Here are some sites we found particularly helpful when planning our trip, as well as many sites that we reference on an almost-daily basis right now... Depending on your travel style, results may vary.
General Long-Term Travel Planning Advice
- Vagabond: Rolf Potts' advice on long-term RTW travel. Start with the book and go from there. We dare you to not be inspired.
- BootsnAll: travel guides, long-term travel tips, success stories from RTW travelers - all in all, a super handy site.
- RTW Expenses: one couple's detailed documentation on expenses for their 1000(ish, so far) day journey. We're doing something similar and will post summaries now and then... Also includes lessons learned and general travel tips.
- Nomadic Matt: lots of helpful tips, country by country, to maximize your dollar while traveling. We actually bought his book as well - a lot of it is common sense but there are also tons of resources we hadn't seen elsewhere.
- Charles Schwab offers a checking account with an ATM-fee-free debit card (well, the local bank deducts the ATM fee upon each withdrawal but Schwab refunds everything back into your account at the end of the month). You do have to also open a brokerage account and maintain a small minimum balance there, but it's totally worth the investment - this debit card has been invaluable.
- Many credit cards charge foreign transaction fees that can really add up. A few months before you leave, shop around for a card with no FTFs and a reasonable credit limit.
- Hostels.com: our go-to for hostels in Central and Western Europe. Affordable lodging options searchable by facilities, room types, distance from city center. Not just for noisy dorm rooms, either - many hostels offer nice private rooms and provide kitchens making them much more affordable than hotels in this part of the world. Hostels.com includes written (not just rating) reviews by other travelers, which we always read prior to booking.
- Agoda: searchable hotel listings that include savings on fancypants hotels as well as HUGE discounts on smaller guesthouses and 1-/2-star hotels. Also includes verbatim reviews from other travelers. We've relied heavily on this when booking our SE Asia accommodations.
- Booking.com: a handy backup to Hostels.com in Turkey and Morocco; we found some great deals on private rooms that were cheaper than shared rooms at hostels. Also great for SE Asia - these days we usually search Agoda and Booking and then pick the best option. Same disclaimer - read the reviews before booking!
- Couchsurfing: we had the most luck in Australia but it seems to work great for other international travelers. If anything we hope to list our future couch to other travelers when we get back home. It's the least we can do, karmically speaking, after this journey!
- Skyscanner: the flight app we use the most. We've found prices there to be better on average than Kayak. It's flexible on dates and locations; just search flights from a country to "everywhere" to see cheapest rates across a range of dates. It has a flight alerts email feature too. (We have not tried the hotel or car hire options on this site. If you have, let us know how they worked out.)
- RyanAir: probably your cheapest option if you're traveling around Europe. Just read the terms and conditions carefully; not printing boarding passes and exceeding baggage weight will seriously cost you!
- Pegasus: A Turkish airline expanding slowly but surely, and definitely competitive pricewise with RyanAir. We flew with them from Izmir to Barcelona and really enjoyed the service (and the safety video - absolutely priceless).
- Vietnam Airlines: your best and sometimes your only option for flying around Vietnam. Flights within the country are still not as cheap as buses or trains but this airline offers lots of daily flights to major hubs if you're crunched for time.
- Air Asia: for SE Asia travelers (duh). Their prices are definitely competitive, and we did fly with them a few times, but check their safety record...
- Lonely Planet: the go-to travel resource for frugal travelers. Easy access to activities, accommodations (through Booking.com), and food ideas in specific cities. Sometimes their recommendations veer to the touristy side, but their Thorn Tree forums always have good tips if you want to go off the beaten track. (You can also post questions in Thorn Tree, but many participants seem to have too much time on their hands and constantly offer snarky remarks or less-than-helpful information.)
- Rough Guides: the go-to travel resource for those wanting something more off the beaten track. This is becoming a more popular series and (we think) is therefore leaning a little more to touristy areas and less adventurous travelers, but their site also has a "community" section where you can share/receive advice about random places from fellow travelers.
- Trip Advisor: this definitely leans toward the touristy areas and pricier accommodations/restaurants. We've found some really great cheap eats and local attractions through TA though, and we're doing our part to increase visibility to the lesser-known spots where we visit. But the best part about being a member is that we've also been able to contact fellow travelers who visited specific lesser-known places to see exactly how they got there, who they hired as their guide, which local bus they took, etc. And we've been contacted for advice as well.
- Wiki Travel: updated in real time by real, usually frugal, travelers. So when (for example) you're looking for information on traveling from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw via the Ou River, and the travel agents don't speak fluent English, this is the site that will tell you the river is now closed to boat traffic due to dam construction and you have to take a bus. (Dangit.)
- WikiSherpa: an app available offline that describes itself as "a mash-up of Wikivoyage, Wikipedia, and OpenStreetMap" - Patrick swears by this app and it's been really helpful, as long as we remember to download our destination before we get on the bus!
- Rusty Compass: an independent handpicked travel guide for Vietnam and Cambodia. We found some great lesser-known spots in Vietnam; the information can be sparse at times but at least it's a jumping-off point for more research. Prides itself on no advertising.
- Travelfish: tons of really great advice for frugal SE Asia travelers. Lodging, food, attractions, and more.
- Stickyrice: an independent traveler's blog about the delicious street food of Hanoi and sometimes other parts of Vietnam and SE Asia. This site was really helpful during our two months in Vietnam!
- Twitter: we have a travel-related Twitter account. We have a couple hundred strangers following us. However, we rarely use Twitter, other than to announce links to our new blog posts. It's too time-consuming and there's just too much noise. Once in a while, though, a specific city search will lead to a blog that gives us exactly what we want to know about where we're going.
- BBC: really helpful for keeping up on world news.
- Google: in all honesty this is where most of our searches start.
Will Work for Lodging/Food
- WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms): an international nonprofit organization promoting organic farm learning opportunities. Participants get room, board, and hopefully an awesome learning opportunity in exchange for 25-35 hours of manual labor each week. Opportunities are searchable by region, type of farm, etc. and hosts can also search for available volunteers based on current location. Hosts and volunteers are encouraged to review each other after a gig; host reviews are visible to other volunteers and volunteer reviews are visibile to other hosts. We WWOOFed five times in Canada and had amazing experiences each time; another five times in Australia and we are absolutely sold. Travelers should note that each country has its own web site and requires its own annual membership fee - possibly the only down side.
- Help Exchange and WorkAway: also usually provide room/board in exchange for a variety of help opportunities - working in hostels, building an extension on a house, helping on a farm, participating in a community service project... The options are pretty endless. So far we've HelpEx'd at an organic vineyard, two community service projects and a rescue horse facility; our one WorkAway experience was at another community service project. Results definitely varied but we have no regrets about any of our experiences. Both web sites require a small annual fee but list opportunities worldwide, so it's a pretty good deal.
- Global Helpswap: a searchable donation-sponsored database of volunteer opportunities around the world, plus travel tips and other helpful info. We've done some searches but we haven't signed up for an opportunity through this site yet. Recommends that hosts give preferential treatment to volunteers who have donated to keep the project going, but otherwise seems as legit as Help Exchange or WorkAway.
- Habitat for Humanity International: offers international opportunities to build homes for poor families. Builds are usually two weeks and include cultural/local activities and team building. It costs to participate but half of the costs go directly to the local Habitat affiliate and you can fundraise any/all of your participation costs. You will have to fund your own transportation to the country... or do it our way, and find a Global Village build in a city you'll pass right through anyway!
- Housecarers: especially popular for housesitting opportunities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. Sometimes requires care of dogs, cats, or farm animals. We spent 12 lovely days watching two adorable cats in Melbourne and we are hoping to leverage this on our southern US road trip.
Is there a site you reference all the time that isn't listed here? Leave it in the comments and we'll check it out!