A journey of 1000 miles must begin with a single step.
Perhaps by now you’re wondering what mid range travel resources I use to book my adventures? Below are my tried-and-tested, ultimate go-to’s that I’ve carefully selected over my 9 years of travelling. I’m sure they will efficiently get you on the road faster.
As an added bonus I’ve also included a few travel tips as well as resources I won’t use and why:
SEARCHING & BOOKING FLIGHTS
- Searching for flights: eDreams for Europe, or I directly Google airport codes (if you don’t know this just use the city name) to pull up all flights and airlines that fly to the destination, see the screenshot example below.
- I usually tend to book directly with the airline. Booking directly with the airline for mid range travel doesn’t always mean you’re paying more. There’s no middle-man if there’s a problem with your reservation.
- 99% of the time I will book a direct flight, even if it costs more than a flight with a stopover. The money I save not using a travel agent to do this means I can use that amount on a direct flight to make the most of my available time. Crucial travel time could be better spent exploring a city rather than waiting around in transit an airport. If I have to make a stopover en route to Europe from Australia, I’ll stay a few days somewhere in Asia to break up the journey and visit a new city along the way.
TIP: Compare whether you can save money by booking in the local currency. For instance, if flying from Australia to Europe via Hong Kong, it sometimes works out cheaper after currency conversion to book your flight to Europe from the Hong Kong site and pay in HKD rather than booking through the Australian version of the site and paying in AUD. Us Aussies are typically ripped off, travelling bunch we are!
What I won’t use:
Comparison sites such as Webjet because years ago they used to add around $20pp per booking on top of the fare (which I thought was dodgy) so I never bothered using them again. I noticed they don’t always show every available flight by an airline either and instead display flights with several stopovers that are geared towards low-budget travellers. Yes, that’s fine if you have the time and the interfaces of these sites are user-friendly but I’m all about mid-range travel so I’d rather avoid a cheap flight with annoying stopovers and pay a little extra for a direct flight to get me to my destination faster.
ACCOMMODATION: Mid-Range Travel Resources for Finding Hotels
Despite its popularity Airbnb might be illegal in your destination city.
- Booking.com: Has a user-friendly map view of hotels that are available in my desired area and show any sold out already. Easy options to filter for specifics like kitchenette, parking, guest rating etc. Usually get quite a good deal with them due to their large buying power.
- Expedia: I tend to compare with Booking.com pricing regularly. Sometimes Expedia will come in cheaper and have added benefits like pay on checkout or free breakfasts when Booking.com won’t. Expedia also have great customer service if you need to call them.
- TripAdvisor: My BIBLE when it comes to reading reviews, not just for accommodation but for activities and attractions, too. It’s handy to see the travel stats of each reviewer to gauge how often they travel and how much weight their opinion has as opposed to someone who’s written perhaps only one or two reviews.
- After checking both Expedia and Booking.com, I will always cross-check their pricing directly with the hotel I’ve decided on to see if I’m missing out on any offers.
TIP: If any special requests, ALWAYS ring the hotel to confirm personally after your booking. Sometimes special requests get lost in cyberspace!
What I won’t use:
I won’t use hotels.com anymore as I found when I booked with them several times in the past I ended up getting a crappy room and had to pay upfront which isn’t always ideal. Also, not many people are aware of this fact but despite its popularity Airbnb might be illegal in your destination city. For example, in New York City it is illegal for anyone to rent out their property to a visitor for under 30 days. Surprised? I was, too! There’s more info here and a horror stories here. There’s been a crackdown on many European cities too, so do your research. Yes, loads of people run the risk each day but I’d rather not have that burden over my head.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL GEAR: I won’t leave home without
Packing cubes: Oh my goodness these would have saved my life living out of a suitcase for four months in Europe and the US, I wish I used them 3 years ago! Highly recommend these to any sort of traveller. They’re unbelievably handy for keeping your clothes and other bits and bobs organised whilst you’re moving from place to place.
- My GHD: I prefer not to have feral attention-grabbing hair when I’m trying to be an Invisible Tourist, simple. Knock on wood, this one has lasted me throughout my 9 years of travel and we’ve shared so many memories together – We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve been separated by oceans and baggage handlers but we’ve always found our way back to each other, thankfully!
- Mimco Travel Wallet: This is amazing for keeping our passports, travel docs, cards, leftover currency etc altogether and organised. It’s perhaps the most useful gift I’ve ever received, and was given to me by my lovely colleagues at the job I decided to quit to spend a year travelling the world. Bonus: You can use it as a clutch on a night out as well!
- Canon G7X Camera and several SD cards: This camera is perfect for me because I want SLR-quality photos without having to lug a huge thing around (as you know by now, I like to be an Invisible Tourist) and it fits neatly into my cross-body bag. TIP: For extended trips, I change the SD cards frequently so if my camera is ever lost or stolen I’ve only lost what’s on the card in the camera at the time, not the photos from my entire trip.
What I won’t use:
Moneybelts – Not necessary when you’re trying to look like a local and if you’ve done your research into pickpocket scams beforehand. Full-size wallet – Cardholders are great for travel due to their compact size. Excellent for just the essentials and won’t take up much space in your bag or pocket. Those bean neck pillows – they’re bulky and awkward. Air-inflated ones are much more comfortable behind your neck for long-haul flights.
TIP: With cards, I tend to leave my keycard for withdrawing cash behind in the hotel’s safe and just take my credit card and enough cash for the day out with me. Although I am prepared, I can be assured that if anything were to ever happen at least I still have access to my money with one card. I’ll always use an ATM to ensure I receive the best exchange rate rather than go to a currency exchange (Bureau de Change), too.
OVERLAND TRAVEL: Mid-Range Travel Resources for Finding Transport
In central Europe, trains really are the best way to get around. The combination of major cities being relatively close together and trains boasting speeds of 230km/h mean they don’t take much longer than the entire flying process of checking in, flight time, collecting baggage, journey from airport to city centre etc. Trains take you directly into the city’s heart plus you get to see the stunning countryside during your journey that you’d miss up in the clouds. Great photo opportunities! You can book tickets online in advance to avoid queues or you can purchase them at the local railway station at your destination.
High-speed trains I’ve used and highly recommend:
- OBB in Austria (Österreichische Bundesbahnen)
- SBB in Switzerland (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen)
- SNCF in France (Société nationale des chemins de fer français)
- Thalys in Netherlands and Belgium (WiFi on board, win!)
- From Switzerland to Italy, I used Trenitalia and while an improvement on trains back home, it wasn’t as clean or as comfortable as the trains mentioned above. The view for the duration of the journey made up for it, though!
For countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland or New Zealand, it’s usually more convenient to hire a car. I always go straight to Avis because in all my years of using them I have never encountered any nasty surprises or unusual fees charged after the fact. I can also receive Qantas Frequent Flyer points. In the past I have been ripped off by other hire car companies so I steer away from them (literally).
There’s apps for everything these days. I find these the most useful for planning my trips and when travelling:
- TripIt: I began using this app in 2012 and I cannot speak about it highly enough. It’s super simple to use, convenient and best of all it’s free! If you’d like to read more about TripIt, keep an eye out for my dedicated review on it here soon.
- XE Currency: Great to keep track of the exchange rate before and whilst you’re travelling.
- TripAdvisor: Seems obvious but this has literally been my bible for years when planning and booking trips. I find reviews by others invaluable.
- Pinterest: Oh my goodness, the number of places I have purely visited because I saw a stunning image of it on Pinterest is ridiculous! Loads of great travel inspiration on there and great to save your ideas for later.
- Google Offline Maps: You can save an area of your destination for offline use when you haven’t got access to WiFi. Handy!
To find out how to learn language for travel fast with 6 essential resources, I have a dedicated article on what’s worked best for me here. It really makes all the difference to the experiences you have with locals!
What are your favourite travel resources? Did you learn any new tips or tricks you could use? Let me know!
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