Planning a trip can be very overwhelming. There's always so many questions and so many options that it can be hard to narrow down the best things to do. Nowadays we're thankfully blessed with the internet to give us tons of resources to help us but at the same time that can be a curse. There's too much out there now, but we're here to help you with that. I like to consider myself a semi-professional trip planner, but it's all thanks to these books and websites that I use to finalize everything.
1000 Places to See Before You Die
I'm a sucker for lists. I make lists, I follow lists, I just LOVE lists. So it's no surprise that this is one of my favorite go to books when planning a trip. Especially a new trip. Go ahead and call us tourists but we love visiting the "big" things the first time we visit places. We realize that they tend to eat up a lot of time and you're not "living like the locals" but at the same time, I wanted to go to Rome to see the Colosseum, I wanted to go to Orlando to see Disney World etc, etc, etc. Well the great thing about 1000 Places to See Before You Die is that it has all the big things but it also has some great secret gems that you don't want to miss that will make you feel immersed in the local culture of the place you're visiting, which we just love. You get a bit of the big guys and the local culture all in one trip. It has recommendations for places ALL OVER THE WORLD. So you're bound to find at least one cool thing to add to your itinerary by looking up your upcoming destination.
How about filling in your itinerary from world renowned itineraries!? We love the 36 Hours books because they help with adding in good fillers to your itinerary. We tend to spend more than 36 hours in a location so we don't just follow these itineraries to a tee (plus what would be the fun in that!?) but we like to pick out fun and interesting things to do from the different itineraries in the books to fill our time. Whether it be a good restaurant recommendation or an interesting place to see after visiting a big attraction. They are a great resource to filling in the gaps with either things you shouldn't miss while visiting or to help boost that locals feel that we all crave when we visit somewhere. They are also logical. That is the key thing to making a great trip itinerary. You don't want to be bouncing around a city, that's a huge waste of precious time. These books will give you a good idea of where to go before or after you pick a can't miss activity or restaurant on your list.
Where Chefs Eat
So I know I said one of the biggest reasons we went to Rome was to see the Colosseum, but we also went to Italy for the food. We love good food. We base a lot of our time on trips around meals, so it's important for us to pick out the best places to eat so that we ensure ourselves for having the best time possible. There's nothing like a terrible meal to bring down your day. Where Chefs Eat is the best resource for this. Yes, you're going to get some really popular recommendations out of this book but 99% of the time it's worth it. You're also going to get some "hole in the wall places" out of this book. Again worth it. This book doesn't lie when it comes to good food. We've eaten at some of the greatest restaurants around the world thanks to this book. We always try to select at least 1 restaurant that we go to from the book if not more.
This website is my everything when it comes to international travel. It is honestly my best kept secret, but I'm going to share it with all of you. Trip Masters is a site that will help you get the best price on air fare, hotels, and transportation. I especially like it due to it's ease of multiple destinations. You just keep inputting everywhere you want to go on your trip on the front page with how many days you'll be in each location and when you click continue, it spits out a trip total price along with the flight, hotel, and transportation info. I love the total price feature and it also gives you a breakdown of how much it is per person. You can customize your flight itinerary if you'd rather leave at a different time of the day or fly a specific airline. You can upgrade your hotel. You can upgrade your train seats. Whatever you want. When we booked our honeymoon, we used this site and this is how all the magic happened. I decided to look at the different flight options it was giving me to look at layover options to see if maybe I could get more or less time in London (6 hours seemed too short to explore but too long to sit in an airport) and noticed that there was an extremely long layover in Istanbul on the way to Rome and and on our way back to the States. This is how we ended up going to Istanbul on our honeymoon. We had a day before Italy and a day after Italy. It didn't add to the length of time we were away from work. AND it saved us over $1,000 USD. I then used some of that money to upgrade our hotel in Pisa and we ended up being able to get a suite and still saved $1,000. They also have pre-made itineraries available for purchase like 6 nights in London and Paris for $950 or 6 nights in Bali and Singapore for $1,050! I've never seen another planning site come close to prices like that.
So I've talked your ear off about Trip Masters for international travel, now it's time to talk your ear off about Skyscanner for domestic US travel. This website is great for finding the best deals on air fare in the US from every single air line. Sites like Expedia and Priceline tend to leave some of the big guys out...like Southwest!? Skyscanner pulls all of them. It will show you the cheapest flight for your selected days and gradually increase in price as the list goes down. My favorite feature of the site though is their "Everywhere" destination feature. On the homepage you fill in your starting destination and when you click on the To field it will ask you if you want to look everywhere. If you click on it then it will auto fill that in for you and you can search the best flight prices for everywhere in the world for an entire month. This is great to use when you are in the beginning stages of trying to plan a vacation. Not only will it give you an idea of how much you'll need to pay for air fare but it can give you some great ideas of places to travel to! Who knows, maybe you'll decide you want to go on a spontaneous trip next week because the site found you such a good price on air fare for some place you've been dying to go to for years! Just something to keep in mind though, they don't incorporate any fees into the prices they have listed. So you'll have to do a little digging to see your actual final price but it's a great starting point and will offer some hope that you don't have to break the bank to go on your next vacation.
No, we're not crazy Yelp reviewers, but we do love using the site to find good restaurants to eat at when we travel. We use this site in conjunction with our Where Chefs Eat book for picking out our amazing meals that we have on our trips. Most of the time when we pick a recommendation out of our book, it can be a little difficult to put it into our itinerary in terms of logistics. But we make it work...if you have to drive to the best restaurant in town, then that's what you gotta do. The best part about Yelp is that you can input a neighborhood/attraction within a city plus enter in what meal you're looking for into the search criteria. So for example if I want to find a great restaurant near Grant Park for lunch in Chicago, I can put Grant Park, Chicago for the Near field and lunch for the Find field. The site will then give you a list of the best reviewed restaurants near that location for that desired meal time. This helps so much with finding the best places to eat after you go to an attraction. You probably want to stay clear of picking the place right next to the attraction as it's usually a trap, and that is where Yelp comes in handy. When it comes to the reviews, just be a little careful. Read more than one and take bad ones with a grain of salt. If the restaurant has 4 out of 5 stars and the most recent review is bad, it could have just been a fluke or just wasn't that person's taste in food/atmosphere. So I try to read at least 3 reviews if not more before I make a final decision to add the place to our itinerary or to move on to the next place on the list.
What are your favorite resources to use while planning a trip? Please share in the comments below! We're always looking for great new tips and tricks to try out when we travel.
The Cabrera Crew
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