Many people wonder, and maybe even question, how I’ve been able to see so much in such a short time, and on such a tiny budget. It’s really not rocket science, there’s no magical equation that gives you instant savings, it all started with a mindset-shift. When I began seeing how really cheap you can buy flights for, I started questioning the amount I spent on other areas in my life. £40 for a top, or £40 for a flight to Europe – to me, that was a no-brainer decision. My main priority moving abroad was to see the world, so it wasn’t a sacrifice to pass up on having the latest trends but rather investing in a nice camera to capture the sunrises I was chasing.
Here are a few of my travel essentials that have greatly helped me in planning, organizing and booking my next adventure.
If I could write a love poem on any one thing in the world it would be SkyScanner. I spend a sickening amount of time on here; you can often find me at least once a day (okay, more like 24), scrolling through where the next cheapest destination will be. This is my absolute top resource. #LetsGoEverywhere
My favourite feature which has allowed me to travel to some off the beaten path locations is the ‘everywhere’ option. If your travel plans are an open book and you’re looking for the cheapest ticket out, put your departure location in and don’t put anything into the destination field. If your dates are flexible put in the departure time ‘whole month of xx’ or the specific dates you want to travel (I usually do the whole month as it will show you the prices per day). Press search and you’ll get a full list of the cheapest countries and locations to go! Life changing, I know.
#2: Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring
This book is my BIBLE. I consider it essential for planning European trips. I cost me about $35CAD (£17) but it has proven its’ value ten-fold. This book lists every country in Europe, their capitals, what the local currency is, best hostels/hotels to stay in, traditional food/drink, day trip ideas, emergency numbers, every connecting country/city via bus/train/boat, sample 1-3 week itineraries, EVERYTHING. I don’t plan any of my European adventures without first consulting it. I believe there’s also similar versions for other continents as well. BUY THIS.
There’s a variety of online hostel booking sites out there, but Hostel World is BY FAR my absolute favourite. You can sort listings via star ratings, price, location, number of guests , facilities etc. I always scan here to see hostel prices on a location, sometimes before I actually book the destination. The farther in advance you book, the cheaper your stay will be. For example, I booked my Prague hostels in April when I was not due to arrive until July. Because of this, I only paid $5CAD/night compared to people paying over $25CAD+/night when booking upon arrival at the same hostel. It pays to plan ahead!
They also have a really active and amazing social presence, I definitely recommend following them on Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter for tips, deals, contests and just awesome conversation. An example of how kick-ass HostelWorld is, one day while backpacking I tweeted how much I loved them, and when I arrived at my next hostel, they had a care package waiting for me! I had no idea they were going to do this, how amazing is that! 4 for you Glen Coco, you GO Glen Coco! #MeetTheWorld
Whenever I decide on a place to go, I usually Google, ‘things to do in XX’ to get an idea on what’s available and what the top rated attractions are. TripAdvisor is my trusted source of information because it compiles together a big list of things of which you can pick and choose your interests from. Typically, once I find what I’m looking for, I do a more specific Google search to find the cheapest way to do it (I’ve never actually bought a tour from TripAdvisor before). It’s also good because when you travel, often restaurants, excursions and activities have TripAdvisor stickers on the entrance indicating a score, rated by the users so you know it’s good.
#5: Sandeman New Europe Tours
When I first went backpacking, I remember being SO EXCITED to have found this goldmine free walking tour with Sandeman New Europe in Dublin! Later, I discovered these tours are actually offered in over 18 cities across the world, mostly in Europe. Recently, they’ve expanded to offer Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and New York. The tours are completely free but donations are requested at the end. The company also offers paid tours to local attractions, pub crawls (recommended), cultural/food tours and more. Definitely check them out before you next adventure! I’ve done over 10 now!
Xe.com is site that I always have a tab open to on my iPhone. It’s really helpful when converting currency on the go in real-time. They have an app as well that great for on-the-go which allows you set ‘rate alerts’ and receive push notifications anytime the exchange rate drops/increases.
#7: Virgin Travel Insurance
I’ve found Virgin to be the cheapest travel insurance provider for my trips. I paid £70 for a Silver coverage pack for Europe, and then an additional £12 for Israel, Palestine and Jordan coverage while I was there. The package I got allowed for adventure sports, flight cancellation, medical, lost luggage etc. Fill out the online form and request a quote.
#8: Government International travel advisories
Before going to the Middle East, I was monitoring regularly the Canadian and UK government travel advisories to make sure every where I was planning on going was safe. This is also a really helpful site when researching potential destinations for the future and any visas I may require. I would also caution that when looking at this to take some of this advice with a grain of salt. I find when reviewing these, it’s almost like looking at news headlines. It’s obviously going to only post the negative side of things because that’s why you’re navigated there. It’s not lying, but don’t let it scare you away!
Do you have any other tools that have helped you plan your next trip? Post them in the comments below!