Here’s a comprehensive list of what we use for our travel planning. We use them all quite frequently! We’ve tried to include a short blurb about how and why we use each tool, as well as, any quirks you might have to watch out for.
Google Flights is great because it’s very fast to search. It also has some flexible searching methods in terms of dates and locations. This is usually our go-to when we have an idea of where we want to catch a flight.
Kiwi is great because it has loads of searching options which allow for flexible dates and locations. It also will look for the cheapest flight even if they are separate itineraries; careful though, we got burned by this. We will probably never book through Kiwi again but really like using their site to search for cheaper ways to get places (even when not direct) or for creating fun stop-over trips en-route to our actual destination.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
This is a paid service (they have a free one also) in which they send you flight deals based on the airports/countries/cities you choose. This has been great for a few reasons a) we’ve found a couple of great deals we booked with and b) it helps us understand what generally a good price on a flight should be and c) it helps us find and understand where the flight hubs are, so we now understand where to manually look for cheap flights/stop-overs using Google Flights or Kiwi. For Canadians, there is also NextDeparture which is what we originally used to find our first flight deal out of Canada. We originally purchased it as a round trip 2-week vacation but instead used it to kick off our trip around the world. It was such a good deal we didn’t feel bad forfeiting the return flight portion.
This site will try to find you the cheapest airfare from Point A to B, even if it means that you purchase a flight from Point A to C, with a layover in point B. So you simply get off at Point B. This also means you cannot check any luggage (carry-on only). We’ve read that ideally you don’t book on points or use your airline frequent flyer account as the airlines don’t like you doing this. Use at your own risk. We used to search this website but honestly never found any deals so we stopped. As Canadians, we do know that many times it’s cheaper to fly to Europe (with a layover in Eastern Canada) then it is for a flight within Canada, so this might be an option for those looking to fly internally in Canada for cheap(er).
We used to use this site more often but usually do it ourselves now with Kiwi. Basically this site will look for stop-over destinations (for cheap) you can do a mini-trip in. You can even specify how many days you want in the stop-over.
We’ve read that some sites like Google Flights don’t have all of the small, budget airlines in their search engine and sometimes miss out on some of the cheapest flights. Supposedly Momondo and Skyscanner don’t miss these. We don’t use them much so can’t really confirm this.
Ride Sharing Apps
You can use this in many places around the world.
Grab is based out of Singapore and is more common in Southeast Asia.
Taxify is based in Estonia and operates around the world, including Africa. Sometimes you need cash to pay the driver as they won’t accept your Credit Card through the app.
I highly suggest you install all 3 of these apps on your phone and get setup with App payments via credit card so you’re prepared anywhere you go.
We booked almost exclusively using Airbnb in Oceania and Europe. This is because we found it cheaper to cook some meals for ourselves so it was important for us to have a kitchen. In many cases we found it almost as cheap as booking a hostel for 2 people.
In regions where eating out is very cheap and buying groceries/cooking is not ideal (eg Southeast Asia), we booked using Hotels.com pretty much exclusively. They have both hostels, hotels, guesthouses and the odd entire home/apartment available. It’s easy to search and has a great mobile app.
We didn’t really do the hostel thing but we’ve heard from several people that this is a great app for those solo-backpacker types looking for a cheap room to stay.
Train / Bus / Ferry Transportation Apps
Rome2Rio is a great way to help with logistics in figuring out how to get between cities from Point A to Point B (or also add multiple stops to Point C, D, E…). It will give you options on what type of transportation (flight/bus/train/etc) and fare estimates. We noticed their fare estimates weren’t always accurate.
Another great tool to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B within Europe. It will look at trains or buses. You can book directly through them but we never did; we used it to compare prices to determine if we should use one of our Eurail pass days or get a cheap bus or train instead. We found it usually better to book directly with the bus or train company and their website/app rather than third party ones like GoEuro, kind of like booking directly with an airline instead of Expedia.
They don’t seem to have a mobile app yet but their website is pretty useful in finding and booking transportation in Southeast Asia. We found it very useful in Thailand, which has a well established tourism industry and is good at moving tourists around. We found it not very useful in Philippines however. We’ll update this as we travel to more of Asia.
For getting around Europe cheap and comfortably, this was great. It was usually the cheapest bus fares we found. Their app was great to purchase tickets and you get your tickets on the mobile app (no printing required!!!).They had comfy new buses with free wifi. Their customer service was actually very helpful when we got a notification that our bus was running very late and they helped us re-book on another bus.
Misc Travel Apps & Resources
Google Trips or TripIt
These are great to keep your travel itinerary information all within one place. Google will automatically take travel itineraries in your email, like flights or hotels, and put it into Google Trips. TripIt now has an integration with Gmail where you can give it access to your Gmail account and do the same, otherwise you can forward your email itineraries to a Tripit Email address and it inputs it for you. I personally prefer Google Trips (possibly because I just used it first and longer) as it also has a link to the actual emails of the itineraries, which is handy if an airline or immigration person wants your proof of onward travel.
Find Device (Android)
Kind of like FindMyPhone but for Android users. It’s nice if you want to find your significant other if you get separated. Also in the event you lose your phone or it’s stolen you can track it via GPS to try and recover it or wipe it remotely.
Very helpful in many different ways. Be sure to download the languages you need for offline use if you don’t have data.
Rick Steves Audio Europe
Amazing audio tour guides of popular places in Europe and for free! Not the fanciest app but it gets the job done with great content. It was better than some of the “free” walking tours we took.
Exchange Rates – Currency Converter (by Universal Currency)
This one is obvious what it does. It’s free (has ads) and is easy to add multiple currencies to the app home page so you can see several at a glance and work between. XE Currency Conversion is another popular one we heard of.
This site will compare many different rental companies. It made booking a campervan rental in New Zealand so much easier.
This is our go-to maps application. We haven’t tried or researched many others because 90% of the time it usually works for us. Definitely, in the less toursity/developed countries and cities, it got us into some trouble (not knowing one-way streets for instance!). Plus we have the ability to download offline maps while on Wi-Fi in case we don’t have cell service. The only downside is the offline maps are for driving directions only (no public transport or walking directions). On the plus side, the offline maps generally have the businesses/restaurants/atms/places you might be searching for, so this means the search function within Google Maps is still functional/useful even in offline mode (assuming you downloaded the offline map).
This is another offline maps option we’ve read and heard is great. We haven’t used it. We’ve heard this one is ideal for walking directions and also has many walking/hiking trails that Google Maps is missing. It’s probably a good combo to have with Google maps and between the 2 you’d be set.
Important Info Backups & Safekeeping
We’ve been using this service for years before we started travelling. It makes travelling even easier/safer. We stored our important documents here as well as our logins/passwords. Another great feature is the Emergency Access system. Before travelling we set up a family member back home so that in the event of an emergency while travelling he would basically have access to everything in our lives (banking, travel insurance login, passport details, you name it). You can read more about why this is so important and how we set that up here.
We also setup a shared Google Drive folder to keep all of our important documents. The important feature here is we can make these files “Available Offline” on our phones, so that if we don’t have internet connection we still have access to these documents.
We love audiobooks and this works great for us.
We’re big into Google products. Spotify, Apple, Amazon also have similar products.
I love podcasts and this is one of the best podcast apps. Google Music also does podcasts but we never tried it.
Obviously. It also has the ability to download some shows/movies for offline viewing, which is great for places with brutal internet (like the Philippines) or if you’re stuck on a train/plane/bus.
Budgeting & Cost Tracking
Good ‘ole Spreadsheet
Being a Project Manager I know my way around a spreadsheet and budgets pretty well so I developed my own to plan our world trip budget.
We needed an easy/fast way to track our expenses real-time to make sure we’re staying below our daily budgets and also for long term tracking. Toshl is geared towards everyday type budgeting and tracking (think home budgets) but I found a way to make it work pretty well for travel expense tracking. One great feature is you can select the local currency and have it convert back to your “home” currency using the current exchange rate. It also works offline and will sync once you get a connection back on your phone. We paid for the Toshl Pro version because we needed more budgets. We did NOT like the automatic syncing of bank transactions because we had to go into them individually and edit them anyways, which took more time and then we usually forgot what they were for. So we enter all expenses manually when they happen (it’s really quick/easy otherwise I wouldn’t do it!). We also heard that TrailWallet was a great option and specifically designed for travelers but is only available for iOS.
This app was very handy when we met up with Lauren’s sister in Greece and traveled together for a few weeks and splitting costs. It helped keep our sanity and things straight about who-owes-who-what with shared costs by entering them into Splitwise to keep track of them all (eg. shared accommodations, car rental, or groceries purchased by one individual). It keeps a running tally of who owes what (net) and you can input expenses and work in multiple currencies (although the net calculation gets messy when mixing currencies so you have to do some math and conversions yourself; no biggie) so at the end of our time together we could easily get all squared up. Just remember to track all of your OWN expenses in Toshl regardless of who paid the actual bill at the time.
Websites for Various Travel Planning Info
WikiTravel.com or WikiVoyage.org
These 2 sites seem to have very similar content. They’re basically Wikipedia for travel places. Tons of great info on weather, logistics, things to do/see/eat in different places. It’s not always complete or as detailed and the accuracy might be out of date depending on when it was last edited.
So much good planning information here also such as cost estimates, logistics, things to do/see/eat, weather, peak seasons, etc.
Lots of good info, pictures, suggestions. These are (usually) real, regular people and you get real opinion rather than sugar-coated bloggers saying how everything is super-amazing! Unlike most blogs, they’re usually not trying to just sell you something and you can get honest feedback.