Here, you’ll find the top sites for everything from packing light to traveling smart to archiving your memories when you get home. We’ve sorted them by category so that you can zero in on what you need instead of having to sort through a long list.
Even if you don’t need any more incentives to travel (most of us have a lengthy list of places we’d like to go) it’s always fun to read about other people’s adventures. You can discover amazing new destinations (or new ways of looking at places you’ve already been) at sites like Worldhum (affiliated with the Travel Channel), UNESCO’s World Heritage list, Perceptive Travel, or Vagabondish. Need more armchair travel? Get ideas for your reading list or take a look at blogs from other travelers. If you’re into art and design, been/seen offers travel information from an aesthetic standpoint. Or, check out GoNomad for well-written guides to everything from Parisian walking tours to Finnish sweat lodges. Similarly, BootsnAll, which is especially popular with around-the-world voyagers, provides independent travelers with dozens of ideas for getting off the beaten path. The Sherman’s Travel blogs can give you the scoop on unusual hotel amenities, new restaurants, and up-to-the minute travel deals, while TravelMuse offers automatic, personalized destination recommendations. With I-Escape, the name says it all—you’ll find many locales to fill your dreams at this comprehensive site for hip hideaways. Joobili offers suggestions for trips based on when you want to take your vacation. Triporati is another great tool for finding what to do—and what to skip—at any given destination. SeeBeforeYouDie.net allows travelers to rate sights so that you can prioritize (although, really—Disney? Is that actually the best sight in the U.S.?)
Images really are worth a thousand words, whether you’re trying to figure out where to go or looking back on places you’ve been. Find outstanding examples at National Geographic’s photo galleries, Webcams.travel, or Flickr (where you can also, of course, upload your own images.)
Get practical gear–find the perfect compact raincoat, the right daypack, or a set of electrical adaptors at Magellan’s or TravelSmith before you take off. Travel books and all kinds of maps can help you plan or dream about your next trip. Learn to pack it all so that it won’t slow you down at OneBag.
Booking and Planning
Find it all in one place at Kayak.com or SideStep.com, which act as search engines to find deals and discounts from multiple other sites. Check TripAdvisor for detailed reviews from other travelers before you book. Log into Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum for tips and advice from other travelers who have been there and done that. Search the Travel section of the New York Times for excellent information on almost any destination you can imagine, or get advice on Dopplr. Connect with Viatribe and get the lowdown on your next destination from others on the site, or browse Wikitravel for information. Extravigator focuses on luxury travel experiences, as does AndrewHarper.com.
TripIt helps you organize and share your travel plans, while Offbeat Guides offers personalized travel guides with a focus on up-to-the-minute recommendations. Additional notable resources include Concierge.com, RealTravel, WorldBy, The Backpacker, IgoUgo, IndependentTraveler, and UpTake. Sites like Rick Steves, Frommer’s, and Fodor’s offer excellent online resources as supplements to their traditional guidebooks. Check the weather before you book your tickets so that you don’t visit India during the monsoon season, unless you like that sort of thing.
Although it’s not usually part of the plan, you may find yourself sleeping in airports when your travel plans go awry. If you plan ahead a little more, you might find a friend through Servas or maybe engage in some couchsurfing. You can also find unusual hotels that might be carved from ice or built underwater, or boutique hotels or places where pets are welcome. Traveling on the cheap? Find yourself a decent hostel, or split your lodging with friends and family when you get a vacation rental. Or, find a hotel that suits you, whether it’s boutique, luxury, or budget-friendly. Roomorama offers a user-friendly booking service for individuals looking to host a traveler or find a homelike place to stay. Additional useful sites for finding lodging include Venere and TravelZoo.
Sign up with AirFareWatchdog to keep an eye on promotions for airline tickets to places you’re interested in. Learn how to upgrade or figure out if your flight is likely to be late, or even whether or not a cheaper ticket might be available soon. You can also select the perfect seat or find serious deals on Hotwire or Last Minute. Got serious cash? Why not charter a plane?
Get reviews of cruise lines, ships, and more at sites like Cruise Addicts, Cruise Critic, and Cruise Reviews. Charter your next yacht or find a good sailing destination. Tripharbor offers forums and blogs about cruise vacations. Visit Seat61 for the scoop on train travel.
The U.S. State Department website offers up-to-date information that includes details on criminal activity, political tension, traffic safety, and visa requirements for U.S. citizens. The Bedbug Registry can help prevent you from booking a hotel where you might pick up unwanted six-legged hitchhikers, at least in the U.S. and Canada. Road Junky fills you in on travel scams, among other things, while the Travel Detective provides updates on travel safety news. Journeywoman provides advice for women traveling solo.
Working and Living Abroad
You can find a student internship at iAgora, au pair and teaching positions at Working Abroad, or international job listings at Transitions Abroad. Be sure to brush up on your foreign language skills ahead of time.
Making a Difference
Many people enjoy traveling through various volunteer opportunities—it’s a way to get more of an “inside” look at a culture or region, while making a positive difference in the world. Organizations like Earthwatch or Global Volunteers allow you to get much more involved with a locale than you otherwise might, whether you wind up participating in an archaeological dig, studying an endangered species, or helping to build a school.
Zagat offers full functionality for paid members, but other travelers can still find good information on restaurants in the US and multiple international locations. Foodies will also want to check out TravelByFood for a sneak preview of street food across the globe. TripAdvisor, mentioned earlier, is also an excellent resource for restaurant reviews from other travelers.
No matter what kind of traveler you are, you can put a spin on your foreign adventures that will give you a different perspective. Travel like an insider with event guides from TimeOut, What’s On When or EventsWorldwide. Get a fish’s eye view with DiveHappy, get out your skis, or bike the back roads, depending on what your interests are. When you’re finished showing off your athletic abilities, head on out to one of the world’s top nightclubs. Can’t get enough of your favorite author? Head on over to LiteraryTraveler.com to get ideas for book-centric tours and travel. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, pursue your daydreams at Incredible Adventures—they can help you pursue your daydreams, whether they involve skydiving Mount Everest or swimming with sharks. Foursquare offers an interesting system for finding likeminded friends as you explore a city.
Planning a trip should be fun; these sites can keep it from becoming overwhelming while helping you have the time of your life. Bon voyage!