Navigating your way around the world is easier than ever with access to Wi-Fi at your fingertips all over the globe. Sometimes the hardest part is sifting through the massive amount of available information to find the most reliable sources.
I’ve often sat with a multitude of tabs open going back and forth to compare prices and reviews… “Is X site really showing me the lowest price for this flight? Why does X site show me one price for this hostel and X site another? What is the current exchange rate for X country”
With 23 stamps in our passports and two years of experience on the road we’ve become quite good at being in new places all the time and finding the right information to make smooth transitions.
In this post I want to share some of the sites we’ve found helpful as we’ve journeyed from the comfort of home to watching world class surf breaks on the remote beaches of Sumbawa, Indonesia — to touring the glacier riddled Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Peru — to spelunking in wild caves on Siquijor Island, Philippines — with countless unbelievable destinations and adventures in-between.
Finding cheap flights to get you where you want to go is always the biggest hurdle, but Skyscanner and Kayak have consistently given us the lowest cost airfare. To be honest once we’ve done the research on these sites we book directly with the airline, but it’s nice for them to do all the comparing for us.
If you’re looking at domestic/regional flights the budget airlines probably won’t come up on the major search engines. I suggest doing a Google search for regional airlines or look at the website of the airport you want to fly into for a list of airlines.
Buying roundtrip tickets is always cheaper, but can also be restrictive. When booking, be sure to find out what the policy is for changing your flight (sooner or later). In 2011, we flew with Korean Air roundtrip from Seattle to Bangkok. At the time of purchase we thought we were only staying for five months, but were able to extend our tickets for one year from the departure date for FREE.
Note– If you’re not a member of an airline mileage plan currently, do yourself a favor and sign up for one. You can do it directly on the airline’s website (you do NOT have to sign up for a credit card). Check out who the partner airlines are and base your decision on that. I am mileage plan holder with Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines and earn points on almost all of my flights because of the partnerships they have.
Jordan and I always have a short list of hostels we want to check out on arrival based on a search of Trip Advisor, Hostel World and Lonely Planet. In the past we relied heavily on the guide book, but online you get a wider variety of results, traveler reviews and usually current prices.
Booking.com is a great site for those folks who like to book ahead but have a flexible cancellation policy. As a Christmas gift this year, Jordan’s parents even used the site to book us a nice hotel room in Santiago, Chile which was AWESOME!
We never book ahead which has worked out 99% of the time, but remind me to tell you the story of arriving to a town in Laos the same night as the opening ceremony of a peace bridge between Thailand and Laos that ended with us sleeping on the floor of a motorbike repair shop. 🙂
Knowing the current exchange rate before you arrive to a new country is important because obtaining local currency is the first thing you have to do. Whether you’re exchanging at a booth in an airport or with a dodgy-looking local at a border crossing, you need a frame of reference. Not to say that everyone is trying to rip you off, but everyone is trying to rip you off.
If you are crossing land borders and changing foreign currency for foreign currency, find out the value versus the dollar and do the math before you start negotiating. We use the app for XE Currency Converter to sort ourselves out, it’s easy to use and accurate.
Knowing about how much things should cost when you’re in a new place can be tough. Speaking to other travelers is our number one recommendation, but in terms of technology the Lonely Planet website is a great reference. The site has a section called Essential Information for each destination with a subsection Money and Costs that has some good info about average daily expenses.
To be honest we try to eat as cheaply and authentically as possible, so we find most restaurants by simply walking around, or we eat street food. However we spent our first year wedding anniversary on the road and wanted to treat ourselves to a special dinner in Mancora, Peru, so I hopped on Trip Advisor and found a great restaurant called La Sirena Café for us to celebrate.
Trip Advisor is a great way to find something specific when you just can’t handle another rice and beans dish, if you’re in a city that’s known for having some killer cuisine AND to be sure you don’t miss out on Farmers Markets and Food Festivals. Be sure to indulge at the Mercado de Surquillo Food Festival if you ever find yourself in the Miraflores district of Lima on a Saturday or Sunday.
I’ve tooted Trip Advisors horn enough, here’s something different. While we were in Latin America I started looking at Instagram for inspiration on what to check out in certain areas. I would just go to the search function – hashtags – and type in the name of the location i.e. San Juan del Sur
An example of how I used this is when we were in Huaraz, Peru and trying to decide between a variety of options for trekking. I actually looked up the different options and saw what other travelers took photos of. I even use it here in Sydney to get ideas for places to visit on my days off work.
Trippy.com is a cool site made up of a community of travelers who post questions about the places they are headed regarding anything from budgets to day trips to restaurant recommendation. Then other people respond, sometimes locals and sometimes other travelers.
The website explains it best. 1. Anyone can ask a travel question 2. Destination experts like you give answers 3.Readers “like” answers. The best float to the top.
CONNECTING FROM THERE:
The hardest part about long-term travel for me is being away from the people I love, but thankfully the interwebs keep us in regular communication and I get to see some family members more now than I did while living in the States. Skype is my number one choice because it’s real time, we get to see eachothers’ mugs and it’s FREE. We’ve even done conference style video calls, which is awesome!
Facebook is another one I love. I know, I know social media is a tool for spying blah, blah, blah, but it is also an amazing way for us to keep in touch with all the people we meet on the road. Because we get to see where everyone is, we’ve been able to reconnect with friends we made in Thailand in their hometown in Chile, meet up with Aussie friends in Sydney that we met in Latin America, we even went snowboarding with a friend we met in the Philippines when we were still in the States.
I don’t personally use this last one, but I think it’s great for travelers who really need to stay connected while away. T-Mobile has a Simple Choice International plan that gives you unlimited data and texting in 120+ countries. Calls are 20 cents per minute. But who needs to call? If you have unlimited data you can use Skype to call for 3 cents per minute!
Disclaimer – By suggesting the use of technology while traveling, in no way am I saying keep your eyes on your smart phone. As I’ve mentioned throughout this post, more than anything else, we rely on taking advice from other travelers and walking around until we find what suits us.
Traveling provides such a unique and open environment to socialize with the people around you and technology can help you get there and make the most of your time. FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO!
Do you use any other sites that you’d suggest? Tell me what your favorites are in the comments below. If you know anyone who already loves travel or is just starting to plan a trip, please share this post using the love buttons below.
Buena onda, muchachos~