14 May Our Top 30+ Travel Planning Tools and Tips
Travel planning can be interesting, tedious and exhilarating. You might devour guides, sites and eagerly talk to friends about where to go and what to do. You can pour over flight and accommodation options. And you will likely become very excited as you ‘pull the trigger’ on plans and look forward to your upcoming adventure.
As global nomads, we too still get excited to explore new destinations. We also realize how much time we spend coordinating our next trips, stays, and itineraries. Therefore, we like to use a combination of apps and tools to scout deals, inform travel, pack smartly, and plan itineraries in advance or on the fly. Additionally, we like to at least brush up on the key foreign language phrases and see how we can connect with others in our new ‘home’.
Here are the apps, tools, and gear we use for travel planning and while abroad.
Find how to get from point A to point B as well as the best car rental prices with these apps & websites.
Rome2rio – enter your starting point and destination and this app will determine the best way to get there by comparing plane, train, bus, car, ferry, bike share, driving and car share. We often start with this tool for guidance on which transportation methods to focus in on as well as plan fast travel routes in a region.
Kayak > Auto Rentals – similar to the flight search engine, they browse auto deals from the major rental car companies as well as compare to Rentalcars.com (another great resource) and Expedia and provide filters to help you find the best deal for your needs. We once rented a car in the U.S. no less, for $14/day all-in, for a month through this site!
Minimize your flight search effort with these smart tools and price watch features. Once you find a flight, don’t forget to also check the airline’s official site to see if they may offer a better deal.
Google Flights – okay I think Google picked my brain for their latest offering. I wanted a travel search engine that gave you ideas on locations based on your departure, interest/activities, duration of time and budget. Using their ‘Discover Trips’ section you can do just this!! (well you can’t enter your specific budget, but it does list flight and hotel prices so you can roughly calculate)
Kayak > Flights – our go-to flight search engine that browses flights from a variety of airlines and serves up the best deals, including matching multiple carriers to get you the best price and trip duration for your specific route. They also run comparisons to other travel search engines such as Expedia, Priceline, Cheap-o-Air, and more.
Skyscanner – what started out as a great app to explore possible destinations and the cheapest date to fly has evolved into also providing deals on popular destinations and suggested weekend trips based on your departure location and dates. Also, use their ‘explore everywhere’ function to find alternative or nearby airports that might be cheaper to fly into that your desired destination. For instance, a friend of mine flew NYC to Stockholm in the winter for just $80 USD one-way and then booked a cheap flight within Europe to get where she ultimately wanted to go, saving hundreds of dollars.
Hopper – If you know where you want to fly and can be flexible with the dates, this is a great tool to see when might be the cheapest dates to go and the price predictions – whether to buy now or create an alert to buy when the price drops. Now if only they tracked award (miles) travel too…
FLIO – your all-in-one airport resource. This app that provides maps for airports around the globe, directs you to the airport’s official free wifi, lists arriving & departing flight timetables, gives you deals on food, shopping, and lounges and guidance on ground transportation.
We’ve got you covered on recommendations for short and longer stays.
For apartment rentals lasting one month or longer, our best advice is to do an online search in the local language in order to source more local apartment rental companies, which tend to be less expensive.
For example, if you’re going to a Spanish-speaking country, you could search: ‘apartamentos de renta‘, ‘apartamentos en alquiler’, or ‘apartamentos para rentar’.
You can use Google Translate to assist you with the search terms. And it’s likely that these local rental companies will speak some English so you can reach out in that language.
When searching in English, you will attract more Westernized & tourist accommodation options which typically carry a bit of a price hike.
When searching more local options, you may also encounter companies that will not work with customers looking for less than 6 months.
You’ll start to get familiar with searching this way and knowing which might offer short term rentals for vacationers.
Additionally, we often visit HomeAway and Airbnb to check additional rental options, especially for shorter stays.
HomeAway – a platform to find and book vacation rentals, including homes, condos, cabins, and villas. VRBO is part of this platform. We’ve used HomeAway a few times and had great experiences.
Airbnb – an easy to use platform to find and book vacation rentals (private rooms and entire homes) and experiences across the globe. We’ve used Airbnb several times and had mixed (some excellent, some subpar) experiences. We urge you to pay attention to ratings and reviews.
Booking.com – is great for global travel and once you have booked five trips through their platform, you become a ‘genius member’ and get special perks like 10% off selected rooms and possibly early check-ins and late check-outs. They also offer a plethora of options beyond hotels, such as Bed & Breakfasts, hostels, guest houses, apartments, and even campsites. I’ve used Booking.com to book accommodations across the world and love to search my genius discounts first for great deals.
Roam – location independent people can co-live and co-work in large, comfortable, well-designed spaces in a few cities across the globe. We have not had the opportunity to check this out yet, but it is on our radar for the future…maybe Ubud when we get to SE Asia.
A robust list of sources for planning and organizing your travel itinerary.
Google Trips – Oh yeah! This app organizes your essential travel info (pulls from your Gmail) in one place and makes it available offline. They also provide suggestions on things to do, eat, and drink based on what’s nearby.
TripIt – the original travel itinerary organizer. I use the pro service to keep all my travel plans in one place, keep tabs on my award points with various airlines, hotels, and rental cars, track seats so I can avoid the middle seat, share my itinerary with family and sync to my calendar. They do offer a free subscription as well, with the basic features.
TripAdvisor – user-generated content drives this site providing traveler reviews on activities, restaurants, bars, points-of-interest and popular lists to inform travelers. They also compare hotel and flight deals. We like to check it out for reference, but we don’t get too swayed by any one review – we look at the collective response.
Trover – Go in search of unique, under-discovered places with their website & app.
Check out our Destinations page to read our travel posts.
Feed your inner adventurer with REI’s suite of free digital tools for hiking, mountain biking, mountain climbing, trail running, skiing/snowboarding and visits to U.S. National Parks.
In addition to these resources, we like to search for other travel blogs with posts about the regions we’re headed to or read articles from travel magazines which we often have free access to on Amazon Prime. We also get chatty – with people on the plane that might be familiar with our destination, with locals, expats, and other tourists to get a pulse on their favorite experiences, and with our hosts, hotel front desk, waiters, you name it.
Travel Gear & Services
You want to travel smart – with the right gear and services that make your trip a success.
REI – a great retailer for your traveling and adventuring gear. We’d recommend you buy a lifetime membership for just $20 and reap the REI Co-Op rewards. Your membership will pay for itself, as you’ll get 10% back on purchases every spring with your REI Annual Dividend.
Choosing a travel backpack is a very important task – you have to lug that thing on your back around the globe! REI staff are experts in helping you determine which bag is best for you by adjusting to fit your height and frame and filling up with weighted pillows to let you test it out. My backpack (an Osprey Ozone 46L) is perfect for me, but with the same weight in it, Daniel’s REI backpack feels much heavier to me…but not for him.
In addition to the backpacks, we’ve purchased items such as the best eye mask ever, packing cubes, headlamps, hiking and yoga tops, and multi-sport sandals.
travel insurance – when we started our travels, we used World Nomads for the first three months which is an excellent option for those taking a trip abroad or traveling for a few months out of the year, as you can turn it on/off whenever you’d like and get coverage based on where you travel. But since we’re location independent full-time, we purchased an annual global medical plan through IMG. In the U.S., it has us on the First Health Network.
T-Mobile – for global phone service, we use the T-Mobile ONE plan which provides free international roaming with unlimited data and text messaging in 140+ countries; international calls are typically 20 cents a minute and free in Mexico and Canada. Outside of not getting free data in Morocco (not one of the 140 countries) and a little spotty service in Bucharest, we have had an amazing experience with it. We even had cell service on a tiny island in between Corsica and Sardinia! On their website, you can check coverage by country ahead of traveling.
Don’t overpack, you’ll be miserable dragging it all around! Use these apps to help you narrow down your packing list while still having the right outfit options.
Pack Point – for those traveling 30 days or less, this app can help guide you on how to pack based on the weather in your destination, the length of stay, type of trip and activities.
Stylebook – this app is a virtual closet for your real-life wardrobe. It helps your inner Cher arrange your looks and save style inspiration boards. It can also help you put together looks for your next trip and select items to pack.
Traveling means encountering other languages. Luckily these apps will aid you with translating, learning, practicing.
GoogleTranslate – use this free app to translate almost any language to your primary language. You can type, talk, draw and even hold your camera over text for a real-time augmented reality translation. The website will also instantly translate web pages for you. Reading a Romanian menu, no problem!
Duolingo – this free app and website will help you learn and practice another language. It keeps it fun by mimicking a game in which you have to unlock levels and get penalized for mistakes. I clearly have a lot of daily practicing ahead…
CheggFlashcards – make and study flashcards on your smartphone. You can also browse public flashcard decks related to your topic and download to your account to start studying immediately. I have Spanish and Portuguese flashcards that I need to give a little more attention to.
Make location independent living, expat life and travel even more awesome by meeting new people and sharing awesome experiences.
Internations – this awesome community is comprised of mostly expats and local ambassadors, but welcomes location independent folks and travelers. They have different chapters around the globe that offer a great network, the ability to join interest groups and meet in person at monthly events. Membership also unlocks country and city guides as well as the Expat Magazine. Lauren is an Albatross member (paying) and Daniel has a basic membership, paying entry for events.
Nomad List – Nomad List’s fantastic main site provides free access to pertinent information for nomads. However, if you want more, such as participating in their nomad forum discussing all aspects of nomad life and destinations, chatting in their location specific chat groups and using their trip planner to meet up with other nomads, then you’ll be asked to join by either paying $99/yr or $149 for a lifetime membership. You’ll support a bootstrapped business and keep it running for aspiring digital nomads.
Check out Facebook to see if there is a digital nomad group for the locations you’re visiting. For example, there is a Digital Nomads Playa Del Carmen group we learned of and we were able to get valuable information about the city, ask questions, and attend an event they hosted. There are also global digital nomad groups that talk about the lifestyle as well as remote work opportunities.
We have not tried any of the ‘planned for you’ Digital Nomad Co-Living/Co-Working groups but found this comprehensive Huffington Post article about them to be enticing.
FlexJobs – a service that screens and lists all types of flexible jobs (telecommute, freelance and part-time) across 55 career categories. Anyone can view the available jobs. However, you can only apply if you’re a member, paying a fee of $14.95 a month. You will also be required to participate in a vetting process.
remote.co – a remote work resource that lists remote/telecommute jobs in numerous fields of work.
remote OK – a service by Nomad List that lists jobs for digital nomads in the areas of software development, customer support, marketing, and design & UX.
Jobbatical – this site connects your skills with available jobs around the world so you can live out your expat dreams.
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In need of some travel advice and watch-outs for your next trip? Read our post, Helpful Travel Lessons to Improve Your Next Trip.
Check out this post we wrote for more entrepreneurial and freelance job resources.
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Is there something you use and love that you don’t see here? If so, please share so we can all benefit 😃
Leave a comment!
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*Majority of the companies, tools, and services included in this post are resources for which we have no affiliation. And unless otherwise stated, these are tools and services we use and recommend (hence our title!)
This post does include a few affiliate links to products we use and highly recommend. At no additional cost to you, we earn a commission that helps support this website.
Thank you for being a part of the Modern Odyssey community! If at any time you have questions about these products and services, please do not hesitate to contact us.