Planning trips is stressful. There is a lot to consider. Between transportation, accommodation, meals, tours, city highlights, visas, and language barriers, the planning process is extremely cumbersome.
It’s why travel agents have jobs. It’s also why people tend to frequent the same vacation spots year after year. You don’t want to make taking time off from work a stressful process, so why rock the boat? May as well go to the same beach year after year, because you’re comfortable with it, right?
WRONG! I’m here to tell you that if you dread planning trips, you are doing it wrong. With all of the resources available out there today, there is absolutely no reason to be stressed by planning your next vacation. Here are my favorite resources that I use when planning trips.
For Booking Flights:
Sky Scanner has never let me down for finding the best deals on flights. The flexible search options on this site make sure you get the best deal possible. Plus, if you’re indecisive like me, there is an explore option to see where you can go on your budget. Lastly, you can even book your hotel and rental car all in the same place to minimize hassle. I can’t recommend this site enough for finding the best deal on flights.
Like Sky Scanner, Kayak also has an explore option to find destinations you can visit with your budget. You can view this as a map of the world to potentially see deals in nearby cities or inspire new itineraries altogether. This is a great option for budget travelers. Furthermore, the site’s algorithm automatically finds ‘hacker fares,’ which generates a combination of flights from various airlines, saving you hundreds. Don’t let those pesky airline websites withhold information about all available flights any more! Kayak also has a very user-friendly app that I use every day while daydreaming about my next trip.
I primarily use google flights for travel hacking and maximizing mileage accrual. It lets you search for flights by airline alliance, by budget, and also has an explore option. Once you find your ticket, you can select which website you want to book through. If you’re looking to fly with one airline and redeem miles with another, this is a great way to maximize your mileage accrual as long as you do your research first.
I started following this Facebook group a few months ago, and it is both dangerous and beneficial for my wallet. This site posts the best deals on both domestic and international flights, and even publishes error fares. Be sure to turn on post notifications so you don’t miss big opportunities to travel for hardly any money at all! I recently missed the opportunity to fly to Australia for only $400 round trip (normally over $1,200!!), and I will never forgive myself for it.
For Planning Your Itinerary:
Lonely Planet Travel Books:
I am such a sucker for a good guide book. I love collecting them and picking them out when I first book a flight to a new destination. Usually, I have an idea of what I want to do, but these books take it to the next level. Not only do they have sample itineraries for various time periods, but they give you ideas for day trips and activities based on your budget. I prefer Lonely Planet’s books to any other company because they frequently update their books and gather their information from a wide variety of travelers- from professionals to amateurs.
These are some of my favorites that I use when planning trips:
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Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forums:
Thorn Tree is a community of travel experts and enthusiasts. Here, you’ll find conversations and advice on just about every city and subject in the world. You also can post your own questions to get advice about everything from how long to spend in a city, to where to eat, to the best photography spots. I never plan a trip without seeing what people are saying about that city on Thorn Tree.
There’s no better way to feel inspired than by reading about someone’s personal experiences. There are several travel bloggers that I follow, but my favorites include The Blonde Abroad, Nomadic Matt, and Expert Vagabond. These are professional travelers that write about their destinations, how to get around, where to stay, and what to do. The best part? Their opinions are real and make it easy for you to learn from their mistakes.
One of my favorite things to do in my free time is watch travel YouTubers. These full-time travelers film their everyday experiences and show you exactly where to go. My favorite part is you feel so much more immersed in their experiences than you do when you’re simply reading about a place. These are my favorite YouTubers that you should check out:
Kara and Nate:
This couple from Nashville left their normal lives to explore the world for a year. They fund their travels with travel hacking, and have been able to continue with their adventures for what is their 3rd year now. They have a goal to visit 100 countries by 2019, and their videos are so engaging that you feel like you know them personally. Check out their channel- they’ve been to some really cool places!
These brothers started their travel journey by winning a travel filmmaker’s competition. The prize? An opportunity to travel and film their adventures for 6 months. After that 6 months was over, they decided to continue with their travels, and they are still making videos several years later.
What I love most about these videos? They try to include locals and fellow travel bloggers in their videos that know the area best. This way, I feel like I’m learning about what the local customs are, which is always something I want to include when I’m planning trips. Check out their channel here.
The Bucket List Family:
Do you use snapchat? Then you’re gonna love this family of 4 turned travel journalists. Garrett Gee, the creator of the scanning technology that snapchat uses to add another user sold his startup for $24 million dollars. To celebrate, his family sold everything (house, cars, you name it) for a 6-month adventure around the world.
Over 2 years later, the family is still traveling full-time, and the best part is that they haven’t had to touch the $24 million because of how successful their channel has been. They’ve even been hired to create content for Walt Disney World, and made a series called 30 Stays in 30 Days where they stayed in and YouTubed about 30 different Disney hotels.
I love this family because they do good things for people in need, too. They have a nonprofit to prevent human trafficking in Nepal and frequently send people in need on family trips together. You’ve got to check them out! They post a new video every Sunday.
For Booking a Cruise:
This website is the best way to get a good deal on a cruise. I primarily use this site for the 90 day ticker. All you do is sign up using your email (Don’t worry about spam- I’ve been a member for years and have never received an email from this site). Then, you can view a list of cruises that depart in the next 90 days. Cruises are so desperate to fill extra cabins that they offer them for 75-80% off! This is a great way to afford a suite or even a longer, more luxurious vacation than you would be able to by booking through the cruiseline.
I’ve booked through this portal as well, and love it because it offers discounted prices and you earn frequent flyer miles for taking a cruise you ordinarily would have. The miles were deposited to our Mileage Plus account before we even returned home from our cruise!
For Reserving Accommodations:
I love using AirBNB because it gives you the chance to be in the center of the action for a fraction of the price. Whether you’re with a big group, or a solo traveler looking for a local’s assistance getting around, they have got you covered. You can stay in all sorts of places from a penthouse apartment to a treehouse! AirBNB has also recently started an experience option, which allows you to book tours and other experiences with locals. These experiences will save you tons of money on tours, and you’ll get a taste of living like a local!
Plus: Save $40 on your first stay with AirBNB by clicking here
If you want to be sure you’re getting the best possible deal on a hotel, I recommend searching with booking.com. They’re able to offer great deals on hotels and compare throughout the city. Once I see the deal available, I usually call the hotel directly and see if they can match the deal. Sometimes, if you book through a booking website you don’t always get those coveted hotel points- and those add up to free vacations! If they can’t match the deal, at least ask if your stay will qualify to earn hotel points before booking.
Trusted House Sitters:
Does the idea of traveling for free sound appealing to you? Do you like animals? Trusted House Sitters gives you a free place to stay by simply house sitting or pet sitting in another person’s home. If you like the idea of free accommodation, the membership fee is only $119, which includes your background check and other logistics (for safety purposes of course).
Once you’ve filled out your information, the rest is easy! There are homes (and pets) all over the world waiting for you, and the homeowner’s description gives you an idea of the commitment needed. I prefer house sitting to staying in hostels because 1. it’s free and 2. you get your own room and can lock up your valuables. It’s such a great way to save money when planning trips.
Do you have any go-to travel resources that you use for planning trips? What do you use to book your trips? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, and these are websites and resources that I personally use and recommend for planning trips. This post contains affiliate links that, at no cost to you, compensate me with a small commission that helps run this site- keeping it free and helpful for everyone!