Whenever you are planning a trip, there are many travel resources that prove essential in the research and booking process.
While there are endless websites you can browse for information and a vast amount of booking engines you can turn to whether you need to reserve your flights, accommodation, guided tours, car rental, transfers and even travel insurance, some are certainly more reliable than others. As an expert traveler and a savvy planner, I thought I’d select the most reliable travel resources sites and engines that you can count on when planning your trips.
The Best Travel Resources
For general information
When it comes to getting the most reliable and fact-based information for an upcoming trip or on a specific destination, the best thing to do is to check out government websites first. Usually, your own country’s official website will have official guidance on travel to most if not all countries.
This will include travel warnings against the country as a whole or specific areas within the country – though read whatever information with a pinch of salt as some governments tend to be overly alarmists. Government pages will also let you know about any issues to do with weather warnings, advice for LGBTQ travelers, and things like scams and general safety, for example.
Government websites will inform you know any precautions to do with health and what vaccinations you may need. These sites will usually be updated with the most recent travel advice, so you can expect them to be relevant – they are one of the most essential travel resources!
There’s also going to be a wealth of information on destinations on sites run by travel guides (more on that later). Wikipedia in general will have a lot of information to do with culture, history and politics of a country, and specific destinations, while Wikitravel is a good resource for travel-focused information such as getting around, where to eat and places to stay in any given place.
There are also some fantastic travel blogs out there – mine being one of them obviously! Many of these blogs have spent years and years putting together comprehensive guides on how to get around various countries. One example, specific to trains, is The Man In Seat 61, which is a must for anyone who likes train travel in Europe and far-flung destinations.
For flights and ferries
Working out how to get the best flights can be difficult, whether you’re looking for the quickest or cheapest way to get somewhere.
The best comparison site out there in terms of flights has got to be Skyscanner. Originally set up due to the founder’s frustration over trying to find cheap flights to ski resorts, it has quickly become super popular: over 100 million people a month use it.
Is there any particular trick to find cheaper flights? First things first, it’s best to be flexible – and shop around. If you are flexible with your travel dates and even your destinations, you can find some incredible deals on Skyscanner
You can set up alerts to track prices on Skyscanner and Google Flights, which is another good resource. Scott’s Cheap Flights is another good one: you sign up to a mailing list and get sent various deals on low-cost international flights. I also like Fly4Free – they have a newsletter and a Facebook page which is regularly updated with incredible deals to and from many cities in the world, and even error fares.
If you are traveling around Europe and want to catch a ferry, Direct Ferries is a great option as it will give you all the best deals based on your needs, and information on schedules and routes.
Another good travel website is OMIO. It’s not just good for flights either.
For ground transportation
OMIO is perfect for trains and buses (and also ferries). This site offers up a way to not just purchase tickets, and see the best deals, but also see timetables for various options around the world. They can connect you with big destinations and smaller towns in between, all on one site.
Otherwise, the best thing to do is to deal with local train and transport companies directly. These are great resources not just for booking tickets, but also for purchasing travel passes. Other resources for Europe-specific travel include Interrail and Flixbus. In Italy, Trenitalia is the best site to purchase train tickets. Elsewhere, such as the US, there’s Greyhound and in India you can use Indian Railway.
Also, Google Maps can be indispensable when trying to work out public transport connections abroad. Many people seem to ignore this, but it’s very easy! Just select your starting point and your final destination. Right above the lines where you input them, you will find several icons that point out to the overall time you need to travel – by car, public transport, bike and on foot. If you click on the train icon, which is the one for public transport, you will see all the most relevant connections.
Similarly, offline maps apps such as Maps.me will also help you get from A to B in a new destination – especially good if you haven’t got an internet connection, of course.
Obviously, you can’t book tickets through Google Maps or Maps.me, but both can help to guide you through the world of travel abroad.
One of the most difficult things to work out sometimes is how to get from a transit hub – a large railway station, bus terminal or airport – to your hotel or other destination. You can’t always wing it and rely on taxis or tuk-tuks as soon as you arrive.
There are ways to actually book things like airport transfers in advance. For example, Welcome Pickups is a company that allows you to book private airport transfers in various destinations around the world. This means you’ll have a driver ready and waiting for you when you arrive. You can also book sightseeing tours and rides around cities with Welcome Pickups, too.
There’s also Bookaway. Set up by travelers to help other travelers get around a whole string of destinations, this allows for shared transfers between popular towns, cities and other attractions. It works great in Asia!
For car rental
If you want to find out just how cheap your rental car could be, the best thing to do would be to head to a good comparison site. In terms of car hire, Discover Cars is arguably one of the most reliable travel resources.
Founded in Latvia in 2013, the car rental comparison website helps you to compare various deals on car hire in more than 140 countries worldwide. The site trawls various car rental companies so you don’t have to search each and every one of them, allowing you to save time (and potentially money) in booking your own set of wheels to travel independently.
For travel insurance
Travel insurance is a really important thing to consider when traveling abroad. It may not be the first thing you think of, but it’s still a necessity for those just-in-case sorts of situations. My personal favorites in terms of travel insurance is Heymondo. This site offers good value for money, and it’s pretty flexible, too.
The main things you need to know are that they cover travelers from any country in the world; they include Covid-19 coverage (allowing you to extend stays); and they include trip cancellation in their plans. Heymondo plans can cover long, short-term and annual multi-trip travel.
There’s also the pretty cool Heymondo assistance app, as well as free 24-hour medical chat, free emergency assistance calls and super easy claims management. In a nutshell, this is travel insurance for the modern age.
It’s definitely not always easy getting a visa, let alone figuring out how to get one for certain countries in the first place. It can all be a bit of a headache, with a lot of hoop-jumping to do for some places in the world.
To help you figure it all out, and to do the hard work for you in some cases, iVisa is the place to go. This is arguably the most reliable visa service for a variety of different countries.
Basically, iVisa aims to simplify travel by offering all the information you need to secure a visa for all countries in the world, with a focus on speed and simplicity. It’s so much simpler than dealing with governmental organizations!
Everyone always wants deals on accommodation. And let’s face it: this is one of the biggest things you’ll need to budget for on any trip. No matter if you want to kick back in a cool boutique hotel, or stay in a social, affordable hostel, chances are you’ll still want to pay the best price per night possible.
One of the most well known and easiest to use accommodation booking websites is Booking.com. It’s one of the most famous and reliable travel resources. You’ll find most hotels and other accommodation options on this site; you can filter your options easily; read a ton of reviews; and they also have free cancellations. Booking.com also has a loyalty scheme where you can get “Genius” deals and secret offers for your eyes only.
VRBO, Airbnb and Plum Guide all offer a similar service, but perhaps more for long stays and usually for vacation rentals, apartments and cottages. The good thing about these sites is that you can find some truly unique (and sometimes super low cost, but also super luxury) accommodation – especially in places that may not even have that many hotels.
The map feature on Airbnb in particular is great, allowing you to really pinpoint where you’d like to find a place to stay in any given destination. I also love the fact that Plum Guide gives you a full description and plan of the place you want to rent – so you can have a proper picture of the setting.
For guided tours and tickets
When it comes to booking experiences, guided tours and tickets for top attractions, there is a surprisingly large choice of great websites to use. For me, one of the best travel resources around is GetYourGuide, which connects travelers with local guides who offer tours and experiences in specific destinations. Travelers can read reviews from previous happy (or unhappy!) customers, which is always handy, and they can count on a very flexible cancellation policy.
You can read my GetYourGuide review here.
Viator is another very popular one, and the largest marketplace when it comes to tickets for tours, booking activities and attractions. It’s actually owned by TripAdvisor, and also comes with a whole lot of trusted reviews so you can make an informed choice.
There’s also Tiqets. Based in Amsterdam, this is an online booking platform that allows you to find the best prices for museums and attractions around the world. Another option is Take Walks, which is a more personalized site that offers tours from local guides across 13 cities in the world, but it all began with just Rome.
For group tours
For solo travelers, simply getting out there on a trip, and planning the whole thing, can be the hard part. Luckily there’s G Adventures. This site offers organized tours to 71 different countries, helping to group together like-minded travelers. No matter what your travel style, they will have multi-day tours to suit you.
When it comes to travel guides, Lonely Planet is world-renowned and one of the most reliable travel resources out there. It’s been well loved by independent travelers since it all began back in 1973. These travel guides are always super helpful, giving you basic information, handy hints on where to stay, what to do, what to eat, and how to get from place to place.
The history and culture sections of Lonely Planet guides also help to give you a well-rounded look at any given country in the world. And you don’t have to have the physical book: their website has a whole host of information to help you plan your next trip.
There are also DK Eyewitness guides, which are pretty in-depth and offer expert advice alongside plenty of photography. I have worked with them on their latest Sardinia guide and can assure you they are extremely thorough and accurate!
For more of a wordy travel guide, there’s also the Bradt books, which are particularly good for hiking, and for those who want to do less tourist-oriented experiences and get off the beaten track. Rough Guides is also worth a mention. These British travel guides have a whole host of advice on trips and itineraries, and are particularly good for independent-minded travelers.
There’s a long list of great brands out there for all your travel gear needs – it all depends on the sorts of activities you’ll be getting up to. For example, when it comes to backpacking rucksacks and bags, Osprey often has the market sewn up with its comfortable range of backpacker-friendly luggage.
Kuhl is another great brand for traveling, offering up high quality, high performance clothing that’s great for in-transit travel and hiking alike. This is the kind of brand you can buy a shirt or pair of trousers from that you’ll still be using years later.
For a good, all-round selection of clothing and gear, REI is a pretty good brand. Standing for Recreation Equipment Incorporated, this is mainly for outdoors and hiking gear, but you can buy all sorts of stuff here: gear for camping, cycling, hiking, and all manner of traveling equipment (including backpacks).
Patagonia is also a much-loved and trusted brand. They’ve kind of entered a league of their own nowadays, and are something of a designer brand when it comes to outdoor gear – but it’s still much loved by outdoors enthusiasts (as much as fashionistas).
Money can always be a bit of a difficulty. Having access to your money and paying over the odds for currency conversion when abroad can be tricky to navigate. Personally I use N26. With this Germany-based mobile bank, I can withdraw money and pay for items anywhere in the world without incurring any fees whatsoever, which is really great.
There’s also the British company Revolut, which offers banking services with fee-free currency exchange; specifically you can withdraw from ATMs in 120 different currencies.
Another really popular banking app is Monzo. This UK-based bank has a lot of nice details, but the main thing you need to know is that there are no fees involved anywhere in the world.
For transferring money between different currencies, and to pretty much open a bank account in any currency, Wise (formerly TransferWise) is a well-trusted service. You pay a low-cost transfer fee, rather than a percentage of the money, making it great if you need to transfer a large amount of money for accommodation.
The currency exchange Wise uses is based on standard rates, meaning you won’t be charged extortionately (like many banks do).
What other useful travel resources do you know?