With all of the travel information floating around on the internet, I have found that it is increasingly difficult to organize and distinguish the good advice from the bad. No matter where I travel, though, there are a few resources that I always turn to in order to plan my trips with confidence. The following list is borne out of countless hours of web-surfing and eager (okay, also sometimes frustrated) trip research.
Note: I am not affiliated with any of these sites in any way; they are just websites that have helped me in the planning and organizing of my travels at some point.
U.S. Dept. of State Country Specific Information– Fact sheets on every country published by the Bureau of Consular Affairs. A great place to start trip research. The fact sheets are constantly updated.
U.S. Dept. of State Travel Alerts and Warnings– If there is anything you should be aware of when traveling, it will be mentioned here. Directed at U.S. citizens abroad, but useful for everyone.
Health & Safety:
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)– Info on vaccinations, medical care, and other health concerns in over 200 countries worldwide
Kayak.com– This is the first website I look to when starting to research airfares for a potential trip. It doesn’t include budget airlines or small regional services, so if you’re looking for those options it may not be the best. However, kayak’s layout is really user-friendly and the prices you see always include all taxes and fees. It is a great place to start, and most often quotes the best prices as well.
Bing.com– Another great flight aggregator; Bing also has a popular “price predictor” so you know when to buy.
Mobissimo.com– Another useful site for comparing airfares
Skyscanner.com– Great site for airfare comparison…slightly more focused on European flights than others
Eurostar.com– London-Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam. Travel across the channel tunnel in style!
When traveling in Europe, always check the national train websites, as travel by train is often the most convenient and cost-effective way to get around. Some of the best (with information in English) are: National Rail (UK); NS.nl (The Netherlands); NShispeed (Benelux, Germany, and France); Bahn.de (Germany); Renfe (Spain); Trenitalia (Italy); TGV-Europe (France)
Megabus.com– I’ve used this bus company for cheap fares in the U.S. but never in Europe. If you’re young, with lots of time, and willing to spend hours on a cramped bus, this is definitely the most economical way to travel.
Eurolines– Similar to Megabus, but with much better service across Europe
Booking.com– Comprehensive hotel booking site. Tons of reviews and photos from travelers. I know many people who swear by this site for booking hotel stays around the world.
Hostelbookers.com– Hostel booking site with thousands of reviews and listings. No booking fees.
Hostelworld.com– Another hostel booking site for comparing budget accommodations
Couchsurfing.com– Don’t want to pay for your accommodation at all? Sign up for couchsurfing, a community where people offer up their couches/spare bedrooms/floors to travelers for free. There is a peer review and verification system so you don’t end up with any stalkers or creepy old men.
XE.com– Worldwide currency converter
Tripadvisor.com– I always read the tripadvisor forums before going anywhere. Destination experts answer any specific questions you may have about the area, and there is a wealth of information about nearly every place on (or off) the beaten path. There has been a lot of discussion about the truth to the reviews on tripadvisor, but I think a little common sense goes a long way. If a restaurant has 350-four star reviews and 2-one star reviews, then by all means read the one star reviews. But don’t assume that your experience will be the same. In general, the forums have never let me down.
Frugal Traveler (NY Times)– Travel series in the NY Times about travel on a budget. I want this guy’s job.
Seat61.com– An amazing website with tips on how to travel by train and ferry around the world. Includes specific information on everything from how to snag the best seat on your chosen route to which side of the train you should sit on for the best views.
Seatguru.com– Like Seat61, but for airplanes. Find that elusive extra legroom seat without paying extra for it!
Jet-Lag Rooster– input your country of origin, your destination country, and flight times, and the website will tell you how best to plan you sleep schedule to avoid jetlag.
Can I Drink the Water?– The name says it all. Find the country you plan to visit in the drop-down list and it will tell you whether the tap water is safe to drink or not.
Pack A Book– If you’re like me, you want to read everything there is to know about a place before you visit. This website is perfect for that. Pick a destination, and it will give you dozens of books (both fiction and non-fiction) set in your desired country.
Layover Guide– What to do when you’re stuck in the airport
Sleeping in Airports– Find out the best airport to be stranded, and where to crash when you (inevitably) miss that flight
Kayak Explore– My favorite game. If you don’t know where to go on your next big vacation, pick a departure point and time and see where your money can take you.