Travelling with friends and family is a wonderful experience. You get to explore new sights and smells with your loved ones. It is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in new cultures and make new friends along the way as we all learn a little more about this vast world we live in and share. The bummer of every trip always begins with the dreaded planning session. In the years I’ve been travelling with my friends, we’ve never failed to put off most of our trip planning to the eleventh hour, and I sought to put an end to this habit this year when I moved abroad for 6 months.
With summer in full swing, new adventures are calling. Preparing for your next getaway but hate the searching and planning that comes with it? Let me share some of the tools I used when I was planning for all the weekend trips I took this year.
Google maps is an extremely user-friendly and efficient tool when you’re figuring out what you want your travel route to be, especially if you intend to travel to multiple countries along the way. When I was planning for an Eastern Europe trip, I discovered that Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was located in between Vienna and Budapest, and only an hour away from Vienna! Without using the app, I wouldn’t have learnt about the city and wouldn’t have been able to add it on to my travel itinerary.
I found it hard sometimes to find a flight I wanted, given that I had to trawl through several different airlines. Luckily, I found out about edreams.com and kiwi.com a few months ago! These websites compare flight options across several airlines, and include the prices of flights. I recommend using them to get a sense of what your options are. But if possible, always cross check with the airline directly to get a better price, as third party websites do charge a service fee.
Thinking that budget airlines are always the cheaper option? Not true! I recommend searching up a few reputable, non-budget airlines as well. Sometimes they have the capacity to offer cheaper routes as compared to a budget company. For example, my ticket to Berlin on Swiss Air was much cheaper than it was on easyJet, a UK based budget airlines. Not only did I pay less, the flight times were more ideal and I could also claim some krisflyer mileage points by flying with Swiss Air.
Buses and Trains
At times, travelling on intercity buses and trains might prove to be a more economical, convenient, and a faster option than flying or driving.
I love using the planning website rome2rio to explore what my travel options are. The website gives you a good overview on the duration and mode of travel from destination to destination, as well as the approximate prices of the different transport options.
Google Maps is another worthy contender that shows you what train and bus options you have. But be warned, at times it will show you a longer route rather than easy shortcuts you can take.
Another big planning headache comes with trying to find accommodations, and it can be a challenge trying to find a starting point to the endless wormhole on the internet. To solve this problem, I love turning towards airbnb and booking.com to solve my accommodation woes. These two websites are great for searching up lovely apartments all over the world that meet your budget and other requirements. Moreover, these websites allow users to customise currency settings, allowing me to easily calculate my expenditures.
What I also like about these two sites are the chances to earn discounts through their referral systems. You can share your promotional code with your friends who are new users to the site for these good deals. That way, both of you get to enjoy future savings when you book with the two websites! It is a great feature when you’re travelling to multiple cities or countries with said friends, and all of you get to enjoy some savings on accommodations.
For the backpackers and budget travellers, hostel.com is a great place to get an overview of all the available hostels in the city you are travelling to. Like booking.com, it has the extremely useful function of telling you how far the hostel is from the city center, as well as many types of filters that you can turn on, from ratings to price to property type in order to aid your choice.
Free Walking Tours
A fuss free way of searching for must-see attractions is an easy Google search away. However, Google doesn’t always tell you what the most convenient order of seeing these attractions are, nor does it always show you the best kept secrets of the city that only the locals know about.
I’ve recently discovered the amazing concept of a free walking tour, and it is a great way to see the city without needing to do any planning. You also get the extra hidden benefits of hearing first hand accounts of the city from locals, and learn from them myths, legends, and personal, fun facts as they bring you around their town. Tours usually range from 2–2.5 hours, and they often provide a comprehensive overview of the most significant tourist landmarks of the city.
Free walking tours are recommended for people who do not have much time to spend in a city, and it is also a brilliant starting point for travellers who may not know what they are interested in. Because walking tours are touch-and-go in nature, you can always go back to the attractions that captured your attention once the tour ends and focus on them instead. These tours help you save time and money without having to plan at all!
While walking tours are free, it is common practice to tip your guide at the end of it, especially since this is a full time job for many. In some countries, these guides do have to pay taxes too. There is no fixed amount that should be given: how much you tip is completely dependent upon how much you enjoyed the tour, and what your budget is. If you are unsure how much to give, $10 is usually a good amount. Most guides are happy to accept your local currencies too, although you should check with them if it is okay!
Travel Blog Itineraries
If you like to be more prepared, I highly recommend finding travel blogs that share itineraries they followed. From these resources, you can adapt a schedule that fits your travel needs. Travel blogs are also useful in that many usually contain affiliate links to tour companies. If you are willing to pay for day tours, travel blogs are a good jumping platform for finding the right tour packages!
Ask Your Friends!
The easiest and most fuss-free way to plan your itinerary is simply asking friends who have been to the country/city you are heading to for advice and recommendations! It might be the most obvious suggestion, but the power of shared knowledge really goes far! I always find myself asking my friends for accommodations and food recommendations, and I myself have shared tips and recommendations about the places I’ve visited too! It serves as extra assurance (and insurance) to online reviews because it is certainly more authentic to hear about the itinerary/ accommodations/airlines first hand from people you trust.