My Top 5 Travel Planning Tools
After planning a month-long trip through 9 cities in Europe two years ago, followed by a 5-country trip last summer, I’ve learned a thing or two about researching travel options with short notice! Naively, I never would have imagined how many road blocks I would encounter when planning the trip, but all-in-all I think everything ran pretty smoothly. Here are the most invaluable websites I used to plan from start to finish:
google.com/flights — This is probably my favorite website of all time! I literally browse it when I have nothing better to do because it’s so fascinating. Basically, Google created a search engine for flights that allows you to see how much it would cost to get to anywhere in the world. It’s extremely customizable so you can set the duration of a trip (for example, less than 15 hours total), exclude any airlines you don’t want to fly on, or keep the price below a certain cost. You can easily adjust your dates, and even select a general region like “South America” to see multiple options for the area! It’s the perfect tool for travelers with flexible schedules or anyone who wants to compare trips on multiple airlines.
rome2rio.com — There are so many low-cost ways of traveling through Europe, that it can be a pain to search for so many different options. Rome2Rio is a tool that allows you to input your starting point and your destination, so it can research the best ways of traveling between the two places! They search airfares, trains, buses and most recently: car pooling! Yup, you could pay someone a reasonable fee to bring you with them to your destination! The only thing I would be mindful of is the low-cost airfares within Europe, as the ticket price is posted, but not the charges you may incur for checking baggage – which can be quite hefty!
trainline.eu — I can’t even begin to describe how much of a lifesaver Trainline (formerly Captain Train) was to me while planning my Europe trip last year. I was trying to book tickets directly from the French railroad SNCF’s website, but the site refused to accept my card no matter how many times I tried! I even tried with Paypal but they would not let me proceed. I later learned this was due to the high amount of fraudulently purchased train tickets. I had already learned last June to never purchase from raileurope.com as they jack up the prices, so I thought I was ahead of the game when purchasing through SNCF. Well, after my failed charges and days of research later, I finally came across Trainline, a French start-up that allows Americans (and anyone!) to purchase train tickets at the same low prices offered by the national railroad companies like SNCF, Trenitalia, and Deutsche Bahn. They also have a handy mobile app for keeping your tickets organized and scannable aboard the train!
Like A Local
likealocalguide.com — I stumbled upon this site by chance, and as the title suggests, it allows you to find places to go in a city as recommended by locals! I’m so glad I checked it out because it helped me discover at least three restaurants and cafés to visit in Munich, including an amazing traditional German café that became one of my favorite stops! The places chosen are generally some local favorites, but keep in mind they are user-generated so you’re going to get a wide range of interests. I personally love eating good traditional cuisine when I visit a new city, so Like a Local was certainly helpful in finding those places!
On the Grid
onthegrid.city — On the Grid is a site I came across very recently. It was created by a New York-based designers, and purports to recommend the best spots for a creative-minded traveler to visit, based on recommendations from local creatives. The New York City guide goes pretty in-depth by exploring the outer boroughs, and even including a dedicated guide for specific, less-traveled neighborhoods within Manhattan!
It’s safe to say I equally relied on sites like Airbnb, Condé Nast Traveler and TripAdvisor, but since those are pretty commonly known, I decided to leave them off the main list. The trip certainly couldn’t have been possible without them, though!