Travel is fun. Travel is challenging. Travel is life-changing. Travel is eyeopening. Travel is all of this and so much more, but one thing it does not have to be is daunting!
I personally love planning and researching for any future trips, but I know a lot of people who find as much joy in the planning as they do in having to get a wax (ouch!).
The good news is that nowadays there are SO many (maybe too many) travel apps and websites out there that can make planning your next trips a whole lot easier- who needs a travel agent when you can DIY?
I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite travel apps and websites that I wish I would’ve known about much earlier on!
- Maps.me is a great app to have when traveling offline as it allows you to download and get step by step directions to wherever you’re trying to go. It can serve as a great alternative or supplement to Google Maps where you can also download offline maps (I preferred Maps.Me when traveling in Asia, but Google Maps in Europe). Maps.Me has reviews and comments from users around for restaurants, landmarks, etc. just as Google Maps does so you can browse a place before committing.
- Google Maps. This one is a bit obvious, but I love using it to search for anything, such as “coffee” without having a specific place or name of a destination in mind (so it is great for discovery). Of course, they have reviews as well, which I always look at just to be on the safe side. There is also a feature that allows you to save places or label them on your map as “want to go,” “favorite,” “starred places.“ I absolutely love this feature, because if you happen to lose service/wifi for whatever reason, you’ve still got the location marked on your map. It has saved me more times than I can count!
- Grab is perfect for those not keen on renting a car/moped/bike in Asia. I braved driving a motorbike once in Vietnam but tried to keep that to a minimum when in SouthEast Asia. Grab allows you to hail a driver to your door to make getting to and from your desired location conveniently at a low-cost. You can choose from a scooter, taxi, etc.
- BlablaCar is my go-to rideshare application for long distance travel within Europe. I’ve used it all across Europe with no problem for the most part (occasionally, drivers are flaky or unprepared). However, BlablarCar did start charging a commission since I first started using it (it used to be free), so there is a free alternative in Spain called Amovens, which functions in the same exact way as BlaBlaCar, but it is totally free (unfortunately, it is to my knowledge only in Spain).
- Rome2Rio is a GREAT place to start when you are trying to get somewhere tricky that might require multiple forms of transport (a bus, a train, and a taxi) and you have NO idea where to start. It will plan out a whole itinerary and link you to external booking websites (local train websites that you may never have heard of otherwise for example).
Air Travel/ Flights:
- Skyscanner is the first place I usually go when booking any flights. It is essentially a travel fare aggregator website that searches the cheapest possible options for flights on most airfare websites. My favorite part about Skyscanner is that you can search “anywhere” as a destination, and “cheapest month” for the dates, resulting in some seriously crazy deals if you’re open-minded about your destination (for example, I’ve found round-trip tickets to Germany from Spain for 25 euros- ROUNDTRIP).
- Kiwi is another great alternative to Skyscanner and works in a similar way. A few times I’ve found it to be cheaper than Skyscanner.
- Hopper is similar to the previous two, it prides itself on finding low-cost options for your travels, but it also advises on whether you should pull the trigger or not! You can sign up for push notifications for alerts on price changes (though you can do that with Skyscanner as well). Also, please note that this does need to be downloaded as an app on your phone to work.
- Couchsurfing is great for so many reasons! I’ve met some of the most interesting people through this website and cannot recommend it enough. It allows you to connect with locals who will give you an authentic perspective on your destination. You can find people with similar interests, passions, hobbies, and make a lifelong friend. Plus as a bonus it is free (the idea though, is that you’d host some couchsurfers in the future as a way to pay it forward and build this community). I also always check reviews and prefer it if my host is verified.
- Hostelworld along with Airbnb (use this link if you don’t already have one and we both get $40) are two of my go-to websites for booking accommodation. They’ve both got a great collection of accommodations that range in price and style. They’re well established so customer service is on point, and they are reliable!
- If hostels or shared spaces are not really your thing then Booking is probably my best alternative.
- Instagram. Okay, bear with me here. Instagram gets such a bad reputation for pushing unrealistic or unauthentic versions of reality, but I have to confess that I love it for a variety of reasons, especially when it comes to discovery and travel. It is such a great place for travel inspiration, to find and build communities of people who are like-minded, and it allows you to connect and keep in touch with people around the world. I’ve found so many different cafes, points of interest, and unique destinations via Instagram. And now, with the save collections feature, it is so easy to bookmark collections of places you want to go (for example, I have collections for “India” or “China” to name a few).
- Transferwise. This one is kind of boring, but necessary sometimes. If you’re looking to transfer money between banks, people, etc. internationally, then Transferwise if one of the easiest and cheapest ways to do so. If you use the link I’ve provided, you get your first transfer free (and I get some credit as well- we both win 😉 ).