Whenever there is a trip in my sights, I spend every hour of every day thinking about it. I am what you might call an obsessively organised travel planner. Alex on the other hand prefers to travel with the motto of Plan: No Plan. This does not sit very well with me.
When planning a trip, there are many things that must be taken into consideration. These are a few resources (websites and mostly-free apps) that I swear by and use every time I travel in order to make my life easier and my trip planning less stressful.
I always use Skyscanner as my main flight purchasing resource. Whilst I tend not to buy flights from travel agencies and prefer to buy directly from the airline, this website does provide an overview of the lowest costing flights as well as itineraries that match your preferences, which is really indispensable when planning multi-flight itineraries. It’s easy to sort listed flights to match your preferences and you can compare prices on multiple websites. My tip would be that when planning big trips, check the prices for the same itinerary on more than one occasion when booking. When organising our Costa Rica/USA trip this year, I found that the prices varied dramatically on a daily basis, as well as by the hour. From what I recall, the cheapest flights were displayed late Tuesday or Wednesday night.
Once your flights are booked, it’s time to start planning where exactly you’re going to go and what you want to see. I find TripAdvisor is very useful when planning the fine details of your trip, as attractions are listed in order of user rating, and quite often you can find some off-the-beaten-path options. You can also get an idea of where to eat and drink, which also can help you decide on a nice neighbourhood to stay in. I also use TripAdvisor to compare hotel amenities, but again, I do prefer to book accommodation directly from the provider’s website if I can. TripAdvisor also has an app specifically for offline guides, which can be very useful when you’re on the go.
So your flights and accommodation are booked. The best way to organise all your travel documents and information is to use TripIt, which is an app for organising trip itineraries. It gives you an outline of your trip so you know where you have to be and when. It can import all your travel itineraries from your email, and you can also type in any extra activities or plans that you have. It also maps all your data which is a nice touch. This app has saved me from many headaches as I just have to email it to my TripIt account and it automatically adds the information to my itinerary.
This is the best travel app ever. The biggest problem I have as a traveller is that the internet is not always available, and general mapping apps don’t work offline. CityMaps2Go is a completely offline mapping app, where you download the maps you want before your trip, and you can add markers along the way for places you want to go. The app itself has a lot of place markers already installed, but for smaller attractions, such as a small cafe you may have read about, you can add your own markers. The app can also connect to GPS, so there’s no excuse to get lost again, but you still can if you want because that’s the fun part of travelling.
This app seems to know the directions to anywhere. You can type in your desired destination and it will advise you how to get their on foot, by car or by public transport, as well as how long it will take you or what time the train/bus will depart. This is a great app for destinations that require a lot of train travel, such as Europe.
Translations: Google Translate
Google Translate is getting better. While still an online-only app, it does have some great potential, especially its photograph feature where you can take a photo of foreign text and the image will visually translate. This is a great feature when visiting countries with a different alphabet, although are are still a few kinks in the translations. There are various offline translation apps that work well too, such as Speakeasy (iOs).
Currency conversion: XE
XE has always been my preferred currency converter, and its app does allow you offline access as long as you have connected to the Internet to set the current conversion rate. Very useful in places where the currency is a pain to work out in your head.
I use Tripomatic when trying to find new attractions or restaurants to visit, although the selection of attractions is limited. Time Out (iOs, Android) and Yelp (iOs, Android) provide some good ideas for restaurants and bars, although these are limited to few countries.