Thought I’d take you through the scary labyrinth of my mental processes in planning a trip.
I’m one of those people that’s always looking up information, on, well, most things! but especially my interests. I think one reason I waited until now (31) to start the travelling I’ve always wanted to do was not having enough information on just how feasible traveling could be. Granted, travelling on the cheap is NOT for everyone. But it’s really possible and much easier than one would think! Since the art of travelling itself is one of my interests, I’ve been able to find some really great websites that I go to right away for information.
http://www.wikitravel.org Really provides a great overview of all the attractions in each town, transportation, food, and lodging. So much information!
http://www.lonelyplanet.com This site is great to post an itinerary once you come up with it, and get feedback from other members. It’s also a good site to ask any specific questions you may have, you will get answers here when you can’t find information anywhere else on the web. Plus the conversations on the Thorn Tree Forum provide much inspiration!
http://www.whc.unesco.org/en/list This is a list of all the UNESCO sites. These are sites that are culturally or ecologically important to mankind and the planet. It gives a good jumping off point for your trip. I try to see UNESCO sites when I can, and I’ve never been disappointed!
http://www.seat61.com This is an amazing, amazing resource and inspiration on train travel! It’s laid out really well and has details for train travel all over the globe! I’m planning a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, with New Zealand after, and decided to use trains now as a theme for the whole trip (and it’s super cheap and efficient, with good food and scenery and locals!)
And of course, your search engine of choice. This will often turn up sites specific to each country, for instance, the great http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com that helped me find directions, activities, and great places to stay (and even a 40% discount at one place!) in Turkey.
Once I decide where I’m going, I use kayak.com as a starting base for finding a good flight. There are various frequent flyer sites that I’ve found info on, but really I can’t use a lot of the information since I mostly have just earned miles from actually flying, not from big credit card or banking bonuses (no shame on that, I just don’t have those opportunities available to me mostly). I’ll do some hat-tips when it’s relevant. They’re still pretty fun to read, I find, just to see what’s possible.
Two last sites for booking a place to stay are http://www.hostelworld.com and http://www.tripadvisor.com. I honestly don’t love hostelworld (not awful, just not outstanding) but with the free Gold memberships that waive booking fees offered occasionally from Nomadic Matt (subscribe to his mailing list! He’s also got a rather nice site at http://www.nomadicmatt.com, as well as a book on budget travel now, too) it’s a no-brainer. Trip Advisor has reviews on activities as well as hotels/hostels/etc, and often includes information on guesthouses and hostel/hotels that are not found on any other site.