Friday, July 17, 2009

Top 10 Helpful sites for World Trip Planning

For the last thirty hours I have done little aside from browse the internet, and shuffle from one website to the next. Below I am going to show you all the websites I came across while planning my tour, so maybe some of the legwork will be done for you in the future.

Here is a list of the Top Ten sites that I thought you might use.

1. Google Maps
This may seem obvious, or it may seem inconceivable but let me tell you, this is one of the most useful websites you can use for any trip planning. I almost always had it open in one of my browser tabs.

Why it's Useful:
You can create custom maps, planning walking paths, distances from one location to the next, you can flag the location of the airport, as well as the location of your hotel (or in my case, hostel.) Not only that, but you can save these maps so any time in the future, you can go back and look at them to remind yourself of where you'll be heading, and when.

It was also great for planning train trips across Europe. I don't know about you, but my European geography is lacking. With this site open, I could check what countries boarder each other, and what order it would make sense to see cities in. I nicely plotted train tickets through fourteen countries with this site.

It's also very useful in conjunction with other sites, as I'll mention shortly.

2. The Man in Seat Sixty-One
Everything you have ever wanted to know about trains is listed on this site. No, really - everything. And it lists information for trains all over the world. Before reading this page I thought getting a EuRail pass was the way to go. I've since learned better.

Why it's Useful:
I did not know anything about trains, but there is a section of this website that explains how train passes work. It explains, in detail, all the hidden fees (which add up to hundreds of dollars) as well as the practical usage of them. It also shows where they are most useful, as well.

This website directs people to all the many individual country ticket sites, and explains the various routes, trains, and seats that you might encounter. If you have any fear about riding the rails, this site will get you past it.

3. Rail Europe
Now that you understand how the railways work, it's time to do some more footwork.

Why it's Useful:
Booking a train ticket across Europe can be a lot of work, as you'll find yourself hopping from one local site to another. No more: This website offers you the ease of simply putting in a starting city and an ending city (spelled in English, so you need not look up local spelling, which can be quite difficult to be sure of at times.)

Not only can you plan your routes, but you can also book tickets, or just get a good understanding of how much they may cost in the future. This is a most important site for those planning a trip through Europe.

4. Hosteling International
I can not explain just how important this website is when planning trips. Sure, you could find hostels on your own and save five or six bucks here and there - or, you can buy your $35.00 membership and be set for a good long time to come.

Why it's Useful:
Hosteling International connects you with hostels all over the world. Literally all over the world - they exist in most places you'd want to travel. Now this site will allow you to browse through a variety of hostels - showing you a map of where they are located (which you can then map on your google map, and figure out which hostel is best suited for your locational needs) as well as telling you what is included with each. Do you need free Wi-Fi? Just look for that icon.

From this site you choose your room type, your price option, and a variety of other customizable things. But most important? The reviews. This site offers real reviews which is quite important when hosteling. Sure you could save five bucks a night, but be warned - you may end up sleeping on a dirt floor. Yes, that has been known to happen.

5. Air Berlin
I used to book through expedia (and still do from time to time, as they're quite convenient.) However, be warned - their fares are not the lowest you can find.

Why it's Useful:
Air Berlin offers an interactive flight map showing you where they fly from, and where they fly to. It is a easy to use site, and they have some of the lowest flights I've found from Europe to Africa, and North America to Europe. Be sure to check them out.

6. TACA Airlines
This is another airline that is great for getting around without busting your bank.

Why it's Useful:
This website could save you hundreds if you're jetting around parts of Europe. Be sure to compare rates, and look for other discount airlines too. Going with names you know may make you feel better, but at what cost?

7. Gap Adventures
I have booked all my tours through this company. And there were many.

Why it's Useful:
This company offers a lot of great tours, and they're reasonably priced. The tours go all over the world, and even up above it in a fighter jet to the edge of space. They are friendly, and well informed. When you talk to them or e-mail them you are communicating with a real person, not someone reading lines from a book. They will hook you up with whatever you need. I can't stress enough how helpful they have been.

8. The Guide to Sleeping in Airports
Did you arrive past dark, and are unsure about what waits in the world outside?

Why it's Useful:
This website has all you need to know about the art of airport sleeping. Honestly, it's quite important to know. If you find yourself in a strange destination and the sun has gone down, do you really want to try and find your way through the city with potentially shady taxi drivers telling you what to do?

This site offers reviews, tips, and tricks to get away with your free night's stay.

9. Couch Surfing
Need a place to stay? Why not clamor onto some strangers couch? What could possibly go wrong?

Why it's Useful:
If you're out of cash, need a place to crash when you can't find other accommodations, or just want to get a little information about the city from a local then this is a great site. They offer reviews of the surfers, so you can be sure you don't end up with some crazy killer (or be relatively sure, anyway.)

I've never used it - but I've heard a great many things from people who have, so it's worth checking out. Who knows, this next year might see me hopping on one or two couches, myself.

10. Thorn Tree
There have been many times I've had questions - and when I do, I go to the experts: Other travellers.

Why it's Useful:
Do you want to know how to get out of a jam? How to book that stubborn visa? Do you just want to know what to do in a certain city? Or do you need help planning an entire trip? Are you looking to meet up with fellow travellers for part of a trip?

If you have any question, you can just post it to the Thorn Tree forums and the readers will get back to you within hours, sometimes even minutes. They are a friendly lot (which is still odd, considering it's an internet message board.) They know what's what, and they're more than willing to help you out.

No question is too foolish. Remember, no one has all the answers - but a collective might.

In Conclusion
Despite all my planning, I still have quite a bit left to go. So, if you have any good sites that you think would be useful, please let me know! I'm sure I'd be delighted to have some of the footwork done for me.


  1. OMG
    *goes crazy*

  2. Rail Europe and their train selector chart is another helpful resource for European travelers.

  3. Thank you so much for this, its awesome. love the sites you suggested, really cool.

  4. What I enjoy most is travelling to different places and meeting new people. For me, it's all about life experiences, and I'm very grateful that acting allows me so many interesting and fulfilling ones.


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