"How'd you plan a trip like this?"It's one of the most common questions we receive (this and how we paid for it - a post on that coming soon!) So I thought I'd take some time to tell you about our planning resources.
You've probably noticed a trend, by now, that Jake and I spent a lot of time working. Sometimes we take full days to do nothing but edit photos, write the blog, and research. While writing each travel journal and going through thousands of pictures to create albums do take a lot of time, it's the research that really takes consistent dedication, and requires good wifi. We keep asking ourselves how in the heck people did trips like this before the internet - we wouldn't survive without it!
Many of you have asked about the resources we use to get the information we need to do the trip, so I've made a list for you here. Hopefully you find them as helpful as we do!
Activities, Food, General Planning:
- Extra Pack of Peanuts Travel Podcast - the hosts, Travis and Heather Sherry, want to help people "travel more while spending less". We love listening to their suggestions, stories, lessons learned, and top 10 lists! They inspire much of what we do and how we do it.
- BootsnAll - A website with tons of blog posts about how to even start planning an extended trip. They have a 30 day planning guide that helps get you organized and out the door by breaking up each piece to consider (flights, travel insurance, immunizations, telling friends and family you're leaving), and provides useful info and resources to help you check them all off. It's like a wedding checklist, but for travel! They also have their own flight planner, Indie.com, to help you sort of flights and learn about potential costs.
- PriceOfTravel - This website has helped us form the backbone of our budget, which Jake will get into soon. Using the Backpacker Index, we have a good idea of how much we can expect to pay in each country.
- Wikitravel - Each destination I've looked up on Wikitravel has super helpful lists of what to do, how to get in, transportation, what to eat, etc. We use this site in several ways, which you'll notice below.
- Lonely Planet (books or web) - The Lonely Planet guidebooks are in the packs of just about every backpacker out there, and in the hands of basically every tourist we've seen in Southeast Asia. The books are far more user friendly and helpful than the website, but they are also bulky and take up a lot of space. I like them because they have maps, common phrases in that language, sites and restaurants for all kinds of budgets, how to not piss off the locals, and more.
- Buzzfeed - who doesn't love a good Buzzfeed list of "The Best Places in the World" or "Places to see in your Twenties" or any other silly, gimicky thing they've put together? The pictures are pretty and sometimes inspire me to look into a place we hadn't thought of before.
- 101 Places to See Before You Die - A great book detailing exactly what it says. My brother and sister-in-law got us this book for Christmas and we used it for a lot of our preliminary research! Maybe we'll be able to work through the whole book someday!
- TravelFish - A website devoted to activities, sightseeing, eating, sleeping, and getting around Southeast Asia. If you're heading there, I recommend checking out the plethora of information on this site!
- TripAdvisor- This site has come in handy pretty much everywhere! People love to leave reviews on major tourist attractions, places to stay, and restaurants, and most of the reviews can be trusted (I say most because in Vietnam we've noticed some fishy business happening - lots and lots of Vietnamese residents flood the reviews of a place and enhance the score, when the foreign reviews are mediocre or just plain bad. Just something to keep in mind.)
- Skyscanner.net- A flight matrix website that shows you all of the flights and prices available in a month from point to point. It's like Kayak, but better. Our favorite for low cost carriers in particular. For example, I could tell ITA Matrix that I want to go from Dublin to France, anywhere in France, and it will tell me what is available. Your results are limited by a country or city that you enter.
- ITA Matrix (and Google flights) - ITA Matrix in particular is a very powerful tool for many flights out there. It is best for finding what options you have to fly somewhere on a wide range of flights, especially complicated itinerary with multiple stops. This does not have many low cost carriers listed though. This is different than Skyscanner in that it does not limit your results to one place. For example, I could search for flights from anywhere in South America to anywhere in the US. It has several more advanced features than Skyscanner, including looking into stopovers and open jaws.
- Rome2Rio.com - A fantastic site that helps you figure out the best way to get from point A to point B. You put in your two points, and it will look up flights, trains, taxis, buses, and boats that could get you there, and give you a pretty good estimated cost. This was also crucial in our budget planning because we knew what to expect in terms of transportation cost.
- Random Travel Blogs we find on Google - a lot of our research is a simple Google search for things like.
Where to stay:
- Airbnb - Throughout Europe, we primarily stayed in Airbnb apartments and LOVED it. I would recommend this over hotels because it's cheaper, you can often negotiate the price, and we could use the kitchen in most places allowing is to save money by cooking some meals and also eat something that tasted familiar. Check out my post on our AirBnb tips here.
- Wikitravel- One of the most useful bits of information on Wikitravel is the description of the different neighborhoods of a city. With places as big as Rome, Paris, and Tokyo, how do we know what part of the city to stay in? Wikitravel usually has great paragraphs that describe each neighborhood along with a map of how they're all laid out.
- Google images - Yup, once I've looked up the neighborhood I'm thinking of renting an apartment or booking a guest house in, I look it up in images.
- Agoda -This is a hotel website like booking.com, and is used extensively throughout Asia. The reviews and rating system has been very good, and I like the search functionality (by price, by star rating, by neighborhood, by average review score, etc). Tip - don't book anything with a review score lower than a 7/10 - there's a huge difference between 6.7 and 7.3.
- Hostelworld - This site is like an aggregator like Hotels.com or Agoda.com, but for hostels around the world. The reviews are not as trustworthy, so I recommend always looking up the hostel on Trip Advisor, too.
- Booking - Just like Agoda, it's a hotels aggregator that has great prices.
Activities: All of the following have detailed lists and reviews of the most popular things to do in an area. I usually consult all of them for each city we go to.
How to be polite: We certainly don't want to offend anyone when we travel to their country, and always look up common phrases in the language we need, how to eat certain things, and the tipping culture before we get there with these three sites.
What to pack: Oh packing. This gave me anxiety in the months leading up to our departure date. I googled the heck out it all, but ended up using these three sites the most. And, there are more articles regarding packing on these sites as well, those linked below were the most helpful for me.