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When I’m not travelling, I like to keep myself busy by researching for my next trip. And with my imminent trip to Germany, a trip to Japan in the pipeline, and possibly Italy in mid 2015, I’ve certainly been busy of late. Here are the travel resources I refer to most frequently, both in print and online.
1. 1000 Places to See Before You Die
This is probably the book that woke up that feeling of wanderlust in me. I still like to refer to it now and then, partly to see which places I can tick off, but mainly to get ideas regarding where I should head to next. I’m excited to see that a new book is coming out soon too from the same people, titled 1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. As a die hard omnomnivore, this is on my wish list for sure!
2. Lonely Planet guidebooks
Between the Rough Guides, Frommer’s and Lonely Planet, Lonely Planet are undoubtedly my favourite guidebooks for pre-travel research. The paper is higher quality, as are the glossy covers with lustworthy photos. I also love the liberal sprinkling of inspiring photos throughout the books, the handy “suggested itineraries” section at the beginning, the “highlights” section at the start of each chapter, the indexed and easy to follow maps, and the selection of useful phrases at the end.
3. DK Eyewitness Top 10 guides
Whilst I love my Lonely Planet guidebooks, they’re a bit bulky, not only taking up valuable luggage space, but also generally too heavy to be lugging around all day in my day bag together with my camera, sunnies, water bottle and essentials! This is where these Top 10 guides come in. They’re the perfect size, even fitting into a large jacket pocket. The covers, pages and maps are all thick and high quality to withstand the journey. I especially love the top 10 listings (I LOVE lists!) and the pull out map at the back which also includes a public transportation map. All this means that these books aren’t only great references for planning what to see and do – they’re also invaluable in helping you find your way around each city. And at £5.99-7.99, they’re cheap as chips!
4. City Walks travel decks
I bought the Paris travel deck on my 3rd visit there and had a great time exploring some of the less touristy nooks and crannies. These travel decks are great for those who have been to most of the major tourist sights, or who are staying in one city for a good length of time. I’d even recommend them for locals who’d like to explore their surroundings a bit more. The best thing about these travel decks is that they come in sets of 50 cards. Each day, decide which area you’d like to take a walk in. I found the walks quite short, so you’d probably be able to fit in 3 or maybe 4 walks into a day. Pop the appropriate cards into your day bag and off you go. No need to carry a big heavy guidebook with you all day. I’d love to be able to spend enough time in Barcelona, Rome, San Francisco, New York, Tuscany and Provence to be able to work my way through those travel decks. And the walks with kids look like fun too!
Wotif offers pretty good deals on last minute accommodation bookings, though choices are a little limited compared to other sites. I like checking the prices at Wotif before popping over to compare at…
Before I book any accommodation, I like to hop over to Tripadvisor and check its ranking as well as what other travellers have said about it. This will give you the most accurate impression of just how good or grotty the place is. If you want to see exactly what your money is going to get you, remember to check out the photos by other travellers instead of professional photos, which have of course been selected and edited to show off the accommodation in the best light possible. Not only are the reviews helpful, the Tripadvisor website is also very easy to use with a map showing exactly where your accommodation would be and links to the best available prices just a simple click away. Once you’ve booked where you’re going to stay, you can also browse the sights and attractions at your destination. Once again, reviews by other travellers will give a good indication of which sights you must see and which ones you can skip.
I only recently discovered Airbnb and so far only have good things to say about my experiences. I tend to select Airbnb over booking a hotel when I’m in the one city for a good length of time and require access to a kitchen and laundry facilities. Staying in an apartment is also nice for getting that “being a local” feeling. A few caveats – (1) Don’t forget to read the reviews of others who have stayed in a particular apartment before. I only book apartments that have received good reviews, and I even avoid places with no reviews, no matter how tempting the place looks. (2) Remember that your host will need to meet you in order to grant access to the property and show you how things work. This is not a hotel. There is not a 24 hour concierge. Therefore, try to arrive at a reasonable hour, and if you absolutely have to get to your destination at an ungodly hour, I would probably pick a hotel instead. (3) Read the property description carefully so you know exactly what you’re in for. Can’t live without wifi? Make sure this is listed as one of the amenities. Don’t fancy lugging your suitcase up 3 flights of stairs? Check that the apartment is serviced by a lift, and if not, double check what floor it’s on/how many stairs you’ll need to take before confirming your booking.
8. Google Maps
This is essential both before and during your trip. I always check a map before booking my accommodation to make sure I know where it lies in relation to the major tourist sights, and if I’m planning on using public transport, the Metro or train station, bus or tram stops. During the trip, it’s handy to have access to maps so you can find your way around easily.
Going to Paris and want to see the Sacre Couer? Here’s a walking tour of the area I’ve plotted for you using google maps.
As I mentioned in a previous post about haggling, every savvy traveller should know the exchange rate for the place or places they’re headed to. Travelling is expensive business, so it pays to monitor the exchange rate before you leave to ensure you get the best rate possible. While you’re there, there’s nothing worse than over-spending on tacky souvenirs, or worse, things you could have bought back home for cheaper. You can avoid these situations by knowing your exchange rate and working out how much each item is costing you in your home currency. Remember, every penny saved is another penny that can go towards your next adventure!
10. The Man in Seat 61
Everything you need to know about train travel! The Man in Seat 61 makes things easy for you by explaining what the best train (and sometimes) ferry options are for the routes you’d like to take AND how to get the cheapest tickets, usually directly from the local train operators’ website. This website will help you save lots of money compared to buying a rail pass or purchasing tickets through an overseas agency that marks up the prices and charges booking fees *cough* Rail Europe *cough*.
OK, so you won’t need the Man in Seat 61 to take this tourist road train, but he’ll be able to help you get from Paris to Rouen by train
11. Smart Traveller
If you’re an Australian, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has plenty of travel information and advice about visa requirements, safety recommendations, legal and health issues, and other important topics.
12. Opera Mini
Don’t forget to download Opera Mini onto your mobile device before you head off on your trip. This will allow you to browse for information about all the sights you plan to see quickly and cheaply. This is because the Opera web browser goes through a server that compresses the information you’re after, resulting in faster download speeds and less data usage. More time exploring instead of waiting for a webpage to load AND a smaller data roaming bill when you get home? Yes please! It’s also super intuitive and easy to use. Just hit that big red button at the bottom and off you go.
What are YOUR favourite travel resources? Do you use the ones I’ve listed, or are there others that I absolutely must check out?
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