Could you imagine planning a trip without the internet? Like, actually imagine it? Although today it’s the norm to simply Google a destination’s name and see what comes up, a few decades ago this was the stuff of sci-fi movies.
At the risk of sounding like a total millennial right now, it’s kind of fascinating to think about how people used to plan travel—library trips dedicated to photocopying the most useful resources, calls with distant relatives to get recommendations, and savvy travel agents in busy offices. And while I’d certainly say we’ve got it way easier now, we’re also bombarded with options. ALL the options…including blogs (hi), Wikipedia, and at least, oh I don’t know, 10K search engine results.
So who do you trust? How do you know what information is correct? How the hell do you get through it all? Sweet jeebus, halllllp. Here are a few of my go-to resources and tools that will help you plan your next trip without losing your mind.
G Drive just can’t be beat. It’s free and easy and allows you to keep track of your budget in a spreadsheet, brainstorm things to do in a document, and keep important images accessible (like of your passport, in case of emergency).
Keeping everything—flights, train times, hotel reservations, etc—organized and in one place when everything has been booked separately is, to put it lightly, a royal pain in the ass. TripIt takes out the guesswork and allows you to simply forward any email reservations to your account and then does all the work for you. The result is an uber-organized, chronological listing of your trip that’s easy on the eyes.
Google Maps also allows you to create custom maps, which can help you locate all the attractions or activities in a city and determine a more solid itinerary.
Useful guides and resources
I might be a little (okay like a lot) biased, but blogs are a great way to get suggestions you won’t find in a travel book.
As a follow-up to the Blogs suggestion, this is a fantastic way to find bloggers. More than that, though, I use it for inspiration—I love me some Pinterest-worthy travel photos.
A fantastic forum to ask (and answer!) questions about destinations.
The more I use TripAdvisor the more I like it. If you scan through the reviews you can sometimes find some lesser-known tips from people who’ve actually been there.
I’m a big AirBnB fan! It’s such an awesome way to get a taste of local life and connect with people in the city where you’re traveling. Most trips I’d much rather have a cool AirBnB rather than a swanky hotel. (ps if you’ve never used AirBnB before, you can get $35 free to use for your first rental here)
Compare flight times and prices without having to jump around to every. website. ever.
I ~love~ a cheapass flight. These are my main go-to’s that I check every day, without fail, for insane flight prices.
How can you get from Cincinnati to Portland? What’s the average cost of an overnight train from Berlin to Paris? What website has the bus info for a ride from Rio to Buenos Aires? Rome2Rio basically lets you know all the ways to get from Point A to Point B, including cost and time.
For train travel in Europe, this site is a must. It was pretty much the only reason I knew anything about where to book my tickets throughout Switzerland, Austria, and Poland.
What’s your biggest struggle when planning a trip?
Honorable mentions: Yelp (I use it in the same way as TripAdvisor), Trover (similar to Pinterest), Couchsurfing (for accommodation + getting to know locals), Megabus (they’ve got cheap as hell buses in multiple countries)