Travel Tips and Resources

Everyone always asks me what my secret is for finding great airfare, hotel prices, or simply being able to afford all of the amazing trips I’ve taken – not to mention how I know where I want to go. In response, I’ve compiled the below list of resources and tips that I use on a regular basis (you can also skip all the blather and go straight to the list of links at the bottom of the page). This by no means is supposed to be some authoritative list, it’s just the resources I’ve used in the past. In fact, if anyone has any other thoughts or suggestions feel free to leave a comment below. If you’re looking for destination specific suggestions on things to do, check out my destination guides.

Doing Your Research

Fist things first, you gotta know where you going before you can actually book anything. Everyone comes up with travel ideas using different resources: Friends and family, past travel experiences, some movie or TV show you watched (anyone else wander around New York City trying to find the diner from Seinfeld? No?). However you did it, you’ve got your basic destination in mind. Now it’s time to research where to stay, what to do, where to eat, and everything else that goes into making a trip, well…, a trip. So, where do you go for this research? Besides consulting friends and family, I look through travel guides (Lonely Planet, Eyewitness Travel Guides, and Let’s Go are my favorites), visit wikis (think Wikipedia and Wikitravel), and conduct good old Google searches to see what you find.

One word of caution: Every source you use is geared towards a different audience (I lean toward the backpacker and solo audiences). So if you know Aunt May likes the finer things in life while you’re saving every last penny to even take this trip, you may want to take her advice with a grain of salt.

Booking the Essentials: Flights, Hotels, and Rental Cars

Okay, now you’ve got everything planned and it’s time to book everything. How the hell do you do this without spending every waking moment on the internet or spending a fortune to go through a travel agent? Aggregator sites (my favorite is Kayak.com). These sites span the web and aggregate all the possible search results from as many different websites as they are allowed to use. In the US this normally means you can compare prices and availability for everyone except Southwest Airlines. So, you can see how much a flight will cost if you go directly to Delta or to Expedia or some other third party site. And, the same goes for hotels and rental cars. All you need to do is go to one site to book all the basic essentials. Welcome to the age of the internet, my friends.

Of course, if you go to your aggregator site and notice everything is priced out of your range you can always check out Hotwire.com, Priceline, or any other number of auction and blind purchase sites – they don’t reveal where you’re staying until after you pay, but you can save 25% – 50%.

If you don’t want to stay in hotel, you can check out vrbo.com or airbnb.com to rent condos and vacation homes directly from the owner. Another option for the budget conscience are hostels. I know everyone thinks hostels are only for hippies or college students, but they really are a great place to stay if you can get past sharing your living accommodations with complete strangers (trust me, never book a private room at a hostel unless you’re traveling with others). There’s always a kitchen if you want to cook a meal or two (read: save money on high priced restaurants), and there’s plenty of opportunities to meet new people and maybe find a new travel buddy. If you’re interested, hostels.com and hostelworld.com are two great resources to start.

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