs and travel websites, other times we have to sift through advice from travelers leaving comments online.
We also do our best to stay up to date on political tensions and unrest. We avoid areas that are unsafe and situations that could compromise our safety as much as we can – and yes, we’ve had to cancel entire trips because of sudden political unrest (thank goodness we bought our travel insurance early!).
Generally speaking, we always avoid visiting places with dictatorships or corrupt/fascist governments, because we want our tourism dollars to support the local economy rather than a corrupt government – part of our commitment to being Ethical Travelers.
Before we leave, we scan copies of important documents and put them in a secure but easily accessible location online, like Dropbox, Google Drive, or some other secure, high-tech cloud somewhere.
We stick everything from copies of our passports and driver’s licenses to our marriage licenses, so that if something happens and we need them, we can pull them up at a moment’s notice.
We provide access to that secure drive to our trusted family members as well. We also like to travel with hard copies of our passports that we keep in a separate location from our physical passports. Again, just in case! Better extremely safe than extremely sorry.
Last but not least, we keep others up to date on our travel plans. Before we take off on a long trip, we make sure someone close to us has an itinerary so that they know where to find us and when they can expect to hear from us. It eases both our minds and theirs.
Plus, if I didn’t do this, my dad would have a heart attack when I didn’t check in on Facebook every single day of every single trip, and by the time I got back from my relaxing WiFi free vacation, he probably would have died of stress.
The easiest way to keep everyone in the loop is to share your master document with your loved ones! Everyone will admire your organization skills and you’ll be covered in case of an emergency.
More Travel Safety Tips: For more tips staying safe and preventing theft while traveling, we have a detailed guide called How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Theft while Traveling. Give it a read!
What to Pack for a Trip
It’s almost time to take off! By now, we know where we’re going, we’re super stoked for all of the fun activities we’ve found to do there, and we’ve saved up money for a great trip.
What’s next? Figuring out what to pack!
There’s a thin line between “I packed too much and now I’m miserable schlepping my heavy bag around” and “I didn’t pack enough and now I have to buy a bunch of expensive stuff I already have at home!” The trick is finding that balance. (We didn’t find it at first on our year-long honeymoon – read about what NOT to pack and learn from our mistakes.)
Here’s how I plan out what to pack for a trip in advance.
Clothes: To plan my clothes for a vacation, I think of the environments I’ll encounter on my trip. What will the weather be like? Will I be doing anything active? Will I be going anywhere fancy?
I try to start with a basic item (like a dress or a pair of pants) and then add variety: a cardigan, a scarf, a belt, a statement necklace, a t-shirt, a dress shirt. Boom, that’s like 12 different outfits already.
When I’m ready to pack, I lay everything out on my bed and make sure it all mixes & matches – and yes, I try to go for a ~color palette~. Because, hello, Instagram.
Toiletries: You don’t need your whole bathroom! Just bring the basics: shampoo, conditioner, soap, moisturizer, some travel makeup necessities, a nail file and clippers. And put everything in small bottles, like these! I keep my toiletries in this handy hanging toiletry bag, which I actually use at home just as often as I do on trips.
As for hair tools, I honestly decide based on the weather at my travel destination and how much I care about wearing my hair down! If it’s hot where I’m going and my hair will just be up the whole time, I bring a few scrunchies and call it a day! But if I’m trying to look cute, I have a whole set of tiny travel tools that I bring, including this blowdryer, this diffuser, and this straightener.
“Just In Case” Items: I’m all about being practical, so I do pack plenty of “just in case” items, but they don’t take up much space. I squeeze some sunscreen into a small bottle to take with us. A tiny travel-friendly first aid kit and sewing kit. Condoms. Folding scissors. You know, the necessities.
That said, if it’s big and bulky, highly unlikely that you’ll need it, and/or easily found in a pharmacy or mainstream chain store, leave it at home.
Travel Gear: There are two different approaches we take to travel gear. If we’re traveling to a well-populated city and staying in a hotel or vacation rental our needs are very different than if we’re staying at a hostel or traveling somewhere remote.
Here are our favorite packing essentials for general travel (we also have a detailed post on this – check it out here):
A good travel camera. Honestly, these days your phone might do the trick! But if your phone camera isn’t great, this is our favorite point & shoot travel camera. It’s small, pocket-friendly, high powered, takes fantastic photos, and everyone will assume it’s crap because it’s not a DSLR and not try to steal it. Win-win!
Before we started blogging for a living and the quality of our photos actually mattered, we used this camera and our phones for years. I still miss having a camera that fits into my pocket!
A comfortable travel day bag. I’m not into purses – they’re too much of a target for theft and frankly, irritating and too easy to leave behind – but I’m a big believer in a cute backpack. I bring all of our essentials for the day, like an umbrella, snacks, a warm layer, etc.
Entertainment: Let’s face it, sometimes there are dull moments in travel: that dirt-cheap 8-hour bus ride; waiting at the airport; an empty hostel with no Wi-fi on a rainy day. For these moments, I pack a Kindle Fire– prepped with downloaded books, of course – and my journal and sketchbook.
My husband packs headphones for his phone and Kindle, and a deck of cards, which helps with making friends in hostels. And we have a travel-friendly Chromebook for internet access and Netflix. That’s pretty much all we need to occupy us for hours!
If you’re traveling to a hostel or someplace a little more remote, we like to take:
- Flashlight: So you can get what you need at night without disturbing others. Our favorite is solar powered so you never have to worry about batteries.
- Portable laundry supplies: Travel laundry wash and a travel clothesline for doing laundry on the go in a sink when you’re in a pinch.
- Travel towel: A lightweight, quick drying towel for travel is super handy for everything from beaches to hostels without free towels!
- Silk sleeping bag liner: Keeps you warm and clean in strange beds as you travel!
- Digital Watch: So I’m not pulling out my phone all the time like a walking target.
- Hydration travel day pack: Cute? No. But this little travel day pack holds 100oz/2L of water comfortably on your back, with room to spare for a few necessities! A must-have for hiking, or just a long day of exploring.
Oh, and another thing we tuck away into our suitcases just in case? An old, unlocked old cell phone. They come very much in handy when a phone is broken or stolen abroad, both of which happened to us on a field trip to Colombia last year with Jeremy’s high school students! We had 3 old phones between us from our old phone hoarding habits, and they all ended up needing to be used. Super handy.
We’ve got a whole bunch of travel packing lists, so if you want more tips, check out our other posts:
- The Ultimate Packing List: 43 Must-Have Travel Items
- 42 Travel Essentials for Hot Climates
- 25 Travel Essentials for Cold Weather
- 12 Long Haul Flight Essentials
Websites & Online Travel Planning Resources
We mentioned a lot of websites and resources above, but here they all are in one place for your convenience.
Bookmark this page to reference these travel planning resources later!
Travel Resources: Where to Go & What to Do?
- WikiVoyage: as the name implies, WikiVoyage is Wikipedia for travel destinations. Written and maintained by travelers. Just type in your destination! There’s also an offline version of WikiVoyage in the app store so that you can access downloaded pages for your destinations whether you have wifi or not
- The /r/travel subreddit: Fantastic to browse for getting inspiration about where to go from trip reviews and photos, or searching for a specific location to see recommendations and advice.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is a visual search engine that’s fantastic for browsing and compiling photos, travel tips, and itineraries. I like to create a board specifically for a single trip and add everything I find about that location to that board for my own reference.
- TripAdvisor: The old standard for travel reviews and recommendations. This site has been around for ages, so most places have hundreds of reviews. I like to vet a place I’ve found using TripAdvisor before booking: primarily hostels/hotels, or maybe a city or tour. There are usually more user-submitted pictures of a hostel on TripAdvisor than I can find on a site like HostelWorld and more reviews. The only downside with TripAdvisor is that a lot of the travelers tend to be older and a little more risk-averse and less cost-conscious than I am, so I read some of their reviews with that in mind.
Travel Resources: Where to Stay?
- VRBO: Many a weekend trip has been based on a cool rental we found and decided to book. Because they are personally owned and rented by regular people, the variety is endless. You can find vacation rentals in places that no hotels are allowed to operate, like neighborhoods, or where no hotels WANT to operate, like tiny towns on remote scenic highways. And they almost always have great amenities (kitchens! hiking trails! pets!) for less than the cost of a hotel room! I also love them for group outings – everyone gets a room, there’s a huge shared kitchen, and the more people means a lower cost. All in all, check it out if you haven’t yet. We prefer VRBO to Airbnb (here’s why).
- Booking.com We love Booking.com to book hotels because of their flexible cancellation policy! We take advantage of that policy more than we’d like to admit…
- HostelWorld: Our favorite site for booking hostels, bed & breakfasts, and inexpensive hotels. The reviews are usually honest and helpful, the site is clear and easy to use, booking is free (we do recommend paying the $2 security fee though, in case you need to make a change later and want to reuse your deposit), there are always clear instructions on getting to the hostel written by the owners, and I have peace of mind knowing that my bookings are stored somewhere electronically, as handwritten or emailed reservations can sometimes get lost.
- ReserveAmerica: My favorite site for USA campsite reservations. A little clunky to use, but once you get the hang of it, it’s fine. Campsites are released in blocks 6 months in advance, so that for really competitive campsites (lookin’ at you, Yosemite), you may actually need to hop on it ASAP once it’s available! For those of us who aren’t thinking about their June campsites on New Years, you can also set a Notification for a specific campsite and date range, and when someone cancels their trip, you’ll get an email letting you know a spot has become available. I’ve gotten some incredible spots in prime campsites that way – you just have to be OK with some potentially last-minute camping weekends.
- Trusted Housesitters: We use Trusted Housesitters both as hosts and as travelers! It’s a great way to find a place to stay in some fabulous home, usually in exchange for hanging out with a pet or watering some plants. It’s our favorite way to have our fur-child, Mulan, watched while we travel, and we also love it as a low-cost way to find accommodation. You’ll pay an annual fee of $150 but your stays will all be totally free, so it pays for itself incredibly quickly!
Travel Resources: Practical & Safety Information
- The CDC Travel Site: Researching disease prevention: it’s not glamorous, but it’s safe and it’s smart. Know what to protect yourself from and how for the countries you’re visiting.
- LonelyPlanet: I use LonelyPlanet for their practical and logistic information. They call them “Survival Guides” and they contain detailed information about visas, documentation, paperwork, health advisories, transit, currency, and other really important basic information. I like to search a country and lay out all that practical information in advance.
We’ve got more tips in our travel safety guide.
Travel Resources: Save Money for Travel
- BudgetYourTrip: Compiles traveler-submitted data to provide average prices for various commodities with variable traveling style, so you can select how fancy you plan to get and then plan accordingly. It also has some helpful travel tips and food suggestions as a bonus!
- Google Flights: The best search engine to find cheap flights, in my opinion. Scours the web and all kinds of airlines that aren’t often included in-flight comparison sites. Also, you can search for “Everywhere” as a destination and just see what’s affordable from your home airport!
- Credit & Debit Cards: Avoid foreign transaction fees and ATM fees by using travel-friendly credit & debit cards. We recommend Charles Schwab Bank for their checking accounts: they reimburse all ATM fees worldwide! For credit cards, we recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as our primary travel card, and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card as our backup/emergency travel credit card. Both have no foreign transaction fees and give you rewards for travel spending.
We’ve got tons more tips in our guide to how to save money for travel!
Whew! I know that was a LOT of information, but I hope we helped you find some clarity and get excited to plan your next trip!
What are your favorite tips for travel planning? Did we miss anything? Leave us a comment!
Psst: Looking for more practical travel tips? Check out a few of our other helpful posts:
- Travel Safety Tips: How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Theft
- The Ultimate Travel Packing List: What We Bring on Every Trip
- The Best Women’s Travel Shoes: Tried, Tested, & Cute
- How to Be a More Responsible Tourist
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And just in case you’re craving even MORE useful information (kudos to you), Travel for your Life also has a fantastic and comprehensive list of useful travel resources.