These are just a few of the useful links I use in planning trips. If something is here, it is because I use and love it.
Oh my goodness, I love this website/app. It has revolutionised how I put together itineraries. All you have to do is sign up, and then simply forward confirmation emails you receive from anywhere you book (hotels/planes/trains/restaurants/tours etc) to firstname.lastname@example.org and TripIt drops it all into a itinerary which you can access on a smartphone, calendar, or anywhere online. It’s like magic. Plus you can share the itinerary with other travellers, so The Poolboy and I can both access the same itinerary straight from our phones.
This is the Australian government website where you’ll find all things useful for travel, including the place to register your travel plans (if you’re Australian). I usually register all our plans before each trip – just because you never know. By registering your details, the Australian Government can contact you in an emergency. You can also sign up at the website for travel advisories for specific countries or browse information on each country – entry requirements, health and safety, local laws, where to get help. This information can be helpful even if you’re not Australian, and sometimes I check out the US and UK equivalents (US Passports & International Travel and Foreign Travel Advice respectively) just to see what they’re saying about destinations.
A huge travel community website, which offers advice from real travellers through forums and reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions. There’s also linked planning features such as hotel booking tools booking tools, and a GPS-enabled ‘find near me’ when you’re on the move and have a mobile device linked up – very handy for checking out reviews of nearby restaurants. Users often upload their own photos of hotels, and I use these (rather than the ‘official’ photos) together with reviews to get a sense of what a place is really like. And because it is a community which relies on users contributing reviews, I usually also add some whenever I stay somewhere, eat somewhere or do something. Plus, if you link it to your Facebook profile, you can read your friends’ (or friends of your friends) reviews first, closing the degrees of separation between you and the reviewer.
There are Time Out guides for a number of cities worldwide, and I usually sign up to a particular city on Facebook a few weeks (or in some cases, months) out before a trip. There’s various ways to get Time Out updates – email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… They give a great sense of what’s going on in the city – great restaurants, activities, shopping, shows…as well as insights into each of the neighbourhoods.
A very useful site if you hate to be stuck in the back row of a plane with a seat that doesn’t recline and the queue for the toilets forming right next to your head. You just enter the airline and relevant flight number (plus date, if known) and SeatGuru gives you a detailed plan of the aircraft, shaded to show seats that are particularly good (such as extra legroom), some that you should be wary of (proximity to the loos or no storage), and ones to be avoided (reduced legroom or recline or no window). It also shows the in-flight amenities such as food, entertainment, in-seat power ports, bassinets and Wi-Fi, and again, users can contribute specific feedback about particular seats.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still like to both send and receive real, snailmail postcards. But I’m not so old-fashioned that I can’t find new ways to do it. This app is fabulous. Take a pic on your smartphone, add captions (if you like), type up the message on the back of the postcard and then you just select a recipient from your contact list, press send and within a few days, there will be a printed postcard in their mailbox. You pay for the printing and postage via credits you’ve already uploaded onto the app – depending on how many credits you buy at a time, a postcard mailed back to Australia costs between US$1.60 and $4 (and half that to a US address). No need to buy stamps and find a postbox!
(I’ll keep adding to this list…so check back again soon).