Resources

The Search is Over

One of the perks/problems with being a travel writer, is that you become something of a touchstone and font of wisdom for people who travel less often. It’s flattering to be considered an expert (something I certainly wouldn’t ever consider myself as), but all too often I feel like I’m fumbling for a mental list in my head to share with them.

“Go to…uh… this site,” is about as helpful as I get unless they’re asking for information about a place I know intimately, such as South Korea or China.

With that in mind, I present to you my shiny new ‘Resources’ page, where I’ll periodically add new sections and resources that I often make use of when planning my travels. Feel free to suggest your own if I’m missing any!

Flights

Searching for an affordable and comfortable flight can be a daunting prospect, and all too often people fall into the trap of trusting the very first site they visit and not shopping around. For those who are willing to do the leg work and want to save as much as possible, my first port of call would be Nomadic Matt’s fantastic Travel Hacking guide.

The trick is to check multiple flight search websites and then also pay a visit to the airline(s) in question to see whether or not they can do better. Below you’ll find a list of the flight search engines I use most often.

Gun to my head, I usually start off with a search on Kayak or Expedia before trying my luck on other sites. Skyscanner has a pretty nifty ability to search for tickets from your home airport to ‘Anywhere’, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Also be aware that countries often have their own region specific flight search facilities. In China, for example, they use eLong and C-Trip.

Accommodation

Accommodation can make or break a vacation, but there are so many resources out there that it’s very easy to do the hard yards and find the right fit for you. Below, you’ll find a list of my favourite hotel comparison sites that will track down hotels and hotel deals for you.

Hotel Sites

  • Booking.com: Lets you book by theme as well as having a comprehensive list of properties (boasting 537,980 at the time of publication).
  • Hotels Combined: Compares hotel rates from thousands of travel sites. Being based in Sydney, they have special expertise on accommodation in the city area. Have a look at some of their interesting blog posts including one on hotels with the best harbour views in Sydney.
  • LoveHolidays: Helps to find hotels and package holidays around the world.
  • Expedia: Better known for flights, Expedia also offers exclusive deals when combining your flight booking with a hotel booking. Tends to be pricey.
  • Trivago: Searches a multitude of booking sites (including others on this list) to find the best deals in a given area.
  • Wotif: Has a variety of hotels in major cities and the popular ‘mystery hotel’ deal that has a guaranteed level of quality for a traveler who can afford to be a little flexible.

I always check hotel reviews before making a booking. Whether it’s TripAdvisor or your favourite hotel review blog, it pays to do your research,

Hostel Sites

If you’re traveling with friends or just on a tight budget, hostels can be a fantastic alternative to conventional hotels. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not all cramped dorm rooms and dodgy bathrooms. More and more hostels are catering to couples, family travelers, or flash-packers. Below, you’ll find a list of my favourite sites to find hostels.

Reviews

When booking a hostel or a hotel, it’s important to do a bit of research beyond trusting the shiny pictures the site or the hotel has put up. Take the time to read reviews (most sites have them as part of their ad) or go to TripAdvisor to see what others have had to say about the venue.

I review every hotel/hostel/restaurant/attraction I visit that I can find. You can find my TripAdvisor profile and check out my more detailed thoughts.

A word of advice: Take negative reviews with a grain of salt. A person who had a bad time is more likely to jump online and rant about it, so read the reviews knowing that. Also, some assholes are just pedantic.

Other Options

If you’re looking for an alternative to hotels and hostels, below are my two absolute favourite resources for alternative accommodation.

AirBnB lets home-owners rent out their spare room/granny flat, finding a pleasant middle ground between the warmth of a B&B and the convenience of a hotel. I traveled around the US exclusively using AirBnB and had a great time. Couchsurfing is free, but usually means sleeping on (you guessed it) a couch. This is a great way to meet locals.

Things to Do

This is where Google really is your friend. A quick Google of ‘things to do in <insert destination here> is a great way to get a ballpark idea of what is going on in the destination you have in mind. Travel blogs are often packed with ideas both broad (10 Different Things to do in London) and specific (Learning to Cook in Chiang Mai).

Consider sites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums to be great resources where you can read through lists and reviews. Thorn Tree also has the ability to get involved in discussion, which can be an invaluable resource when looking for specific information.

Food

US bloggers will probably advise Yelp, but it’s not a resource I’ve availed myself of in my travels. TripAdvisor remains my go to when looking for food in an area, although the every reliable ‘ restaurants in ‘ Google search is a handy option too.

If you’ve got a smart phone, consider downloading the Swarm/Foursquare double. The app now comes with a GPS based search that will locate restaurants near you with the ability to search for certain cuisine keywords as well. Super handy when you’re hopelessly lost and you’ve got a hankering for Malaysian.

Other Handy Resources

The below resources are websites I’ve found handy in my travels, but that don’t necessarily fit into the categories above. You can also check out my Great Big List of Travel Blogs for more inspiration.

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