Trying to plan a vacation can be tough. It can feel complicated and frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here is an up-to-date list of travel resources I recommend to help you plan your dream vacation.
Please note that some posts contain links that earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Table of Contents
I believe that tours can be a great way to travel. Day tours can show you places you can’t get to on your own, and food tours can introduce you to the cuisine of the city you’re visiting. If you’re traveling solo and want to meet other travelers, or you’re new to travel and want someone else to take the reigns, a longer organized tour could be for you. And sometimes tours are a great way to experience something you couldn’t recreate on your own.
Viator – Just about any tour, transfer, or city pass you could imagine for almost any destination is listed on this site. If you’re looking for an activity, this is the place to go. They have mostly day tours, but there are lots of overnight and multi-day tours available as well. Read: Taking a Prague Craft Beer Tour with Viator and Experiencing India with Day Tours from Viator
Take Walks – One of my favorite tour companies, Take Walks offers fantastic and interesting tours of the big sights, plus some great food tours. Mostly in Europe but also a few in the USA. I took several of their tours in Italy (like this one and this one) before they expanded into other countries, and I highly recommend them.
Eating Europe – This is a wonderful food tour company in Europe with locations in several major cities. I’ve taken their tours in London, Rome, Prague, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, and they also offer tours in Paris, Strasbourg, Porto, Naples, and Florence.
Devour Food Tours – This is another great company giving food tours in Europe. They started out in Spain, so they have lots of locations there in cities including Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, and San Sebastian. But now they also have food tours in Lisbon, Rome, and Paris. I’ve taken several of their tours, and they’re also a fantastic choice for food tours and learning about the culture through eating.
Intrepid – Small group travel for all ages and all over the world. Their tours fall into 1 of 15 different themes, like food or cycling or wildlife or family. Travel with an emphasis on the local culture. Read: Northern India Tour Review and Serengeti and Zanzibar: Tanzania Safari Tour Review
G Adventures – Small group travel for all ages and all over the world. Their tours are listed with 1 of 7 specific travel styles to suit your needs. This helps you know if the tour is family friendly or suited for the roughing it type. Travel with an emphasis on sustainability. Read: Greek Islands Sailing Tour Review
Contiki – Group tours for the 18-35 age group.
Cookly: If you enjoy cooking and learning about food in other cultures, a cooking class could be a fun experience while on vacation. Check out Cookly for cooking experiences for your next trip.
Where you stay can greatly affect your vacation. Decide how important comfort is to you. Some people are willing to spend a little more for a more comfortable hotel, while others are willing to sacrifice a little comfort if it saves them money. Know what’s important to you when looking for accommodations.
TripAdvisor – This is a one stop shop for reading hotel reviews and booking hotels as well as doing lots of other research for your trip.
Booking – A simple hotel booking site with great filters and sorting options. They also have great customer service. This is the site I use most often.
AirBnB – Apartment rentals, short or long term. Click here for a credit towards your first stay! Read: How to Choose an Apartment Rental for Your Vacation
Flights and Airport Info
Searching for flights is tedious, and nearly impossible to figure out how to find the good deals. There are theories about the best day to book a flight or the best day to fly, but sometimes it just comes down to luck and trial and error.
Priority Pass airport lounges – Airport lounges can be a great place to relax and get refreshed during a layover. Many Priority Pass lounges offer shower facilities, food and more, no matter what airline you’re flying with. Get 10% off your membership for the first year by clicking the link above.
Dollar Flight Club – A flight deal alert subscription service that emails you amazing deals on flights based on the airports you’ve told them you’re interested in. Averages savings are $500+ for a roundtrip flight! The premium membership is just $40 a year and has a 7 day free trial. Read: How to Save $500+ on Your Next International Flight
Skyscanner – Searches airlines and other booking sites to help you find the cheapest flights. Flexible search options like searching an entire month or year, or search from one airport to “everywhere.” It even has low cost carriers, which aren’t found in all flight booking engines.
Airfare Watchdog – Flight booking search engine that searches through all the other major sites.
Booking Buddy – Another great flight booking search engine that searches through all the other major sites.
Seat Guru – Shows you the best and worst seats on the flight you’re booking so you know what seat to choose.
Sleeping in Airports – If you ever get stuck with an overnight layover, this is a great guide to how and where to sleep in just about any airport in the world.
Blacklane – Get a hassle-free private transfer to and from the airport in 250+ cities around the world. Depending on the length of your trip, it could be a lot cheaper than parking at the airport.
Airport Parking Reservations – Save on airport parking by booking ahead.
To and From the Airport – Information about transportation to and from the airport. The site is ugly but I usually find the info to be accurate.
Trains, Buses and More
I live in Europe (Berlin to be exact) so I travel by train quite often. They’re less stressful than flying, and they usually offer a better view out the window. Sometimes it’s cheaper to take a bus, and in some parts of Europe, there might not be good train options.
Deutsche Bahn – Even if you’re not traveling within Germany, the DB site is a great place to find schedules and figure out how long it takes to get from A to B. I usually start here even if I can’t book the ticket through DB.
Omio – Each country in Europe has its own railway website, which can make it frustrating to book trains in multiple countries. Omio is a great place to look for trains across borders, as well as bus or flight alternatives.
Seat61 – The best information on train travel and routes around the world.
Taking a cruise can be an interesting way to travel since it allows you to see several places on one trip and you don’t have to pack up and change hotels every couple of days. Some deserve more time than you’ll get on a cruise, but it could inspire you to go back on your next trip. And some places, like the polar or Nordic regions, are incredible to experience on a cruise.
Cruise Direct – Great site for finding cruises. Everything from traditional ocean cruises to river cruises, with last minute deals. Read: Italy, Greece and Montenegro Cruise Review and European River Cruise Tour Review
Vacations To Go – Flexible search options for finding cruises, including a 90 day ticker for finding discounts on cruises departing within 90 days.
Luggage we recommend
Here’s a look at luggage we own (and yes, we have a lot of backpacks!) that we recommend for traveling.
Tortuga Setout backpack: Tortuga makes solid backpacks, and this one was designed specifically for the female frame. It has a great laptop compartment, plus lots of other handy pockets. It’s also comfortable to wear and carry while looking more sleek and subtle than a typical backpacking bag. Read: Backpack Review: Tortuga 35L Setout Women’s Backpack
Arcido Akra 35L backpack: This is a more professional looking backpack for those of you who still want to use a backpack but don’t want to look like a backpacker. Read: Arcido Backpack Review: Akra 35L Backpack
Arcido Vaga 20L backpack: We’ve also tested one of Arcido’s daypacks, and we really like this one. It holds plenty of stuff you’d want to take with you on a day trip. Read: Arcido Backpack Review: Vaga 20L Backpack
Osprey Momentum 22L daypack – This is my husband Andy’s daypack. He loves it because it has a separate laptop pocket, which makes it easy to take his laptop out when necessary. It also has a rain cover, which is super important when the laptop is in there. Osprey makes great bags, so it was an easy decision when he needed a new daypack.
Osprey Escapist 25L daypack – Andy likes his daypack so much that when I needed to replace my old daypack, I knew I wanted to get an Osprey. I didn’t want a laptop sleeve like his, but I still wanted a rain cover, plus this one has plenty of pockets, which I love. I’ve taken it on several trips and so far, I think it’s a great bag.
REI stuff bag – This makes a great daypack because it folds up into itself, so it takes up almost no room in our luggage. I’ll pack it in my backpack so I have something to use for day trips but I don’t want an extra bag to lug around with me all the time. Read: What to Pack for a Day Trip
What’s in my bag?
Here are a few items I almost always travel with. Read: What to Pack for a Trip: Travel Packing Checklist for Carry-On Only
Canon DSLR – I have two cameras, so it depends on the trip. I have more control with the DSLR and I like that it has a view finder (as opposed to looking at the screen on the back), but it takes up a lot of space and can get heavy.
Sony Cybershot point and shoot – On trips when I decide the DSLR is too heavy, I’ll leave it at home and bring my Sony point and shoot. It has a great 30x optical zoom and settings for different situations, but on bright, sunny days, I get annoyed at not having a view finder. So I constantly go back and forth between which camera I prefer.
Kindle – I read a lot when I travel, especially if there are long flights involved. Having a Kindle means traveling with an entire library of books but without the heavy load. Check out some of my favorite travel books here.
Solid shampoo and solid conditioner: I am a total solids convert. I’ve tested several different brands of solid shampoo and conditioner, and I love these particular ones from Ethique so much that I now use them all the time, even when I’m at home. They really help reduce the liquids I have to pack, and they make my hair feel so nice! I’ve linked the ones for oily hair, but make sure you look for the one that fits your hair type. Read: Non-Liquid Options for Carry-On Travel
Solid sunscreen and solid bug repellent – Since I always travel carry-on only, I love finding ways to reduce the liquids I have to pack. These work just as well as their liquid counterparts. Read: How to Pack Light With Liquids
Solid perfume – Ladies, you like to smell pretty, right? Well, instead of sacrificing your perfume because it doesn’t fit in your liquids bag, try solid perfume sticks. They’re small, won’t leak in your bag, and I think they smell great. I always travel with at least one.
Jeans and a sweatshirt – No matter the trip, I find there’s always a situation where I want to wear jeans. And even in warm destinations, transportation seems to be blasting with cold air conditioning, so a sweatshirt or light jacket helps. Read: What to Pack For Trip: Travel Packing Checklist for Carry-On Only
Sarong – Sarongs are great to use instead of a beach towel or a cover-up or a light blanket because they’re thin and pack up small. In a pinch, you can even ball it up to use as a pillow.
Exofficio underwear – I always pack one or two pairs of Exofficio quick-dry underwear in case I need to wash a pair in the sink. I don’t wash clothes in the sink often, but it works in a pinch, and it’s better to have something that dries quickly. Plus they’re comfortable. Check them out on Amazon. Read: Clothing Packing Tips for Carry-On Only
Trail Wallet – Travel Budget & Expense Tracker app – OK so this isn’t a physical item in my bag, but it’s on my iPhone, and I use it all the time to track our expenses. I really love how helpful it is, and I even use it to track my spending at home. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for an easy way to track your travel expenses. Read: How to Make a Travel Budget
More helpful info
- Best time to visit anywhere – Does what it says. This awesome map will show you the best times to visit anywhere in the world based on parameters you put in for average, high, and low temperatures.
- Her Packing List – Product reviews, packing tips and more, aimed at females
- Hillman Wonders – Top 1000 places to see and lots of information
- Lonely Planet – Great destination information including history, attractions, when to go, and more
- Lonely Planet’s Thorntree Forum for travelers to ask and answer questions
- Holiday Weather – Find out the average weather conditions around the world for different times of year