5 Resources I Use When Planning a Trip

For me, planning a trip can be as exciting as the trip itself. I’m a naturally curious person, so I love the research aspect that goes into traveling, learning and looking at different destinations to get a really firm understanding of where I’ll be spending my time.

While travel agents can help plan, if you’re like me, you’ll be fine undertaking the task alone. But it’s still important to know what resources you should be taking advantage of when booking a trip.

1. Google Maps

Yes, this first resource is simple and seems obvious, but Google Maps is truly an incredible thing that I think we underrate as an exploration tool.

Don’t know what part of the world you want to go to next? Head to Google Maps and just move the mouse around and explore.

Don’t know where to start and finish? Use Google Maps to map out your trip location-by-location.

Want to take a day trip from your home base? Use it to scavenge for nearby and worthwhile state/national parks or towns (and click on them to read reviews).

I recently read about a group of friends who take an annual summer kayaking trip to untouched parts of Northern Saskatchewan, planning their route strictly on Google Maps because there isn’t enough written information online about most of the remote rivers and creeks.

2. Hopper

Every company claims to be the “best” way to book, but I think Hopper takes the cake when it comes to booking travel.

They always have deals for certain destinations you can take advantage of if you’re a true wanderlust – for example you can currently save $100 on flights and 20% on hotels in The Cayman Islands, which are both actually really good deals.

I booked my flight tickets to and from Colombia exclusively through Hopper

But even if you already have your destination in mind, Hopper is still beneficial. You can price freeze, guaranteeing you won’t spend more than a fixed price while allowing the option for a cheaper price if flight costs eventually go down.

Its interactive calendar is also easy to follow, with green dates showing what days are the cheapest to book, yellow dates as average prices, with red dates showing the more expensive days. The more you book through Hopper, the more rewards you’ll earn back into your account, whether it be “Carrot Cash” (money) or other travel vouchers.

Hopper saved me last year when planning a trip last minute. I was scheduled to go on a 10-day trip to Ecuador in June, but nationwide riots made roads impassable that month, so I had to re-book to a new destination week-of.

Unfortunately, as we all know, last-minute international flights are not cheap, but Hopper had an ongoing deal for flights to Cali, Colombia, so I audibled the trip to Ecuador’s northern neighbor. It ended up being the trip of a lifetime.

Sometimes I’ll start planning a trip – with no destination in mind – by exploring locations on Hopper and seeing where I can fly for cheap.

3. AirBnB or HostelWorld

These are my two favorite apps/websites for researching and booking Air BnBs and hostels, depending on what you’re looking for.

Things to remember when booking Air BnB or HostelWorld:

  • Target places with 4.5 stars or better (Air BnB) or 8.0 stars or better (HostelWorld)
  • Read reviews on the owner/operator (Air BnB)
  • Research the neighborhood it’s in (Both)
  • Help others by leaving reviews once you leave! (Both)
The view from an AirBnB in Chinchina, Colombia

If you’re an experienced budget traveler, you’re probably already familiar with HostelWorld. But I encourage everyone to give hostels a chance. If the lack of privacy intimidates you, there are still numerous hostels that offer private rooms, and these rooms are usually far less expensive than a nice hotel room.

For example, I’ve stayed at The Freehand Chicago several times for New Year’s Eve. While most decent hotels in downtown Chicago have astronomical prices around this time – think upwards of $700+/night for a room – The Freehand (a hotel/hostel mix) has private room rates around $100/night (which, for New Year’s Eve in Chicago is very good), with everything you need – plus a fantastic speakeasy lounge in the bottom floor.

4. TripAdvisor

There’s no site I trust more than TripAdvisor when it comes to reviews. Why? For me, TripAdvisor is most trustworthy because most people leaving reviews are visiting, not locals, and therefore unbiased. Traditionally, TripAdvisor is most often utilized for “things to do,” such as museums, tours, etc., while Yelp is more trusted for restaurant reviews. But I also prefer to scavenge for places to eat and drink on TripAdvisor rather than Yelp.

As mentioned, Google is a good place to scour for restaurants and bars as well but be wary that Google Reviews can be prone to family and friends of business owners leaving biased reviews, particularly for smaller businesses or restaurants.

A Monkey reaches for a peanut on a Pour I booked through TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is a great place to find and compare tour operators for various activities, just make sure you’re reading the particular tour or operator’s reviews and the company you choose has a working website and phone number. Recently, I went on a very well-organized Panama Canal boat tour + monkey experience while in Panama for a good price through TripAdvisor.

5. Wikipedia

Wikipedia wasn’t considered a credible source by teachers in school, but I believe otherwise. Wikipedia is such a rabbit hole of information you can really become a subject expert on anything, or anywhere – for free – and in less than 10 or 15 minutes (and who would actually dedicate their time writing fake facts on a Wiki page anyway?).

Before planning a trip, I’ll naturally find my way to Wikipedia to learn about where I’m going. It makes the experience more rewarding, and ultimately helps fill out my itinerary.

There’s not much more to say about Wikipedia. It’s just an amazing source of information.

2 thoughts on “5 Resources I Use When Planning a Trip

Leave a Reply