From airfare to accommodation, insurance to inspiration – these are all the travel resources I use when I’m planning a trip abroad.
If you’re planning your own adventure of a lifetime, be sure to check out all the websites and apps that I use for my own trips, and if you have any questions about them, comment below or shoot me an email!
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The Broke Backpacker
When I start planning a trip abroad, I always want to kick things off by figuring out which countries I want to visit, and in what order. So, one of the first resources I hit up when I start planning a trip is the Broke Backpacker website. These guys put together some of the most detailed itineraries (by continent, country, and city), offer a super cohesive breakdown of each country (cost of living, visa requirements, safety conditions, insider tips, etc.), and even have trip itineraries based on how much time you want to spend at each place.
Another great resource I like to use for planning my trips is Pinterest. Because of the sheer, overwhelming amount of content that is on Pinterest, I usually hold off on using this site until I know what my itinerary is going to be, country by country. Ideally, I’m only using Pinterest to get an idea of things to do in the cities or areas within a country that I’m visiting.
I also like to use Matt Kepnes’ website – Nomadic Matt – for planning trips. Much like the Broke Backpacker, this site has tons of great itineraries for whatever destination you’re wanting to visit, and I really like using this as a secondary resource just to get another opinion on a destination. Plus, he’s got such a great Travel Resources section on his site that I find really helpful for things like transportation, accommodation, and finances.
I usually stay in hostels when I’m traveling abroad; it’s the easiest way to meet people, access fun things to see and do wherever you are, and a much more authentic way to travel (IMO). For booking hostels, I exclusively use Hostelworld. I love their search and booking features, as well as the way they rank their hostels by safety, distance from the city center, cleanliness, staff friendliness, and price.
If I’m not staying in a hostel, I’ll shop around for accommodations on Agoda. Agoda is the best way to find guesthouses and hotels, especially if you’re traveling around Asia. Great inventory, the best rates, and a super easy booking process.
Much like staying in hostels, crashing on people’s couches or staying in their spare rooms is another fun way to see a country – not to mention accommodation is free. Not only is Couchsurfing a great way to save money, it’s the perfect way to meet locals who can tell you all about the city. Plus, it’s got an awesome feature that lets you connect with local meetups through the app.
If you’re looking for cheap flights, there’s no better place to start with than Momondo. Not only do they show you the best deals in a stellar calendar view that highlights the cheapest days to fly, but they also comb through the smaller booking sites that other flights skip over.
When you’re working on a long-term trip and find yourself in need of a round-the-world ticket, there’s no better booking engine than AirTreks. These guys let you build awesome itineraries with multiple airlines at your disposal so you can get the best deal possible. Plus their staff is knowledgeable and super helpful (shoutout to Chris who helped me build my first round-the-world ticket back in 2019!).
Much like Momondo, Skyscanner is another great platform for finding the cheapest airline ticket possible. Skyscanner’s search feature includes many budget carriers that are often ignored by bigger companies like Kayak or Expedia.
Easily the best thing about Google Flights is the way they visualize flights, routes, and connections all around the world. Just enter your departure airport to see which flights you can access all over the world, and where the cheapest destination is!
Insurance + Health
Given my accident-prone nature and tendency to collect injuries over the course of the year (in 2020 so far, I’ve had two shoulder dislocations and needed a total of 26 stitches), I will never travel abroad without some type of travel insurance plan, and I go with World Nomads. They put together simple, flexible travel insurance plans that are designed by travelers, for travelers.
Just give them your country of residence, which countries you plan on visiting, your travel dates, and your age to get your personalized price quote! To learn more about World Nomads’ travel insurance, click here!
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
STEP is a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad. It allows them to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, receive important information about safety conditions in your destination country, help you make informed trip decisions, and get you in touch in case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency).
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Another great resource (if you’re a U.S. citizen traveling abroad) is the U.S. Department of State’s online resource for International Travel. It’s a wealth of knowledge that breaks down the safety conditions of whatever country you’re planning to visit, information based on what type of traveler you are (i.e. LGBTQI, women, student, adventure, etc.), and steps to take in case of an emergency.
Depending on the itinerary you’ve planned out for yourself, you may or may not need to update your shot record before you set off on your grand adventure. If that’s the case, my go-to resource is the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). In addition to providing just general knowledge about health and diseases around the world, the CDC also has a great Travelers’ Health center, with information about immunizations, disease outbreaks around the world, and (for my personal favorite) a breakdown of recommended vaccines that you should get based on each country you plan on visiting. For example, on my last trip through Cambodia, it was recommended that I get a Typhoid shot beforehand, especially since I planned on visiting some smaller locales that were off the beaten path. To figure out which immunizations you need for a trip, click here!
Divers Alert Network (DAN)
My third trip abroad was going to be a 3-month trek across Southeast Asia, and one of my goals was to learn how to scuba dive. I was fortunate enough beforehand to learn about an amazing resource that all divers should use: the Divers Alert Network, otherwise known as DAN. DAN not only provides education, research, and membership deals, but they also provide internal diver’s insurance. Once you get into the world of diving, you’ll quickly realize that there are a lot of things that can go wrong, even if you are careful, so having divers insurance could save you thousands, if not millions of dollars should something happen. DAN provides single trip plans, annual plans, professional liability, and even equipment insurance. Click here to pick up your own diver’s insurance before your trip!
I’m historically not great with keeping track of my money, at least while I’m traveling. Part of it is taking the time to monitor my finances and honor a budget, another part of it is wrapping my head around all the aspects of defining and balancing a travel budget. Luckily, I stumbled across Trail Wallet – a super simple app that lets you organize your expenses by trip or by month, set yourself a daily budget, then easily add expenses as you go. It’s the perfect tool for setting a budget, sticking to it, and adjusting it while you’re on the road.
Charles Schwab Debit Card
There are tons of different credit cards that you can sign up for to maximize your traveling experience (great resource for this is Matt Kepnes’ breakdown of travel credit cards) but no doubt my favorite card to use for traveling is my Charles Schwab debit card. The main reason I use it for exclusively traveling is because they reimburse your ATM fees at the end of the month. If you’re like me and want to only pull out cash as you need it – that way if you get robbed you’re not out hundreds of dollars – then you need a bank that will either waive or reimburse those ATM fees, which really do add up if they have a $2 or $5 charge every time you make a withdrawal.
Credit Card for Travel
There are tons of different credit cards you can sign up for that provide travel-friendly benefits. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives you awesome perks like trip cancellation insurance and transferrable points, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers 3% cashback on dining and 5% on travel, and the American Express Business Platinum card provides $200 in airline credit and automatic status at Marriott and Hilton hotels. Me personally? I went with the Capital One Venture card. Sure it’s got point bonuses on things like hotel stays, but it’s the simplicity of the card that made me sign up. You get 2x points on ALL purchases. This makes building up points so damn easy, which I’m all about.
The WhatsApp Messenger app is the free and super easy ay of talking with friends and family. The app uses your phone’s internet connection so there’s no fees, provides free calling, keeps you logged in at all times, easily connects with your phone’s address book, and so much more. It’s the only thing I used for talking with my loved ones back home and how I stayed connected with the friends I made on the road.
It’s no secret that I am not a numbers person, and calculating exchange rates definitely doesn’t fall in my wheelhouse. Plus, it always seemed like just as I’d gotten a handle on one country’s currency, I was in a totally new place and having to figure out that country’s currency. Enter the Currency Converter. I love this thing. It’s a super simple interface that lets you easily see the exchange rate between any country. Just select the currency you’re using in-country and set it to convert to your home currency. Easy!
This is the #1 ride hailing app for Southeast Asia. Snag a taxi, car, or motorbike ride wherever you are, and manage it all with easy, cashless in-app payments.
TripIt: Travel Planner
The TripIt: Travel planner is the PERFECT way for keeping track of everything you need on a trip. I’m talking flights, accommodation reservations, and master itineraries all in one place. You can even upload PDFs, photos, boarding passes, and digital passport QR codes. This thing does it all!