Through my years of travel, through much trial and error, I've amassed quite of list of preferred travel resources. These are all sources I personally love and use or reference on a regular basis (and am NOT being paid to promote). All of these have helped me create a more fulfilling travel experience, all while saving a bundle.
Lonely Planet Magazine
(US edition - 4 issues for $6 per year & UK edition - 12 issues for around $50 per year )
I'm obsessed with these magazines. I subscribe to both the US and UK editions, and the information and inspiration each issue contain is invaluable. I rarely come out of reading an issue without adding more destinations to my bucket list.
This is my go-to site for finding a variety of travel articles that explore locations around the world, their cultures, and the people that live there. There is a ton of information on this site that offer new and different perspectives and expert recommendations for planning your next trip.
Roads & Kingdoms
Roads & Kingdoms offers an editorial perspective on food, politics, travel and culture. It recently won the James beard award for "Best Publication," and covers a variety of topics from an insider's perspective. Anthony Bourdain is also a contributing curator, and has launched Explore Parts Unknown, a special guide in partnership with Roads and Kingdoms and CNN that highlights destinations through his eyes, and helps readers travel the way he does.
BOOKING FLIGHTS / FLIGHT DEALS
Hopper is where I find my flight deals. It's super easy to set up to receive push notifications directly to your phone. When it finds a good deal, it will notify you and suggest if you should buy or wait. It helped me get an error flight deal from Chicago to Singapore for only $370 round trip on Japan Airlines!
Skyscanner is another really good website and app for finding great deals on flights. It gives a calendar breakdown of the prices on each day and gives very accurate predictions on when you should book your trip and purchase flights. They pull prices from tons of travel booking sources to offer the best prices available.
AIRLINE FREQUENT FLIER PROGRAMS
One of the best ways to fly for free and pick up some extra perks is to join frequent flier programs. It's always best to choose a program that includes your airline of choice and fly with them as much as possible (listed below). However, we all know price is a huge factor and flying with your preferred airline isn't always possible, which is why you should join every major frequent flier program whether you fly with them often or not. Every little bit helps. Plus there are tons of ways to earn miles without even flying!
Within recent years, airlines unfortunately have adjusted their programs that change how customers earn miles (money spent vs. actual miles flown), and how many miles it takes to redeem for a flight severely reducing the number of free flights one can earn.
To leverage these programs and boost your points, I recommend also signing up for the coordinating airline credit card. Almost all airline cards offer bonuses where you can earn 20,000 - 50,000 or more miles/points for using your card for everyday purchases and reaching spending minimum within a certain period of time. If you're looking at dipping your toes in the "travel hacking" world, this is where you should start. (More on travel hacking in an upcoming post.)
A few of my favorite programs:
Rapid Rewards Program - Southwest Airlines
Sky Team Alliance
Aeroflot Russian Airlines, Aero Mexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines,
China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta, Kenya Airways, KLM,
Korean Air, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, audia Airlines, Middle East Airlines
ADRIA Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Avianca, Avianca in Brazil, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines
EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Shenzhen Airlines
Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines
airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, S7 Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, TAM Airlines
BOOKING HOTELS & ACCOMMODATIONS
There are a plethora of booking sites out there, and a lot of them are pretty similar. I have tried a ton of them, and had better luck with some than others. Below are three of my favorites.
Agoda is a really powerful booking site that is particular good when it comes to hotels internationally, especially Asia. I only use them when booking hotels in that region, and is my first stop for price comparisons everywhere else. They consistently offer the best pricing out there and exceptional customer service. In addition, there are loads of reviews, photos, and star ratings so you always know what you're getting. Occasionally they will also offer freebies and extras when booking with them including free breakfast, room upgrades and more. Knock on wood, I have never run into an issue with any of my bookings through them.
Airbnb is a great resource for alternative accommodations. It connects homeowners that rent out their homes with travelers looking for a unique local and authentic experiences. From single rooms and apartments to castles and villas, there are options out there for all price points.
Expedia is an extensive global booking network including hotels, flights, car rentals, and vacation packages. I usually use them for domestic hotels whose search results consist of both name brand chains and local boutiques. They regularly offer sales and special discounts on properties, where I managed to book a room in Vegas which normally runs $250 per night for only $70. It's definitely worth checking out if you're planning a vacation in the states.
Travel insurance is a must for any international trip, and World Nomads is one of the best out there. They offer comprehensive coverage that includes everything from injury to lost luggage and trip delays. I started using them in 2014 on a recommendation from Lonely Planet, and I'm glad I did! Often, people skip it because they think it's an unnecessary expense and want to save a little money. Let me tell you, it is so worth it. When my husband and I were in Athens he got pick pocketed and his phone was stolen. I submitted a claim online, filed the proper paperwork, and in a few weeks, he was reimbursed for the theft. If anything it's a piece of mind having it should anything unexpected happen while on a trip.
DESTINATION GUIDES & RESEARCH
Lonely Planet has been around since 1972 and publishes stellar travel books loaded with expert tips and advice. I prefer their books over others due to their currentness, mix of practical advice, insider knowledge, and in-depth guides for every corner of the world. Their guides are available in both print and mobile app versions, so they're easy to bring along on any adventure.
TripAdvisor is the leading site for travel-based reviews and advice from real travelers. Their network is comprised of over 500 million reviews and opinions covering accommodations, restaurants and attractions, helping travelers to plan smarter and book better.
You can literally find anything and everything on YouTube these days. Just search your destination and voila! Some YouTubers are much better than others, so pay attention to number of views and subscribers along with upload date. It's a great way to get a feel for where you are going, and pick up some travel tips. Be sure to check out the video's comments section as well for even more advice from the viewers.
TOURS & EXPERIENCES
If you are looking for a small group tour, I can't recommend Intrepid Travel enough! I took a solo trip with them in 2014 on their "Highlights of Thailand" tour and had a blast. They offer a myriad of trips across the globe that are the perfect balance of touristy and local in a range of comfort levels (basic, original, and comfort) led by fantastic local guides. As a company, they are committed to sustainable practices and supporting local communities. They were one of the first travel companies to eliminate elephant riding from their itineraries, which is a big plus in my book! My husband and I are booked on their Singapore to Bangkok trip this October, and I couldn't be more excited!
Viator is my favorite site for booking tours. They handpick the best local tours and activities in cities around the world and offer them at great prices. You can book confidently knowing the reviews and photos are from fellow travelers and that they have a 24/7 support team should any problems arise. When my husband and I were in Turkey, we booked a great tour of Ephesus through Viator. Not only did we end up being the only ones on the tour, it was half the price of the tours the cruise was offering!
Travelzoo collects and recommends the best deals on travel, hotels, dining and activities around the planet. I've scored broadway tickets for half price, saved on dining out, and gotten 2 for 1 concert tickets. There's a reason they are 28 million members and growing.
Vayable helps travelers see cities through the eyes of a local. They connect travelers with local tour guides for one-of-a-kind cultural experiences. As stated on their site, "Vayable is a place to discover unique, cultural experiences from design, photography and street art experiences, to ethnic food tours, private dinners hosted by locals, backroads wine tastings and underground history, sightseeing and immersive cultural exchange. Vayable is a home for anyone looking to experience honest, local culture through experiences created and hosted by passionate local Insiders."
Lyft is a great cheap alternative to taxis. It's super easy to call a car on-demand via the app and be picked up in a matter of minutes. Lyft is available in most major cities in the United States, but if you're headed to or from the airport, be sure to check and make sure they operate from your location as they're banned from some major airports.
It's no surprise that Google Maps is one of the best ways to find your way around. It's helped me countless times find my way around by car, foot, and public transit. The directions are always spot on, and they have a off-line mode that allows you to download the maps you need along with places you pin.
The Man in Seat 61
The Man in Seat 61 is one of the most comprehensive websites dedicated to rail travel out there. Traveling by train can be extremely confusing and stressful in non-english speaking countries, and this site breaks down information and takes the intimidation out of it.
Having the right gear while traveling only enhances and improves the experience. You'd be surprised how a simple multi-plug adapter can bring people together! Don't leave home without these items.
This is one the current go-to choice for frequent travelers, travel bloggers, and those looking to upgrade from their point-and-shoot cameras. Mirrorless cameras have only continued to grow in popularity in the past few years, and are a great alternative to D-SLR cameras. They have a smaller frame making it ideal for carrying around long days, offer comparable image quality to their bulkier cousins, and have interchangeable lenses for catching the perfect travel moment.
This plug seriously comes in handy. Let's be honest, there are never enough plugs in hotel rooms or at the airport. With this you'll be everyone's travel hero, plus maybe you'll make a few friends.
This is one of the most powerful power banks on the market. At 22,000mAH, you can charge your iPhone 8 times and an iPad 1.5 times. It's perfect for those long flights.
Packing cubes are one of those things that you don't think you need, but once you have them, your packing game increases tenfold. These not only help you stay organized, but they also help compress your clothing leaving plenty of room in your luggage for more souvenirs.
FOOD & TRAVEL BLOGS, VLOGS & WEBSITES
Samuel & Audrey
Sam and Audrey are a super-cute Canadian couple traveling the world, eating, and vlogging about it. They offer a mix of city guides, travel tips, street food tours, travel vlogs and food videos highlighting the destinations they visit.
Tavel better, cheaper, longer. Matt offers lot of great travel tips, advice, and narratives along with a travel community forum that allows travelers a place to connect. He also offers really good resources for bloggers including in-depth courses on travel blogging, writing and photography. I'm currently going through his "Business of Blogging" which is filled with invaluable information and step-by-step guides for creating a successful blog.
I've been a big fan of Mark Wiens for a long time. If you love to eat your way around the world, you need to check out his blogs and videos on YouTube! He will help you navigate finding the best food in any city you're in.
The Food Ranger
Trever James is a highly entertaining food vlogger whose love of food runs to his core. Currently residing in China, he takes his viewers on adventures throughout China and around the world on "full-on" food tours.
Jodi Ettenberg is a former corporate lawyer who quit her job to eat her way around the world. Readers will find a community that connects travelers who want to dig deep into a new country, in-depth food guides to cities around the world, and resources to help plan and budget for long term travel. Legal Nomads focuses on food, but also the human experience in a modern digital world.
Since 2009 Solo Traveler has helped over 4 million travelers head out on their own to discover the world. Solo travel can be very daunting, and this site has an extensive collection of over 1500 articles fulfilling their mission to inspire, inform and advocate for solo travelers.
New York Times Cooking
NY Times Cooking offers a great selection of top-notch recipes. From starting with the basics to mastering the art of French cooking, they have a little of something for everyone.
I Am a Food Blog
I am a Food Blog celebrates the awesomeness of food. Recipes range from fun and unfussy to a little more involved, but ultimately, they’re all delicious. They are most inspired by the things eaten when traveling or random ingredients in the fridge.
Call Me Cupcake
Call me cupcake is run by the talented Linda in a little town in the south of Sweden. She began the blog on a fluke in the hight of the cupcake hype in Sweden, and discovered how fun baking could be. She quickly became obsessed with cupcakes and wanted to share her experiences, and eventually branched off into other baking deliciousness. Her site is filled with beautiful moody photos of stunning desserts that makes me want to try making every one of her recipes.
I'm always on the hunt for new and better ways to travel, so if you have any resources you swear by, please feel free to share them in the comments!