Welcome back :) Today I’ll be writing about some trip planning websites that saved my life when I was planning our European adventure!
I’ve taken a couple of trips before, but nothing more than a weekend or so. Those aren’t too hard to plan. Preparing for our 3-and-a-half week excursion around Europe was a lot different. We had to find the fastest and cheapest ways between each city, find accommodation in centrally located parts of town to limit public transportation costs, and figure out what to do and when to do everything. Incredibly daunting.
Below are seven online resources that absolutely saved my life when I was planning this trip. I hope they help you too :)
The Man in Seat 61 (aka the best website in the world)
We decided to do our trip completely by train. Unlike budget airlines, our other option, there are virtually no luggage limits, both size and weight-wise. Train stations are in the centre of town, whereas most airports are located far outside cities, resulting in spending more money and time getting to and from the city centre. And, with the exception of Eurostar, there is no security, saving us time and frustration with ridiculous limits on liquids.
So, we had a lot of research to do on trains. This website explains exactly how to get from one city to another. Basically you choose a departure city and then the city you want to travel to. And he will tell you the different companies and lines that will get you to where you need to go (prices and durations as well). It provides websites for buying train tickets online (which are very impossible to find for Eastern European trains). The author explains how night trains work, has useful information about different train stations, and even talks you through Eurail if you decide you want to get a pass.
Easy to use, this is the most useful website I found by far. And, it doesn’t just cover Europe; it covers trains around the world! Use it next time you travel.
In case you haven’t heard, I’m pretty obsessed with Airbnb. I’m not a hostel girl. I like my space. I like homey things. And I like to get to know locals. So, Siobhan and I decided to use Airbnb for the duration of our trip (with the exception of 2 stops). It was much cheaper than hostels (and hotels for that matter) but provided much nicer accommodation. We got to know locals, lived in more residential areas, and really lived in luxury for students on a budget. Next time you travel, you should give Airbnb a try.
For the two places we couldn’t find affordable/well-located Airbnbs, we stayed in budget hotels. Booking.com was our go-to website. It’s one of those price comparison websites that was really useful for our situation. You can filter by price, stars, accommodation type, review score and amenities. The reviews are detailed and the site allows you to book with or without putting down a deposit (depending on the room/hotel). It also lets you know when prices change.
While this isn’t one website, I used blogs to see reviews of what there was to do in each city we were going to visit. Basically google “blogs about visiting the Eiffel Tower” or whatever it is you want to do and hundreds of results will pop up. Blogs are much more personal than generic tourism websites and they often provide more insightful tips than them as well. A must for when you’re planning a trip!
I’ve become a huge fan of Yelp. We used it every chance we took to find good, local restaurants on our trip. It saved us from some real tourist traps and let us in on some great hidden gems. You can filter by price, location, open times, cuisine, etc. Definitely consider creating an account if you want to find some good restaurants on your next adventure :)
I used Lonely Planet for trip planning basics. Their city guides give you a list of the most popular things to do in each city, which is a great jumping-off point when figuring out what you want to do!
Eurail was a necessary evil for us. We decided to get a pass for our trip but it was such a hassle that I don’t think I would do it again. (I’m going to write a post about this later). The website was really confusing, but if you do decide to get a pass you’ll need to use it to make seat bookings!