As I have traveled more and more I have started to become my friends go-to travel agent, and then my friends, friends travel agent, and their friends travel agent, and before I know it I’m handing out travel, planning, and booking advice to people I don’t even know! As it seems to be such a popular question in my life as of late, I have decided it’s time to write about it and provide an available resource for people. Finding affordable travel is not hard, and I can guarantee you there a many more websites, books, blogs, instagrams, apps, and resources available to find travel tips than what I am sharing or are even aware of, but I thought I’d just give some tips on my most commonly used planning strategies.
Skyscanner has quickly become my #1 place to look for flights. I used to use Kayak, and while I still like it, I will say that Skyscanner is a lot more flexible which is great if you are like me and don’t necessarily know when you want to go somewhere or even where you want to go yet, but you know you just need to get out and go. With Skyscanner you can choose a departure airport, with no destination, and no date, and it will bring you to a list categorized from the lowest fares to the most expensive fares listed by country. From there you can select a country and it will show you a list of places and prices. I actually chose the destination for the next trip I am taking by doing this. I picked a country from the first few in what seemed like an achievable price range, did some research, and I discovered a not so popular destination that I became obsessed with and am now looking at the backpacking adventure of my dreams.
2. Hostelworld.com and Hostels.com
I never in my life would have imagined that there are websites to book hostel reservations anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse or the tap of a smartphone screen, but it’s 2015 and I should’ve known better. You can do virtually everything online nowadays, including making a reservation at a hostel in the middle of nowhere, accessible by cloud forest hike only. Seriously, I did it last week. To be totally honest though, you can also use google, but it is most likely just going to take you to one of these sites. (Tip: Always research your destination thoroughly before doing this or you may miss out on some amazing places that can only be booked via e-mail and therefore can not be found on one of those two sites. Same concept applies, you can do anything online these days.)
Yes, that’s right, Instagram. Instagram has become so much more for me than just a place for me to make my life look way cooler than it actually is (you know you do it too, don't lie). It has become an incredible and valuable resource for me to research my destinations and get up to date insight on where I am going. I find myself regularly searching a hashtag with my destination or the name of my hostel, and it lists everything in order of either top post or most recent post, so I can go ahead and comment on someone’s picture from two days ago and say, “Hey, I’m going to be visiting here soon, how did you get here from the airport?” or ask them about their personal experience, or any advice they wished they had prior to getting there, you can literally ask people all over the world anything you want to to know, what a concept, right? Now, they may not always respond, but I have found that 8 out of 10 times they will respond and be more than willing to share some travel tips with you. I have even gained a couple new friends from doing this who I still talk to on a regular basis. Instagram has become a community of people wanting to share insight and experiences, it’s not all duck faces and lattes anymore.
Blogs, blogs, blogs, I love blogs. They are awesome, and they are fun, and they are where the majority of my free time goes lately. Blogs are cool because you can find people who already did what you doing (similar to the whole instagram thing) but you can find entire guides on what to pack, where to go, where is worth your money, and where is not. It’s not a sponsored advertisement (and if it is a sponsored post they usually let you know) and it is more often than not genuine advice. I like to google search my destination + “travel blog” and see what I get! Believe it or not (*sarcasm*), bloggers actually want you to read their content, and if they haven’t answered questions you have within the post, you can comment the blog or send the writer and e-mail and chances are they will reply and answer your question. We like people to engage with us, let us know that you read what we had to say, ask us anything you want, we want you to keep coming back so we will give you all the answers we can! (Tip: Sign up for Blogovin' and feed your blog addiction! It aggregates all your favorite blogs in one place so you can see them in a timeline type view and never have to search for them again! Also, you can search new topics through the Bloglovin' database when you need something!)
I’m not going to lie, I haven’t read guide book after guide book, but I did go out and buy Lonely Planet’s “Central America on a Shoestring” when I made the decision for my next trip, and I didn’t read it cover to cover, but I did skim my countries chapters and read on where I am going in those countries, and have gotten a lot of valuable information from that book. If you’ve never looked at their books one of the things I like about it is that they give you a realistic idea about what your daily budget can be, they list the budget friendly places to stay and go as well as the more expensive places and give useful recommendations. Also, they give you good advice on how to get to where you’re going and if you’ll need a taxi or bus or anything.
All of these tips are very basic, and if you’re familiar with long term traveling, budget traveling, any kind of traveling I’m sure you have heard about these things. That being said, I didn’t think of any of this until different points of this year, and had I looked into it earlier I could have saved some time and money, and probably had a few cool experiences I missed. So, if I can help you expedite the process in anyway I am glad I could help, that’s the goal here! What are some things you use when planning your next adventure?