Planning a trip can be a labor intensive and exhausting job for some – planning the logistics, determining the activities you want to do, making it fit a budget, etc. The key to easing some of the load of planning a trip is to know the best travel planning resources to use for each part of the trip planning process.
Below are my go-to options when I plan my travel.
Road Trip Planning
The main challenge to planning a road trip is determining where you want to go and/or mapping out the distance and time it will take to get from one location to another.
Withinhours.com gives the cities and places of interest within a user-specified distance or hours away from a particular location. The great thing is it also gives the direction that these locations are in, helping plan a good flow of one destination to another.
This amazing site is also available for locations outside of the United States. Toronto, Nassau, and South Africa were tested, all yielding results.
Looking into flight options should be one of the first activities when planning a trip as flight costs can vary significantly by simply changing the date and/or time of your flights. The flight itinerary will impact every other part of your trip, from when lodging is required and the availability to do activities within that specific location.
Google Flights is my first go-to for every flight that I take. It allows me to see the best flight deals, either by using its calendar preview to see the cheapest days to fly to a specific location or the explore destinations feature to find the cheapest locations to travel to during a specific timeframe.
Other Flight Deal Resources
Skyscanner, Hopper, and Secret Flying are also wonderful resources for planning a trip. Similar to Google Flights, Skyscanner will show you the cheapest time to fly to a specific location or the cheapest location to fly to during a specific timeframe. Both Google Flights and Skyscanner offer lodging deals as well.
Hopper informs you on the cheapest time frame to purchase your flight to a specific destination during a specific timeframe. I normally use this when I have limited flexibility on my flight days and need to be more strategic when I purchase the flight. Please note that Hopper is only available via an app.
Secret Flying is also a great resource to find cheap flights, especially if you are open to booking error fares. Error fares are when the airline accidentally misprints a deal. Some airlines honor the misprint if booked before they catch the error, others don’t.
Flight Deal Email Lists
If you are like me and always on the hunt for a flight deal, I recommend subscribing to travel deal email lists like The Flight Deal, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Travelzoo, and Airfare Spot. They will send travel deals directly to your inbox. You can also go to their websites to see the flight and travel deals available at the time.
Get more of my tips on catching a flight deal, here.
As a family of four with very active twin two-year-olds, a vacation rental is normally the best route for us. It gives everyone the space they need to stretch out (and run around).
When traveling with my kids, my first go-to for lodging is Airbnb.com. You are able to choose from a variety of potential lodging types, i.e. a home, condo, or even a RV. Most importantly, the reviews and pictures are pretty spot on, helping you make an informed decision.
Since Airbnb is a global tool, it makes it easier to use the same tool no matter the location.
You can save $35 on your first Airbnb rental by using this link.
Other Lodging Search Options
If you’re unable to find a good option on Airbnb, you can also checkout Vacasa Rentals. We recently rented two of our vacation rentals from Vacasa Rentals – one in Destin, FL and the other in Gulf Shores, AL. They both were well-maintained oceanfront rentals. You can find the details of those rentals on the following blog posts: Destin, FL and Gulf Shores, AL.
When traveling solo, I normally opt for a hotel. I always start with the hotel chains where I have status, because, points…either I want to use my points or earn points. If you don’t have a hotel chain preference, both Google Flights and SkyScanner are good places to start. Filter by the information you know – location, price point, amenities, etc. You should be able to find some good hotel deals.
When looking for a super special hotel experience, I go to Tripadvisor as they tend to not only show the popular chain hotels, but the boutique and local hotels as well. I used it to find our beautiful boutique hotel overlooking the ocean in Cape Town, South Africa and our luxury game safari lodge in Kruger National Park. You can get all of those details, here.
Get more of my tips on how to find the best hotel deals, here.
Things to Do
Personally, I think this part of planning a trip significantly impacts the direction and vibe of the trip. The first place that I go to determine what there is to do at a specific location is TripAdvisor. It ranks the top things to do, even dividing them into categories like sights, landmarks, tours and sightseeing. The best part is that each attraction comes along with customer reviews to give you a true idea about the experience.
One of the highlights of a trip for me is interacting with the locals, especially in a foreign country. For that reason, Airbnb Experiences is a must. These excursions are hosted by individuals who actually live in that location, giving you more of a local experience. As with Airbnb lodging, reviews are included to give you a better idea on what to expect.
Get more of my tips on selecting travel activities, here.
Free Travel Planning Toolkit
Planning a trip does not have to be stressful or very time intensive. With the use of the above travel planning tools, you’ll be able to easily find your options and make informed decisions.
Subscribe to get tutorials on how to use Google Flights, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and other travel planning tools with my FREE Travel Planning Toolkit