I hit a bunch of new countries this year: Cambodia and Malaysia at the beginning of the year and then also Oman, Morocco, Cyprus, Malta, and Indonesia as smaller trips throughout the year. That’s seven new countries for me, bringing my grand total of countries visited to 57. I’ve set this goal for myself to hit 100 countries by 50 so I still have a lot of work to do, but the Internet makes that easier now doesn’t it? As I planned my travels, there were some sites I kept coming back to over and over again to help me book tours, give me peace of mind, and track information. Here are some of my faves.
Urban Adventures: Before I go anywhere these days, I check Urban Adventures for tours. I find the quality to be pretty consistent and the types of tours they offer always tend to be exactly what I’m in the market for. Lots of creative food tours, in particular. My food tour in Cambodia was a definite highlight. Every time you go on an Urban Adventures tour, you get a discount off your next tour — which I *always* forget to apply. Don’t be like me. Claim your discount.
City Discovery: I’ve also become a little obsessed with City Discovery. They have a lot of great food tours and city tours all over the world. There are more than 8,000 sightseeing tours in 700+ destinations and airport transfers in 700+ airports worldwide at City Discovery.
Viator: Viator is the granddaddy of city tours. It’s becoming more and more popular as people seek to book tours online prior to departure. I’ve had some amazing experiences with Viator — the tours I went on in Venice were a highlight. I love the variety of tours on offer and the convenience of booking everything through one site — even airport transfers!
World Nomads Travel Insurance: As I get older and more conscious of my surroundings, I tend to worry a bit more about accidents and health care and evacuation insurance. Yes, I have become my parents. The current global climate — and the affect the current global climate has on my parents — doesn’t help with this either. So I’ve been much better about booking travel insurance this year, and World Nomads is my purveyor of choice.
Booking.com: I used to use Expedia just because it was there. But now I love Booking.com. There’s just something about their data presentation. It’s so clear! Also, I can’t believe how many property reviews they have. My default search is to look for properties with guest ratings of 8 and above. The site can get a little confusing sometimes because they lump hotels and apartments and all sorts of properties together, but as long as you know what you want, the rest of the information is very neatly presented.
NordVPN: When I went to Oman earlier this year, I needed to make a bunch of Skype calls but Skype is blocked in Oman. Luckily, I signed up for NordVPN which sorted me out. I’ve started to use NordVPN for other reasons as well. I’ll let you imagine what they are. (Hint: I’m American and I live in the UK and I travel a lot.)
The Points Guy: I can’t get enough of The Points Guy! The biggest thing I’ve learned is always try to get an airline to status match your status with another airline. I learned a long time ago to sign up for all the frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs but now I am even better at this and more conscious. For example, before I book a hotel now, I always look through my inbox and check to see if any hotels are having any point promotions. (IHG Accelerate is a great example.)
TripIt: How much do I love TripIt? I really cannot count the ways. (I’ve written about my obsession with TripIt Pro before here.) Trip stores all my flight itineraries and most (but not all) of my hotel itineraries. (Now if only hotels had a consistent way of reporting booking information so TripIt could read all these different hotel emails.) TripIt will often tell me that my flight is delayed before the airline does!
Hotwire: I’ve written about how much I love Hotwire before. If I know that there’s no downside risk, I will often book 5 star mystery hotels through Hotwire and save a bundle. It definitely takes some research and I wouldn’t recommend it if you are traveling with small children or have inflexible plans, but if you’re visiting a city you know well and are good at detective work, Hotwire is great for saving money.
Kayak: I LOVE searching for flights on Kayak. I love the matrix search results that Kayak presents if you are fairly flexible with when you want to travel. That’s how I bagged my (relatively) cheap business class flight to Thailand and Bali recently (BA outbound, Qatar business class inbound — which was amazing). Earlier this year, Kayak is how I figured out Malaysian Airlines was having a huge business class sale, which worked for my flight to Vietnam and back from Langkawi. If you’re flexible and have a window of time to work with, using Kayak’s search functionality can yield some great bargains.
British Airways: Earlier this year, I finally attained BA Gold status. While it kills me that the Gold entrance at Heathrow is so far away from the Heathrow Express exit, I still love the private check-in desk. The Gold lounge is a lot busier that I expected, but the wine glasses are MUCH bigger than the glasses in the Galleries lounge and the snacks are more plentiful too. Apologies — I am talking all about the lounge and not the website! I’m sort of obsessed with BA’s Flight Deals page and also the Last Minute Holidays page. You should be too!
Travel Blog Success: After 13 years of running this site (13 years!!), I finally decided to do more research on how to run a successful blog and went through Travel Blog Success. It’s a great program and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to take their blog to the next level. What I love most about the program is the community. Many of the top travel bloggers are part of the community and offer up regular advice through the forums — or share their own conundrums.
Flight Radar 24: I became obsessed with Flight Radar 24 around the time of Hurricane Irma. There was a chance that I would have to head to Florida to help my parents out. Luckily, I didn’t have to make the trip but it was fun to track Irma and all the flights trying to get into and out of Florida on Flight Radar 24. Now I check it constantly — when I’m sitting at home in London looking out the window, I wonder, “Where’s that A380 coming from?” Pretty cool.
What are you favorite websites for planning your travel? Please let me know!
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