Planning a trip can be quite challenging and stressful. It personally takes me long hours and several days to finally come up with an itinerary complete with flight details, accommodations and tours given that I normally travel between 3-5 countries when I go to Europe.
But knowing where to go and what to search for will definitely help you save some time and money in the whole process. My go to websites when planning a trip are:
This is my number ONE go to website for all my flight planning needs. Its user friendly interface makes it easy for anyone to spot the best fares and city/country to go to when traveling on a budget. It also gives you the option to find direct flights which I prefer to avoid those long lay overs or running across airport terminals to catch the next flight. And when your dates are flexible, and you don’t really know where to go, but just NEED to go SOMEWHERE, it gives you a list of choices for the best day to go and a list of continent/country/city you might consider heading to.
The owner of this website is interestingly enough “a career railwayman who ran away from Oxford to join… the British Rail” as mentioned in his web page. I stumbled upon his site while desperately searching for train routes across Berlin, Prague, Austria and Munich on my European trip a year ago. There I was at 2AM and I still can’t seem to find one website that has all the details I need regarding making all these connections for train travel, until I came across this one thread in tripadvisor about finding “cheap train tickets in Europe”… and finally I got introduced into this website! I love European train travel because aside from it being so comfortable, adventurous, romantic, scenic and less stressful, it is also a more environmentally-friendly option to travel. This is a very informative website that gives you links to all the train companies you’ll need for every country or city that you’ll need to get to.
I assume everyone knows Expedia and I myself am a registered member simply because I’ve booked so many flights and hotels with them. They also have Expedia rewards points which you can apply toward future purchases. You can book anything from hotels, flights, car rentals and activities as well. More often than not, Expedia gives you the best value for your money, in my experience.
One of my favorite websites for its endless contributors who tirelessly take their time to share their opinions, personal experience as well as their own photos which helps me decide if a certain accommodation is a go or a no-go! It’s also one of my go to app when finding a good restaurant. My vacation To-Do-List almost always comes from this site as well. There are numerous day trip ideas and suggestions posted here, as well as multiple Q&A threads that will help you in things like “how to get to”, “where’s the best seat” (in concerts/theater for e.g.), “when’s the best time to go” to name a few.
When hotels don’t give me what I need, especially in the touristy areas in Europe where it’s sometimes hard to find a hotel with an elevator (because I don’t want to go up flights of stairs with my 20 kg luggage), air-condition (especially in the summer months), private bathroom (guess the plumbing in the old buildings were built this way), and of course a nice and clean room where you can just relax and sleep at the end of day, I turn to Airbnb. More often than not, I check this one out first because like I always say, I do prefer traveling like a local. Choosing the right host will definitely give you a home away from home so this process might take a little bit of time than your usual hotel site search. If it’s your first time, my best advice would be to go with the one who has the most reviews (I read almost every single one), google map the address/area if it is close enough to where you would like to be and go with the owner who replies promptly because that will definitely reflect on how attentive he will be with your needs once you’re there. Good hosts will be very welcoming and will be ready to assist you with your “getting around needs” and will make sure you’ll feel like home!
For tour ideas, this is my go to app. They provide multiple activities and tours that you probably even haven’t thought of but sounds too awesome to pass. I trust this site when looking for the best things to do and the best tour options everywhere I travel.
So these are my top 5 resources for independent planning. I hope this can help you in making your first OR next independent travel. If you have any other websites that you love to use and recommend, share them below and it might help me in the future too!