My favourite travel resources & tools
Planning a trip can be a daunting task – especially if you’re travelling to a new and unfamiliar destination. Depending on how organised you are, you’ll probably find you have to arrange some things while you’re on the road as well, which can be stressful if you don’t have the right tools at your fingertips.
Many of you are experienced travellers and have the process down to an art. My travel style and planning system has changed significantly since I started travelling full-time in 2015 – mainly because I’ve discovered so many helpful products and services along the way.
This list of travel resources and tools that I personally use for trip planning has something for everyone – whether you’re an expert itinerant or you’re designing your very first trip.
These tools can streamline the planning process, save you money, and help you gain access to places and experiences you maybe hadn’t considered before.
Note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links that will earn me a small referral commission at no extra cost to you. The income I earn from affiliates allows me to keep creating. Thanks for your support! More information here.
Finding affordable flights
As an Australian, I’m used to having to fork out hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars any time I want to travel anywhere. Flights always end up taking up the biggest chunk of my travel budget, so trust me, no one is more eager to find a great deal! These are the websites I use to find cheap flights.
There are so many things I love about this booking site, not least of all the ability to browse flights to ‘Anywhere’ and find cheap fares from airports in your general vicinity (awesome for Europe).
Kiwi can mix and match airlines to find you a great deal, and they offer a money-back guarantee if you miss your connection.
Secret Flying is a terrific resource for finding error fares, discounted flights and deals. It’s free to sign up and receive a daily email with the best deals for your region. They make it really simple to click through and book directly through the airline.
I have the Oceania page bookmarked and browse through it whenever I’m procrastinating.
Although I use Kiwi to book flights, my search often begins on Google Flights. There’s nothing particularly special about the interface – the features are much the same as Kiwi’s. I guess I’m just a creature of habit.
Visas, insurance & money
AKA the boring (but unavoidably necessary) stuff.
Many of the countries I travel to regularly require you to obtain a tourist visa either in advance or on arrival. I’ve personally found that in recent years the advent of e-visas has complicated, not streamlined, visas – there seem to be dozens of agents, portals and online services now, and it’s really hard to tell which ones are legit.
I like iVisa because they’re transparent about their fees and offer 24/7 customer support. They can expedite visas if you’ve left things to the last minute, and they also have a free search function you can use to see if you even need a visa in the first place.
I have never travelled without insurance – not even once. But I didn’t fully appreciate the value of travel insurance until my partner got sick on the road and was diagnosed with a chronic illness. Now we realise how vital it is to have a good policy.
SafetyWing is a great insurance option for long-term travel. Perks include paying in monthly installments, and the ability to purchase a policy after your trip has already started. They’ll even provide coverage in your country of residence for up to 30 days if you decide to visit home.
How you choose to manage your finances when you travel is highly subjective. I’ve bounced between dozens of banks and debit cards over the years (I currently have no fewer than 7), all in a quest to find the best rates and lowest fees.
I highly recommend choosing a service that allows you to hold funds in multiple currencies. And I don’t mean a ‘travel debit card’, because the fees on those can be insanely high. I signed up for TransferWise this year and am loving it so far – the fees are very low, and the conversion rates are better than PayPal.
Booking accommodations is honestly my least favourite part of the planning process. I use these platforms to make the job easier.
I know Airbnb has its downsides, but it’s still a service I love and use regularly. We first signed up in 2012 and have stayed at well over 100 properties all around the world. We’ve only had a handful of bad experiences (most of them in Spain, ha!).
As someone who often stays in one place for longer stints, I love the discounts Airbnb offers. I also value the opportunity to meet a local person or family – it’s one of my favourite things about travel. We’ve made some dear friends through Airbnb!
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, I encourage you to sign up with this referral link. When you make your first booking (it doesn’t have to be right away), you’ll get a $55 AUD discount off the price.
Here are some of the best Airbnbs we’ve stayed at recently (I use Airbnb when I travel solo, too)…
Agoda is my go-to booking site when I’m travelling in Southeast Asia (or in the Caucasus). The interface is great, prices are competitive, and you can pre-pay online for 95% of properties.
I use Booking.com when I’m travelling in Europe, Australia, and to cross-check prices in the Caucasus (sometimes you can find a better deal).
I’m not much of a hostel person myself, but if I were, this is the booking site I’d use. The range is excellent, there are tonnes of reviews, and they list low-cost hotels (not hostels) as well.
Tours & activities
Until recently, I was vehemently anti-tour. I always associated organised tours with massive coaches, loud groups and disinterested guides. There are still some tours that are like that, but there are some awesome alternatives too. Now, we always do a couple of tours wherever we go.
The services I use and recommend have completely changed the meaning of ‘tour’ – local guides, meaningful experiences, and even hands-off tours that are closer to a transfer service (perfect if you’re an independent type). These resources are really handy for pre-purchasing tickets and organising private cars, too.
This website curates a huge selection of tours and activities world-wide. I love the app, and the fact that you can easily cancel if plans change. Unlike some other aggregators, GYG lists the name of the tour provider so you can check reviews independently.
Cookly brings together the best cooking classes, food tours and foodie experiences from across the globe. Similar to GYG, they aggregate lots of independent operators and give you the safety net of booking through a third party.
Based out of Singapore, Klook allows you to book tours and activities in Asia (and beyond) as well as transportation, hotels, and buy local sim cards that you then collect at the airport. They’re always adding new destinations, too.
Urban Adventures works with 1,675 local guides in more than 150 locations worldwide. Their day tours (cleverly branded ‘Best day ever’) cover a range of niches, from Christmas markets to cocktail tastings. I recently did an outstanding local neighbourhood tour with them in Bucharest.
Backstreet Academy is one of my favourite ‘alternative’ tour providers. There’s a big focus on handicrafts, DIY and cultural experiences. In Phnom Penh, for example, you can go out on the water with a local fisherman to learn the skills of his trade. At least 50% of the tour price stays with the local host.
Depending on where you’re going, local buses and trains can usually be tackled when you’re on the ground. However, if you’re travelling on a popular route or going in high season, there’s always a chance things will sell out. These websites are absolutely indispensable if you want to pre-organise your ground transportation before you leave or book as you go.
If you’re travelling to Europe, Flixbus is going to be your new best friend. On my latest trip, I used the app a bunch of times in Italy, Croatia and Hungary.
This handy comparison website lets you search and compare rental cars from international brands (AVIS, Europcar) and local agents. I regularly use this tool to find the best deals on hire cars, especially in Europe and the Balkans.
Search routes and pre-book tickets for ground transportation (and flights) in Southeast Asia for a very minimal fee. I’ve recently used 12GoAsia for bus tickets in Cambodia and train tickets in Thailand.
Klook mainly focuses on tours but as mentioned, they can also organise ground transportation. They have a special portal for buying Vietnam Railways tickets, which is really handy if you’re planning to ride on the Reunification Express (doooo it!).
Ride booking apps
I rely a lot on ride booking apps and ride share apps when I’m away – especially in bigger cities. They all but negate the language barrier, the hassle of having to have cash on you, and the risk of getting fleeced. I know some people object to using these apps because they often underpay drivers. My solution is simple – just leave a cash tip.
There are dozens of different apps for different countries and regions. Here are my top three.
I used this app every day when I was living in Hanoi to organise xe-om rides – AKA riding pillion on the back of a motorbike. They also do cars and taxis.