Depending on how you look at it, planning travel can be an empowering or overwhelming experience. From inspiration to booking, we’re presented with countless options for planning travel and a number of tools that can help us decide between them. This post contains a list of the platforms I personally use and recommend for planning and booking travel, and the order in which I use them.
Planning Travel from Inspiration to Booking
If you found this blog from the She is Not Lost Instagram account, then it may be obvious to you that I find a great deal of visual travel inspiration on the platform. Curating She is Not Lost started as a hobby, and for years it has and continues to be a joy for me as I spend hours and hours every week thumbing through #sheisnotlost submissions. But I would like to mention that for me personally, Instagram is a strictly visual travel-inspiration platform. Though captions can contain useful information and bookmark-worthy travel tips, the problem with the platform is that the content you save is not easily searchable. Instagram’s folders can only help so much when categorizing your saves, so when it comes to more detailed trip planning, I head to the platforms listed in this article below.
Click here to see the most recent features on @sheisnotlost
Pinterest is a useful tool for recommending you content that is both visually inspiring and helpful for planning. The platform is full of complete itineraries, travel guides, bucket lists, packing guides, and checklists. Once you make a board and start pinning content that interests you for a particular region, theme, or travel style, Pinterest will feed you relevant content that links to more informative blogs, regardless of how recently it was posted. Instagram on the other hand, only shows you recently posted content. You can also use Pinterest’s search bar to search your own pins that you saved by keyword, which can be especially helpful if you’ve pinned thousands of pieces of content over the years!
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TripAdvisor is the next and possibly most influential platform I visit when planning a trip. Search restaurants, hotels, attractions, and things to do in any destination, and read honest reviews from real travelers about their experiences. You can search and ask specific questions in forum and receive answers from recent visitors. The reviews and forums provide insider tips that can prove helpful in a number of situations: for example, if you’re visiting a destination in a rush and want to know how much time you will need to spend there, or if you are finally visiting a restaurant and want to know if their Insta-famous dish is even worth it the hype.
TripAdvisor also recently redesigned their website to make the experience more shareable and social. You can now follow your favorite travel influencers, brands, publications, including She is Not Lost!
Read my take on the redesign and why I think TripAdvisor is a useful tool for trip-planning by clicking here.
Rome2rio is my go-to guide for finding out the various options to consider for getting from point A to point B. Input your starting point and final destination, and you’ll see if you can take a rail line, a bus or shuttle, a taxi, or a flight. The site also presents you with prices for comparison, provides links to make direct bookings, and works for destinations worldwide. You can also add additional stops for journeys with multiple destinations and save your routes if you register for an account.
Once I’ve considered all the options for getting to my destination and decided a flight is the best choice, I head to Google Flights to search for the best airfare. There are a number of methods you can use to make sure you are finding the lowest prices that I’ve detailed in this blog post. From filtering your searches for flexible dates or flexible destinations, to changing your IP’s location to access lower in-country fares, to booking “throwaway” tickets, I’ve outlined several tips for getting the most out of Google Flights.
Click here to read my blog on Google Flights.
Omio is a great tool for booking trains and buses in Europe, and they announced they are planning to eventually launch in other countries worldwide. For travel in Europe, the site shows you times and prices for various rail and bus lines when you search between destinations. You can sort the options based on price, and one of my favorite features when making a reservation is that it alerts you if you need to reserve a seat or not, as not all rail lines have the same rules or booking practices.
When it comes to booking hotel accommodations, prices are generally the same across platforms (Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking, etc.). My one piece of advice is to stick to a single platform to make all your reservations so you can earn points, free upgrades, or free stays. I personally have been using Expedia for years and have been pleasantly surprised with many free room upgrades simply because the hotel saw in their system that I’m an Expedia gold or silver member.
Depending on your travel style or your personal preferences, you may opt to book an Airbnb instead of a hotel. I wrote a blog post that details a number of considerations when comparing hotels to Airbnbs, including convenience, standards, safety, number of travelers, and familiarity with the destination. During my travels, I have saved considerably by booking Airbnbs instead of hotels, especially for longer trips. Click here to read my blog on choosing between a hotel or Airbnb.
If you are new to Airbnb, you can click here for $30 off your first stay.
What other platforms do you like to use for planning your travels? Let me know in the comments!
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