I’m more likely to go with the flow, rather than plan heavily when it comes to mapping out my next adventure, yet there’s still all manner of research and preparation that has to be done before and during any trip. It’s essentially the boring element of travel, but you never know what useful information and money saving tips you might stumble upon.
Whether it’s securing the best flight deals, planning train and bus journeys or looking into tours that cover more the trickier to travel destinations (or where you cannot travel to independently), these travel resources are my regular go to information hubs for planning and booking everything that’s needed for great exploration.
Thinking About Tours?
I’ve travelled a few times with G Adventures since 2004 when I first visited Asia, and more recently I used them for my Everest Base Camp trek. I love their community ethos, using local guides and giving back to community projects and charities. While I’m rarely on group trips, unless it’s necessary, tours are a great option should you be travelling to a destination that tricky to navigate, or a destination that doesn’t allow independent travel for particular nationalities, or if you are simply looking for great company to enjoy the experience with.
Dragoman is one of the leading overland travel experts, and I travelled around Mongolia for three weeks with them. Their huge trucks are like transformers, opening out into lots of compartments which house tables, chairs, tents, and other storage – like a mobile home for the more adventurous. I highly recommend them for exploring more desolate and vast landscapes that would be hard to traverse solo.
Travel Pre Planning and Travel Guides
The one essential element of pre-planning before arrival in any destination is to know whether you need to have a visa beforehand or whether you can get one on arrival. Project Visa is one of my top three go to travel resources when planning my next trip – it lists the visa requirements of all countries, and also outlines where embassies for that particular country are all over the world, should you need to apply before arrival.
Fast becoming the new go-to travel resource over the trusty guidebooks, WikiTravel lists everything from must-see sites to decent accommodation, in a concise and knowledgeable manner.
Everyone knows about Trip Advisor, and even though it was once known only as a space for those wanting to vent their negatives experiences, it has really turned itself around to become a comprehensive travel resource, ranking properties and attractions and hosting useful forums for discussion.
From Emirates to EasyJet, Expedia has pulled together a very handy guide to hand luggage, where you to quickly check the exact sizes of the hand luggage and hold weights you’re able to carry on board a flight. I’ve been caught out a few times with my small suitcase, which has been OK in size for one flight carrier, but slightly too big for another.
This travel resource also allows you to determine which airline is the best value for money when it comes to the all important inclusion of luggage allowance.
This is a quick fix guide and booking service for local attractions in all regions of the world – a great resource should you be short on time for elaborate online searches or without a guidebook.
I’m a Lonely Planet fan and while I don’t use them religiously, I do use them for quick reference or to show a local when I need some direction. I’ve tried using PDFs but much prefer the print, especially since I use it a lot to call ahead for accommodation or for the address and language translations. I buy mine from Amazon to score the best deals, but always keep an eye out on the Lonely Planet Publications website for sales.
I was informed many times that the most popular print travel resources were not that useful for China travel, and I was correct. On the one hand, China is so huge and constantly changing, it is hard to keep up; on the other hand it is essential to have backup when travelling here with all its frustrations. When I was asked to review Panda Guides my first thought was that I wish I had used them during my 10 weeks there. Each in-depth guide is written by expats and local writers without being overwhelming, the maps are clearer, and they contain useful information such as ‘Side Trips’ from major cities, including info on distance and exact breakdowns of how to get there. There’s all the top tips you need, alongside detailed pricing and timings, these are handy when you will often find yourself unable to get hold of this information easily, quickly and without expert miming skills. There’s even overviews on topical issues such as air pollution and an extensive list of food dishes with Chinese characters included (and to think I walked around with my favourite eggplant dish scribbled on a piece of paper!). Highly recommended.
Hostels, Hotels and Other Accommodation
You can rent local apartments or rent a spare room in over 190 cities across the world, which are all verified. The trend for this is booming and I can see why – it gets you right in the heart of local life and it can, in some big cities, be a cheaper option if staying for more than a couple of nights.
By using this link you can also receive up to £25 credit to use towards your first booking via my profile.
A part of Trip Advisor, FlipKey trumps most other apartment rental services in that it covers over 11,000 cities in the world from Europe, South America and the Middle East, and boasts over 240,000 ‘vacation homes’. The only downside is the hefty deposit (which you get back within a week of vacating), but which I hope changes.
Read my full review here.
This website has always been my number one, quick-fix travel resource for all hostel bookings. Although under the same umbrella company as Hostelbookers, I still look on both websites despite most of properties being the same – because room allocation to each varies, what you may find is booked up on one may not be on the other.
YHA has for a long time carried with it the reputation of ‘traditional youth hostel’ while the majority of others market an independent niche, theme or boutique style. However, with a £25million investment, the face of YHA hostels across England and Wales is changing with creative makeovers to its range of buildings, castles, mansions and campsites.
I last stayed in the YHA London St Pancras and was pleasantly surprised. I got a private room right in the heart of London before an early flight – a cheaper and more sociable option than an airport hotel. Lounge spaces are funky, the atmosphere is now more inviting and food is cheap and plentiful. The bedrooms are still rocking that ‘school trip’ hostel look, and I hope in time that changes, but as a hostel chain emerging from years-old bland reputation, I highly recommend giving YHA a chance. I’m certainly more curious to see how more YHA offerings are across the country now.
I use this to search for deals on local guesthouses and hotels in areas where hostels and other ultra-cheap accommodation may not be as widespread. You can also browse accommodations according to preferences such as being near main monuments and attractions, the beach or shopping districts, which I think is a nifty addition!
I have yet to actually stay with a local using Couchsurfing but it is a great all-round travel resource for meeting people in new cities, since events and meet ups are regularly listed, alongside general forums should you need any assistance. It’s worth having an account set up just for these things alone.
Working In Exchange for Free Accommodation
This site inks volunteers to organic farms and smallholdings where you can learn about ‘organic lifestyles’ in exchange for free food and accommodation. Each continent has its own dedicated WWOOF (Wiling Workers on Organic Farms) site that you need to sign up to, and lists an overview of the average minimum hours and how many opportunities are available.
Help Exchange is volunteer work in exchange for free accommodation and food on farms, backpacker hostels, lodges, horse stables and even sailing boats. It’s free to join and all you have to do is fill out few simple info boxes before searching for relevant job posts all over the world.
Finding Cheap Flights
I always go to Skyscanner as default, mainly because the comparison tool for prices and timings is easy to use, and since I’ve always found great deals through them. The iPhone app is just as handy too.
This site compares over 700 flight sites for the best deals, and I use it alongside Skyscanner to check for the best prices. It also has a great blog resource for extra inspiration.
I recently met the guy who runs this flight comparison website, which has been around for many years and was one of the first of its kind. After spending some time on the site I managed to find some similar flights deals to my other two go-to resources, with only small differences. Every bit of saving helps!
Opodo is another popular and well-established search engine for flights and is one of the multiple platforms I use to cross reference deals before making a final decision. I’ve always heard about money saving hacks for flights when booking on specific days of the week and months of the year and Opodo have now released a flight purchasing overview (alongside the quick-reference guide below which I found). It turns out booking a flight on Saturday can make you save you around 4% and that Europe is the top choice for Brits when booking cheap breaks.
Finding Cheap Rail Tickets
The great thing about GoEuro is that you can plan your trip across multiple transport platforms (flights, trains and buses) in Europe. For example, following some time in Germany, I wanted to source the quickest and cheapest way to get to Istanbul. A quick search on Go Euro told me to get a train from Dresden (where I was) to Berlin and to take a flight from Berlin to Istanbul. This handy Europe travel resource saves you a LOT of time, working out the best overall route, listing cheapest to most expensive and shortest and longest route options.
The ultimate train bible, this site has saved me on many occasions, especially in Asia, where language barriers have made finding out about train times and ticket bookings slightly difficult. The Man In Seat 61 details trains times for almost everywhere and includes ferry timings and other useful transit information.
Formally known as Rail Europe, this is an in-depth travel resource for European train travel, where you can purchase Eurail passes for popular train travel destinations including France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Switzerland or flexible Interrail ticket deals for multiple countries. The ready-made itineraries are helpful for planning inspiration.
For further tips on Europe Travel check out my Handy Tips For Travelling Through Europe By Train
I use Network Rail mainly for the timetables, since it lists all routes and timings for all the trains across the UK. I then revert to the Trainline make a booking since it clearly lists advance ticket discounts and money saved on choosing alternative times.
Round The World Trip Planning
I used STA to help with my initial travel plans before I left home two years ago. They are mainly known for securing you a great deal on Round the World flights with a set number of stops. However, they also have regular flight sales, have partnerships with tour companies, offer travel insurance and some stores now also have a travel vaccination unit. A one-stop shop travel-resource for almost everything you need.
Similar to STA, RTW Experts also offer travel planning, advice and booking services. They are a part of Flight Centre, so a widely connected resource with outlets worldwide. I book my Covermore Insurance policy through them.
* Both STA and RTW Experts have agents you can contact online. Normally, following a request, an agent will be assigned to you.
Finding Comprehensive Travel Insurance
This insurance provider is one of the best out there, but known for ultra convenience and peace of mind – you can purchase or extend your policy at any time, anywhere in the world, which means not having to return to your home country to set up a new policy should you decide to extend your travels. Get a Quote
This is my main insurance provider and the only one in the UK who agreed to renew my policy after one year while on the road – I can extend while outside of the UK for a further six months. After that however, I can’t. I find Covermore to be comprehensive on all things including personal items and electrical goods, as well as covering a huge list of adventure activities without a hideous excess charge. I book through Round the World Experts, who manages my policy extensions while on the road.
I’ve found this provider to be cost effective for long weekends and short trips only, and they normally come up as one of the top options in insurance searches.
Travel Gear / Travel Packing
I’m often asked about what I pack for long trips, my top recommendations for equipment and my favourite and trusted travel brands. Being on the road for so long has meant testing out many items to find my top picks and knowing exactly what to pack and now Round the World Experts (mentioned above) have craftily helped me to pull together my packing list in this nifty visual and interactive guide. For an extensive overview of my recommended travel gear, please head over to my Travel Shop – it lists almost every item I carry, which are all available to purchase.
Finding Pre-Paid Cash Travel Cards
I now use the Caxton FX which I’ve found is a lot easier to use, has an instant cash load function, allows you to switch currency balances easily and has an easier online user face. It remains a popular choice amongst travellers.
I first used the Travelex Globe Cash Passport prepaid cash card as the rates were once lower, loading money onto it straight from my bank account. It’s a more secure way of withdrawing money abroad and you are only charged a flat usage fee on purchases, which is much better value than traditional Credit and Debit cards.
You can read my full comparison of pre-paid cash cards here, detailing fee breakdowns, pros and cons: Choosing the Right Prepaid Cash Card For Travel
Easy to navigate and use, I use this website for all manner of quick comparisons, from the best savings accounts and credit cards to comparing the best travel insurance deals. Ideal for setting up a savings account pre-travelling and being prepared financially when you are on the roads.
Travel Tips and Inspiration
Below are some travel resources I have written, or which I recommend, to help with saving, pre-planning and independent travel:
Travel and Money
- How to Financially Plan a Round The World Trip
- Choosing the Right Prepaid Cash Card For Travel
- Australian Working Holiday – Filing Taxes and Getting Cash Back (With PinkCow)
Travel Advice & Top Tips
- How to Tell Your Parents You Are Going Travelling
- Five Excuses Not to Go Travelling & How to Overcome Them
- Five Things a Solo Female Traveller Needs To Do Before Leaving for a Round The World Trip
- Travel Insurance & Medical Conditions – A Guide
- Travel & Work: WorkAway & HelpX
- Travel Insurance & Natural Disasters – The Complete Guide
- Handy Tips For Travelling Through Europe By Train
- Tips for Solo Female Travel
Some of the travel resources listed here contain affiliate links – should you purchase anything from the particular site, it is of no extra cost to you, but will help contribute to the running costs of this site.