The traditional hardcopy guidebook is not yet redundant but the way people research and plan their travels has drastically changed thanks to the world wide web. Nowadays, you can find everything from your computer screen and be your own travel agent.
We’ll walk you through each of the travel planning resources we use to plan our trips from where to find the best flights to ensuring you’re packing the essentials. It’s likely you already rely on many of these tools and perhaps you have your own travel hacks too. Cross check your experience with ours and let’s help our fellow travellers together!
Planning a trip? Use these resources for your next holiday
When we lived apart between London and Amsterdam, we found Google Sheets to be a lifesaver. Not only is it one of Google’s free tools, Google Sheets allows multiple users to access the document at the same time and the file regularly updates and saves in Google Drive. No more yelling at your computer if you lose your file before saving all the awesome changes you made!
If we have approximate dates, we usually have a look at several destinations on our bucket list to assess:
- Availability of flights (some airlines fly to specific destinations on certain days)
- Cost (are we visiting in high, low or shoulder season?)
- Feasibility (accessibility of places and travel times to get there)
Having separate tabs in Google Sheets means that we can categorise and organise information efficiently, allocate tasks and draw up our travel budget. Further, Google Sheets is accessible on our smartphones as the document can be made available offline. If we’re not connected to the Internet while on adventure, we can still refer to our travel planning information if we need it.
Gone are the days of paper!
Pinterest brought traditional scrapbooking online and is the perfect tool for those who prefer visuals. You can add all your bucket list destinations on one board and you very well may come across a place you had not considered before. Pinterest can also direct you to new travel blogs with information that you’re searching for.
Check out our Pinterest account for some ideas!
Other Travel Blogs
The key players in the travel industry game offer a wealth of information on countries, cities and below-the-radar destinations. However, in the last 5 – 7 years, travel bloggers have revolutionised how people travel and the information now available to budding adventurers. Like you, we find that travel blogs can be useful for providing information on unique experiences that summarise specific particularities. Sure, the quality can vary but if your planning is assisted by a fellow traveller, make sure to thank them – they’ll definitely appreciate it!
Where To Find The Best Flights
With so many airlines operating millions of routes across the world, it would be a timely exercise to search each carrier’s website before making an informed decision. If you’re also trying to coordinate different departure points, things can get a bit messy. Bevan and I managed a long-distance relationship between London and Amsterdam for ten months at one point so we often needed to organise arrival and departure times in extensive detail.
Luckily, you can browse multiple routes, carriers and dates seamlessly with these fare aggregator websites.
In our experience, Skyscanner and Momondo will usually produce the cheapest options but they do not cover all of the budget airlines so we advise on checking both websites. Google Flights is a less flashy but still very useful tool for comparing prices. We love the fact that we can add multiple destinations but also dictate if we want the fastest route or the cheapest route. We rarely refer to Jet Abroad and Expedia when researching flights but if you have any positive experiences or recommended tips for these search engines, do share with us below.
If you’re not a regular flyer there are some things to consider before you book:
- Food – If travelling long haul, does the carrier provide meals?
- Baggage – What is the baggage allowance for checked baggage and carry-on baggage? (consider number of bags, size of bags and combined weight)
- Route – Is your route direct or is there a stop over with a connecting flight
- Timing – Flights that depart early morning or late at night are often cheaper for a reason. Ensure that you are able to arrive at the airport and can check into your destination accommodation before committing.
PRO TIP: Conduct your flight research in an incognito browser window to avoid targeted advertisements.
TOP RECOMMENDATION: Given the known environmental detriment which airlines have on the planet, we recommend carbon offsetting your flights. By choosing to fly, you are contributing to carbon emissions. By electing to carbon offset, your funds will go towards initiatives to slow down climate change and help save the earth.
Where To Find The Best Accommodation
Once our flights are locked in, we turn our attention to where we’re going to stay. For us, it’s not about the 5-star hotels (we wish our budget would allow it but not for now unfortunately!) but we have graduated from sharing a room with 20 newfound backpackers.
Where Uber has transformed the chauffeur/taxi industry, Airbnb has done the same for paid accommodation around the world. The two main reasons we love Airbnb is for its affordability and its convenience. Airbnb has helped both property owners and savvy travellers to provide stylish and safe lodgings – a home away from home. We’ve stayed in a tiny apartment in Hong Kong, shared a snow chalet in the French alps, booked a modern basement flat in Malmo and stayed in the coolest studio apartment in Porto – all whilst connecting with locals along the way.
If you’re yet to experience the benefits of Airbnb, sign up now with our personalised link to receive AUD $55 off your first booking!
Some locations unfortunately don’t have suitable Airbnb options available so hotels continue to play a large role in the travel industry. Yes, they’re generally more expensive and they won’t always have cooking facilities if this is what you prefer but a fluffy robe and heavenly mattress hardly go underappreciated (especially by us!).
Consider Booking.com for accommodation options at your destination – we’ve found some great deals at 4-star hotels in the past and it can also be a nice treat or romantic touch for you and your significant other. If a hotel offers 24 hour concierge service, there is this added convenience if you so happen to land at midnight and arrive in the hotel lobby at 1 am. And did somebody say room service?
Search hotels and more...
If budget is a priority for you, hostels are a convenient and cheaper accommodation option. Staying in hostels around the world is an initiation for young travellers, as is the customary pub crawl and fleeting acquaintances in rooms stuffed with bunk beds and sometimes way too many bodies.
We’ve both used Hostelworld in the past and found them to be a reliable source for providing a range of options. Many hostels offer female-only dorms, lockers, kitchen facilities, social activities and travel tips. If you’re looking to save some money but want a bit more privacy, many places also offer private rooms, an option we consider when travelling to more costly destinations.
Thanks to a bevy of brilliant minds, there are a number of free travel apps that you can now download and use on the go. Most of these apps are available internationally and some can even be used offline. From getting around a new city managing your travel money, we’ve written about a list of essential travel apps for your trip that we believe are resourceful and helpful when on the go.
BEFORE YOU GO
For us, travel insurance is a no-brainer. It is mandatory when we travel internationally. And we would highly recommend that you take out a policy before you travel too.
In our time, we have fortunately not needed to make any major claims. But we prefer to err on the side of caution, particularly when we are participating in any outdoor activities such as snow sports. Reputable companies such as World Nomads and Covermore offer policies which are quite expensive but are comprehensive. If you are trying to save some money, do some solid research between companies and policies to find the cover appropriate to your circumstances.
Your credit card may offer a certain level of travel insurance and airlines will also offer travel insurance as an add-on. We’d recommend to not be too stingy as budget policies may not actually provide you with too much!
If you’re still sitting on the fence, read our blog post “Travel Insurance: Should I? Shouldn’t I?” to consider all your options.
There is an art to packing and each traveller has their preferred method. Depending on your itinerary, you’ll need a range of apparel and accessories to suit different cultures and climates. In our time, we are constantly reminded that less is more and sure, you’ll become sick and tired of wearing the same old thing day in and day out. But we’ve learned it’s best to use everything that you pack over and over than to carry stuff that you never actually use.
To assist you, we’ve compiled a list of essential travel items that we never leave home without. What else do you always carry with you?