A lot of people (who earn a decent living) tell me that they wish they could travel like I do, and I tell them that they can travel like I do. I think they just don’t know how to go about doing it. The trick is knowing the best websites. What follows: my favorite travel websites for researching your options, booking reservations, and then optimizing your trip.
FAVORITE TRAVEL SITES FOR DESTINATION SELECTION
I’m working under the assumption that you already have some prospective destinations in mind. If you’ve identified where to go, you need to determine if 1) it’s safe to travel there, and; 2) when is the best time of year to travel to your destination.
U.S. Department of State Travel page: This website is a starting point for determining the relative safety of your travel destination. Realize that government travel advisories tend to err on the conservative/safe side and if a single region suffers from arrest or crime they may warn against visiting the entire country. I take what the Department of State has to say about traveling to a particular country, dial it down a few notches, and then see what the U.K. and Canada have to say about that destination.
weatherbase: Weatherbase is a no-frills, straightforward website for researching the average temperature (including highs and lows), precipitation, and day length by month for 42,000 cities around the world.
FAVORITE TRAVEL SITES FOR DESTINATION RESEARCH
Wikitravel: Wikitravel is the most concise one-stop site for quickly researching a destination. I especially like the “Get In” section for knowing my entry options.
Fodor’s Travel Talk Forums: Almost any question that I have about a destination has already been asked on one of these boards, which are easy to search by country and topic. Also, reading other people’s itineraries (and forum posters’ comments on their itineraries) is helpful in creating my own itinerary. The opinions and experiences posted here are also useful for narrowing down a visit to a country to the top places to visit within it.
FAVORITE TRAVEL SITES FOR BOOKING HOTELS
Coolest Hotel Booking Sites: This is my own post outlining my favorite travel sites for finding chic and unique boutique properties.
tripadvisor: Tripadvisor receives a lot of complaints about phony reviews but it’s still the site that I use most frequently when choosing a hotel. When a property has received a significant number of reviews I find the average ratings to be accurate, the exception being very inexpensive properties where other reviewers traveling on a budget (with lower quality thresholds than mine) are grading them only on price. If the deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. I also find scanning others’ reviews to be the quickest way to gain a quick, accurate read on a property (location, service, noise, decor, etc.)
agoda: My go-to site for booking hotels in Asia.
FAVORITE TRAVEL SITES FOR BOOKING FLIGHTS
The Points Guy: The Points Guy’s daily email newsletter keeps me abreast of credit card promotions that offer miles.
KAYAK: Still my favorite travel site for comparing flight prices.
SeatGuru: Once I’ve booked an international flight I always look up the seat configuration for that flight on SeatGuru so that I can select the best seat available.
FAVORITE TRAVEL SITES FOR SAFEGUARDING MY TRIP
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers’ Health: I refer to this site for information on the vaccinations and prescriptions I will need for my destination.
U.S. Department of State Travel page: If I’m heading to any country that may be vulnerable to natural disasters, terrorism or protests I register my trip with the Department of State to receive travel updates.
FrontierMEDEX: I always book emergency evacuation insurance when I travel to a third world country: if I become injured or fall ill I want to be airlifted right out of there. I pay only $7 per day for coverage through FrontierMEDEX.
FAVORITE TRAVEL SITES FOR PERFECTING MY TRIP
The New York Times Travel section: I always search the New York Times Travel section for past articles on my destination. I especially like the “36 Hours in…” feature.
Atlas Obscura: I love Atlas Obscura, which bills itself as the “definitive guidebook and friendly tour-guide to the world’s most wondrous places. Travel tips, articles, strange facts and unique events.” Atlas Obscura covers all the bizarre, quirky and lesser-known but fascinating attractions that the guide books overlook.
Afar: Afar is the perfect complement to Atlas Obscura: it’s less focused on the unusual and broader in scope. Afar contributors (often everyday travelers) write highlights under the categories of Eat, Drink, Shop, Stay and Do for a place or activity in a destination and other contributors organize highlights by common themes (i.,e, “Best Things to Do in Reykajavik” or “20 Diving Experiences) into wanderlists.
It’s not that difficult to become a globetrotter. The travel answers and tools are out there, you just need to know where to find them.