I can’t remember the last time I unfolded a paper map, went through the yellow pages looking for a hotel, or got lost on the roads of a foreign country trying to find a certain restaurant. Nowadays everything you need is a smartphone or a laptop and from time to time access to the internet. There are countless websites and apps that can help you with everything you need for your trip: from finding a travel destination to finding the best chai latte in the visited town.
Here are some of my favorite and most-used websites and apps (and they’re free!)
This is probably my most used app. Type in your destination and find thousands of options for food, shopping, nightlife, museums and outdoor activities in the surroundings. You can easily see the price range and the overall grade of the different establishments, rated by previous visitors. People can leave comments as well, so you have hundreds of mini reviews that can help you decide if you want to go for the ravioli or the pizza in the Italian restaurant you’re sitting in. Sometimes there are special offers for foursquare users. If you do your research in advance you can save places in your history, to easily find it back on a later instance. Minus point: this app does not work offline.
This app is very similar to foursquare, but has a longer existence and has more active users. It also features non-touristic businesses like hairdressers, carpet cleaners and even doctors.
You probably have this app already, but you might not know this: if you browse the map of your surroundings while you have internet access and save the places you want to visit (by clicking on the yellow star), you can use the map offline! Super practical when you don’t have a Starbucks on every street corner to use the Wi-Fi.
This famous website gives you the chance to book someone’s house, or a room in their house. Many people enjoy this feeling of living like a local.
With the popularity of Airbnb growing, the prices have gone up as well, depending of the city. You can often find cheaper deals staying at a hotel, but the question is what you are looking for in your stay. If you like things to be taken care of and put risk of getting a bad surprise as low as possible, go for a hotel. If you just want the local experience, don’t mind having to change expectations and like some interaction with people, Airbnb could work for you. You can find bed and breakfasts on Airbnb as well, if you want to have an experience somewhere in the middle.
If you are signing up for the first time, you can use my link to get 20$ discount on your first booking (this gives me a 20$ discount as well).
Looking for a hotel in a certain area, but you don’t want to pay the full price, and don’t mind a little surprise aspect? With Hotwire you can select your criteria (place, amenities, star rating) and choose the hotel of your choices. You see the place of the hotel (with a radius of a few km), the price of the hotel, the amenities and the star rating, but you don’t get to see the name of the hotel. Only after choosing and paying, you receive the full information of your booking. A few years ago we managed to stay in a 5-star hotel in NYC for a few days for half the normal price, and this summer we stayed in a nice hotel with swimming pool and free breakfast in Orlando for only 35 dollars a night! One side note though; the reservations can not be canceled so you will not get any money back if you can not make it for whatever reason.
This saved me in New York City: an app that has the whole subway map built in, and works both online and offline. You can use it online and find your most efficient itinerary from point A to B, but the map is also usable offline. These maps are available for many big cities with a subway system, like London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and even Amsterdam.
Planning a roadtrip? This website makes it a bit easier by showing your itinerary, the price of gas and all the different sightseeing and accommodation options. It’s a fun way to start drafting your trip, but I would complement it with an app like Foursquare or Yelp (or Tripadvisor), because roadtrippers alone does not always give a complete picture of opportunities.