Below you’ll see all of my go-to travel resources that I find absolutely necessary for travelling enjoyably and efficiently. As easy as a Google search can be for many of the below things, my experience is that taking some more curated advice on people’s actual experience is useful to avoid wasting time sorting through paid ads and sketchy booking platforms that advertise add-on after add-on.
All of the below sites, brands, etc. are ones I personally use to plan my trips.
If you know what you’re looking for, feel free to move around using the table of contents. Otherwise keep scrolling to see which travel resources I use to plan my trips from start to finish. Feel free to drop your favorites in the comments if you don’t see them listed here!
- Research & Trip Planning
- Experiences & Activities
- Smarter & More Efficient Travel
- Travel Insurance
- Travel Credit Cards
Research & Trip Planning
I always start my flight research with Google Flights. It’s one of the best flight search engines out there, featuring really helpful filters. Also, let’s be honest, it’s nice to do this research on a clean user interface that doesn’t have links to 1000 other destinations, hotels, ads, etc. Make sure you’re logged into your Google account so you can easily save & track flights/routes you’re interested in!
Google Maps is also a huge must for me when I first start trip planning, as it allows me to get the lay of the land in the destination I’m dreaming about. I also use its Save feature religiously, and have list upon list of to-be-visited restaurants, bars, shops, and attractions literally all over the world. Show me an Instagram story of someone doing something fun in a place I’ve never enough thought of going but they’ve decided to location tag? You can bet it’ll be going in my Google Maps.
If you haven’t heard of Mark Smith at The Man in Seat 61, his site is an absolutely critical resources for anyone planning a train journey in Europe—or really anywhere in the world.
Mark has been religiously and continuously keeping his comprehensive train travel resources up-to-date with the latest route, schedule, fare, and booking information since 2001. He is the foremost expert on all things train travel planning, and has been my go-to resource for over a decade.
A relatively new site and app, Wanderlog has actually proved to be the answer to many of my itinerary planning annoyances—both pre-booking as well as once those confirmation numbers start flooding my inbox.
Basically, Wanderlog allows you to create “trips” you are planning and formulate a daily itinerary where you fill in each day with information about transit, accommodation, and activities. You can be as specific as you’d like with their features, inputting anything from vague info just to get your ideas all in one place to specific flight numbers. Each trip lives in your account and can also be shared with your travel buddies, who can edit from their end as well.
One of the very best aspects of Wanderlog, though, is the way it can directly import info from your confirmation emails (including specific travel details, confirmation numbers, etc.) to auto-populate your itinerary once plans start to solidify. With the pro version, it actually automatically scans your email (with your permission) for confirmation emails and automatically adds them.
Wanderlog Pro also allows you to export your completed plans to Google Maps and even automatically optimize driving routes.
Oh, and one more exciting feature! They’ll send you email alerts if they detect a booking you’ve made has fallen in price. Of course, that will only be of use to you if you made a refundable booking in the first place—but it’s a pretty great perk!
4. Airline websites
I’ll be honest with you: There are more than a handful of airfare booking platforms I could direct you towards that would pay me an affiliate commission if you booked with them.
But the fact is that I never even consider booking via these platforms and I would never recommend you do either.
Sure, booking platforms may sometimes offer a marginally lower price than the airline does directly. But almost all of the time these do not significantly undercut the carrier themselves, and you also run the risk of your booking being lost or otherwise less editable/customizable than it would be if you booked directly.
For example, I did recently book a flight through the Capital One Travel portal (one of these types of booking platforms, although not a public one—you need a Capital One card to use it) because I had some points I wanted to use.
Despite being a mostly fine experience and, in this case, even giving me an airline-generated confirmation number I could use to add meals, bags, etc. to my flight right on its site, there was literally no option to add a suitcase during the purchase process.
Now, luckily I don’t need to worry that the booking won’t be honored as I am able to pull it up on the airline’s site, but I’m now going to need to pay DOUBLE for my checked bag because budget airlines love to raise the price of things you don’t add at checkout. 🙃
Save yourself the annoyance—or worse—and book direct.
One of my favorite ways to book train journeys is with Omio, which also sells long-distance bus tickets! It has absolutely the best interface for visualising your route and filtering out annoying transfers, unnecessarily expensive routes, etc.
Although many people out there recommend booking directly with train operators for tickets as well, this is only practical to a certain point. Many countries don’t have the best translations of their sites, and foreign credit and debit cards can frequently be rejected or come with hefty foreign transaction fees.
You’ll also see lots of people out there complaining about how they’ve booked with Omio only to realize later that they accidentally bought a non-refundable ticket. That is extremely unfortunate for them, but not really a fault of Omio’s! Individual countries’ train operators decide on ticket terms and the options for these are clearly displayed at checkout. Just make sure you read everything before hitting that “Pay now” button!
The reality is that ticket options and prices you find on both Omio and Trainline will be more or less identical. Trainline is slightly more UK-focused whereas Omio tends to by default be more European, but you can book tickets for either place on either platform.
I don’t have much more to say about Trainline other than that it’s functional, and a bit more straightforward of an interface than Omio—although it’s also more annoying to filter your searches.
I would recommend possibly searching up your connection on both sites just to see if there does happen to be a bit of savings on one or the other!
When I need to rent a car for my trip—whether for one day or the entire time—there is really only one option I go with again and again: Discover Cars.
Not only do I consistently find the best rates on Discover Cars, but their system for filtering based on car size, transmission type, and company is unmatched on any other platform I have seen or used. Also, cancellation is always free, there is never any type of hidden fee, and their customer service is available 24/7 and is genuinely helpful if things don’t go to plan.
Also, once again I really prefer using dedicated websites for different services (like, a car rental only site) because if there is one thing I am not about it’s being up-sold left and right with add-on hotels/transportation/activities/etc./etc./etc.
I have been loyal to Booking.com for as long as I can remember—I book almost every hotel I stay at on this platform.
Some of the main things I think make Booking.com the superior place to book accommodation are:
- There are so many types of properties. If there’s one thing I’ve found, it’s that some regions really excel at B&Bs, while others are way stronger in the hotel game, and others have such dismal options that I just want an apartment. The huge selection allows me to directly compare what I’ll get for my budget in my destination depending which type of property I choose.
- The booking page for each property very clearly and helpfully shows every room type, along with pictures of each, making it very easy to compare what you get for each price tier. Has this caused me to spend an extra $20 for a superior room here and there? Yes… but why not?!
- Narrowing your search is made much easier by map search functionality as well as the ability filter by property type, traveller ratings, etc.
- Their Genius loyalty program is relatively easy to progress through and each status level is yours for life!
If I know right away that I’m looking for a vacation rental property, Vrbo is always my first stop.
When compared with Airbnb, Vrbo offers generally cheaper rates and a much more straightforward fee structure, a more robust search functionality that allows you to search using extremely specific criteria (such as private vs. shared pool), and a 24/7 customer service helpline offering the ability to speak with a real person if you ever need assistance.
After the number of Airbnb horror stories I’ve had (like the time the Berlin fire department broke down the door of our apartment due to a false alarm and our host was in South American…) where I couldn’t get ahold of anyone to help out, the last perk was enough to make me a full Vrbo convert.
You can read more about why Vrbo is the best platform for booking apartments and vacation houses (and why it’s waaaay better than Airbnb these days) in my head-to-head Vrbo vs. Airbnb comparison.
Experiences & Activities
10 & 11. GetYourGuide & Viator
I’m sticking GetYourGuide and Viator together here because they are very similar activity and excursion platforms with not a whole lot differentiating them. I’ve used them both, I still use both, and I’ll keep using both!
The main factor in choosing one over the other is entirely your destination. Viator typically has a better selection of tours and experiences in North America, while GetYourGuide started in Europe and is slightly more robust in that part of the world.
It is always worth checking out both sites to see which one seems to have a better selection of listings (and as always, more reviews on its top ones!) for the destination you’re planning a trip to, and then just using that.
This is the first travel resource making an appearance here that I actually haven’t used myself yet—but that’s only because I recently discovered it and I absolutely plan to try it out on an upcoming trip!
If your ideal mode of traveling is connecting with locals, then trying out EatWith is an absolute must for you. While EatWith features an array of cooking classes and market tours (always one of the first things I book when I visit a new place), what I find really cool about it is the “meals” activity type. Simply book a “meal” and you’ve got a warm invitation from a local who wants to welcome you to their home, cook you a meal, and share some great dinner conversation with you!
Smarter & More Efficient Travel
Because I live in the UK and am lucky enough to have a phone plan that includes free roaming in the EU, I’ve often been able to travel without really needing to worry about how I’m going to stay connected. However, many phone plans have recently started restricting usage amounts on free roaming (not a fun thing to discover on my latest Sicilian road trip!), and if you’re American you can just about assume you won’t get free roaming anywhere but Mexico and Canada.
So, in the very likely event you need to figure out plan for your phone while traveling, Airalo is your best friend. It has certainly been mine.
Airalo sells eSIMs by country or by region, for a variety of data amounts and time limits. So basically, no matter where you’re going and for how long, they have an eSIM that will cover your trip! (There’s even a Global eSIM option that covers 85 countries.)
I’ve found that, for pretty much any trip I’ve taken, Airalo has had a suitable option for under $20 for a respectable amount of data.
What is an eSIM, you ask?! Probably one of the most sensible inventions of the last decade.
All iPhones since the iPhone 11 have included eSIM capability, which allows you to keep your regular SIM card from home in your phone and simply “switch” to a SIM card that will work in your destination virtually. Many Android phones do too.
The best part is that you can still receive texts or calls on your home number (provided your plan allows this while abroad… and many do!).
14. Radical Storage
Let’s be honest: Radical Storage is quite a niche service, but it addresses a very common issue for those of us who, um, struggle to pack lightly.
Businesses like corner shops, copy shops, and everything in between can sign up to Radical Storage and charge a small fee of €5/bag/day to allow you to leave your bags there for an afternoon, overnight, or a couple of days. There are 4500+ locations worldwide.
When I found about Radical Storage it felt like my whole travel style was able to relax a bit. No longer did I have to stress about coordinating hotel check-out times and train/plane departures (or figuring out where my suitcases were going to stay when I went out for one last coffee in whatever city I was visiting).
I’ve always felt safe using the service because they boast a 0% bag loss rate, 24/7 support, and up to €3000 insurance for your luggage!
I found out about AirHelp when British Airways canceled our flight home for Christmas last year 12 hours before departure with no notification. (Yep, they were literally going to let us show up the airport before informing us. Good thing Daniel is obsessive about checking our flight status on travel days!)
AirHelp fights with airlines about compensation for delays and cancellations so you don’t have to (up to and including taking legal action). Sure, they take about a third of whatever compensation you win, but for the ease of having to do almost nothing to get it? Sure! Let’s share my money!
It takes about 5 minutes to share your flight details, confirmation number, and a brief explanation of what happened. They take it from there!
A word of warning: this process can take a while. I still haven’t received my compensation a few months later. But again… this is money I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to obtain otherwise—so I’m ok with it!
As an expat, I actually use NordVPN as much in my daily life as I do while traveling. It is probably one of the most important travel resources I pay for religiously.
Plan to travel somewhere that has restrictive internet laws? Just want to make sure you’re able to catch the latest episode of your favorite show while halfway around the world in a country that doesn’t have HBO or the same Netflix selection as back home?
If so, NordVPN is an absolute must for your travel toolkit. You can pay monthly if you have a very specific use in mind, or spring for the two-year plan like I do at around 50% off the monthly price if you travel a lot, like TV shows from another country, or just really care about internet security—which, TBH we all should…
17 & 18. VisitorsCoverage & Ekta
The only reason I haven’t used VisitorsCoverage or Ekta myself is that—as a UK resident—I’ve found the alternate option below excellent and super affordable. Plus, before moving to the UK I ignorantly traveled without travel insurance so I never even looked into it before starting trips from the US.
Let’s get one thing clear though:
You need to buy travel insurance whenever you travel.
We all want to avoid thinking about the worst, but whether its just an unexpected illness that requires seeing a doctor, a broken bone, or a freak accident, it really is better to be safe than sorry.
Travel insurance policies really aren’t that expensive and they can save you literally thousands—if not tens of thousands—of dollars if you just remember to purchase them before leaving on your trip.
VisitorsCoverage is my top travel insurance recommendation for anyone who wants a wide selection of policies based on multiple factors. You can get trip specific insurance (definitely the cheapest option), worldwide multi-trip insurance for up to a year at a time, global policies suited to expats and digital nomads: you name it, they sell it.
Plus, citizens of most countries are eligible to purchase policies from VisitorsCoverage, and almost all destinations can be covered.
On the other hand, those who are looking to really save money and/or purchase their policy while already abroad will want to go for Ekta—one of the cheapest travel insurance providers out there. Just remember, if you want to purchase a policy while already traveling, it will only cover expenses after the policy kicks in three days from purchase.
If you’re a UK resident, you are in luck: CoverForYou is the way to go.
Their annual multi-trip insurance (which is the option I renew year after year) is extremely affordable and has excellent coverage, and I wouldn’t even think of switching.
Similar to the options above, you can also opt for more trip-specific policies, but my experience has been that if you plan to take more than a couple of trips per year, it’s very nice to simply “set and forget” your policy once a year so you can focus on enjoying your travels!
Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards are an absolute must for anyone looking to stretch their travel budget to the max. I could go on for days about the wonderful benefits of the Capital One Venture X card, which is my go-to travel credit card that I also use for most day-to-day purchases to rack up those miles!!
There are literally so many perks, though, that I’m just going to list them here:
- 750,000 mile sign-up bonus if you spend $4000 in the first 3 months ($750 value)
- 10,000 mile anniversary bonus every year ($100 value)
- 10x miles on hotels & rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 5x miles on flights through Capital One Travel, 2x miles on everything else
- $300 annual travel credit through Capital One Travel (basically they don’t make you pay off the first $300 you spend through their booking platform and just refund it)
- No foreign transaction fees!
- $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
- Access to 100s of airport lounges all over the world
- Hertz President’s Circle status
- Full collision damage waiver on car rentals booked through the card
- Ok… yes there is a $395 annual fee but the yearly perks pay for that, and everything else is just upside!
Need I say any more about why the Capital One Venture X card is worth it?!
If you, like me, are on a constant quest to identify the perfect travel water bottle then today is the day that quest ends.
The LARQ Bottle PureVis goes above and beyond what I thought were my requirements for a travel bottle and I literally couldn’t imagine myself traveling without it.
Not only this bottle sleek, light enough to take anywhere, and well insulated to keep cool for 24 hours (and hot for up to 12 if you need that), it uses LARQ’s PureVis UV technology to clean the bottle and the water inside in under 60 seconds.
Yep, that means the LARQ Bottle is self-cleaning, meaning you don’t need to worry about it getting funky during your travels.
Even more excitingly, the UV technology is FDA-approved to eliminate 99% of bio-comtaminants like E. coli.
If you’re somewhere you know you can already drink the tap water, this means you’ll just need to use the 20-second cleaning cycle to drink super purified water.
More excitingly, if you’re somewhere that drinking the water is not advisable for visitors due to the potential for illness, you can use the 60 second “Adventure Mode” to make contaminated water completely drinkable.
Is that not the coolest thing you’ve ever heard of?!