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My grandfather drilled it in me from a very young age to always consider my purchases carefully. He even got me a subscription to Consumer Reports‘ kids magazine (Penny Power, then rebranded as Zillions at some point) that I read faithfully every month! To this day, I always research, compare, and test before making most of my purchases or signing up for a new service.
As a frequent traveler, I’ve gathered a handful of reliable, affordable travel resources. From hotels and transportation to luggage and blogging, here are my top travel resources.
Find a place to rest your head for a night or a home-away-from home for your travels.
If you prefer a home away from home vibe, AirBNB (psst…you get $40 off your first stay with my link!) is a great way to find a place to stay while traveling. AirBNB is a network of people who rent out their entire home or rooms within their home. Prices vary depending on location and type, so even if you’re on a tight budget, AirBNB is still a great option for a place to stay. AirBNB is expanding the user experience, too, with its new Experiences section. Not only can you book a place to stay, but you can book things to do, too!
I don’t have personal experience with Couchsurfing, but do have a few friends who swear by it, which is why I’m adding it to my recommended travel resources. Basically it’s a way to network in the area you are traveling to and find a FREE place to stay (sometimes just a couch, hence the name!) and make new friends.
As with any internet service where you exchange personal information or meet up with someone offline, keep your guard up. Be picky about the connections you make and places you choose to stay. My friends who have used Couchsurfing have made friends all around the world thanks to this site, but also acknowledged a few creeps might find their way into your inbox (sound familiar, Tinder users?).
If you have a last-minute trip in mind or change in travel itinerary and need a place to stay, check out Hotel Tonight for last-minute hotel deals. The app can only be used to book from same day up to 7 days from when you need it, so it can’t be used to book lodging in advance.
Airfare + Transportation
You have to get from here to there somehow, right? Here are my favorite ways to travel outside my home base.
I LOVE Skyscanner for booking flights! While Skyscanner can be used to book airfare, hotels or vehicle rentals, airfare is where it really shines. If you know when you have time for a trip, but can’t decide where to go, enter Everywhere in the destination field. This will bring up a list of places you can go sorted by lowest to highest price. You can also search to find the cheapest month or week within a specific month if you know where you want to travel to.
Save on gas and avoid traffic by taking an Amtrak train across the US. While enjoying your train travels, use your travel time to read, listen to podcasts, catch up on social media or have a chat with your travel partner. Beats having to focus on the road, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic or dealing with crappy drivers!
Luggage + Travel Accessories
Backpacks + Bags
There are a couple of backpacks and bags that I use regularly. Burton and North Face are my go-to brands due to their lifetime guarantee to repair or replace if anything were to happen to your bag.
I use the Burton Canyon backpack as a carry-on for flights or for short trips if I don’t want to take a suitcase. I’ve had this backpack for over 4 years now and it looks barely used even though I use it frequently.
While I sometimes use my Burton backpack while out and about during the day while traveling, sometimes I want something a bit smaller. I prefer to use my North Face Women’s Borealis backpack as a daypack or for hiking trips.
Sometimes I prefer to carry a shoulder bag instead of a backpack, so I also have the North Face Laryssa tote. This roomy tote is great for short trips and doubles as my gym bag!
My go-to brand for any kind of luggage is Burton. If you’ve skipped over my section on backpacks and bags, the #1 reason I prefer Burton is their lifetime guarantee to repair or replace luggage and bags if anything happens to them. Burton started as a snowboard lifestyle company, so their luggage is well-built and durable enough for active, adventurous travelers. And don’t laugh – but I freaking love the wheels on their rolling luggage! They use skateboard wheels, so the luggage glides so smooth and super quiet.
I currently use the Burton Wheelie Double Deck when I need to check luggage and the Burton Charter Roller as a carry-on.
I do not travel without using packing cubes, even if it’s just an overnight or weekend trip! Packing cubes can help with both compressing clothing (so that you can fit more!) and keeping your bags organized. Once I get to my destination, I can unpack the cubes into drawers, with the top folded underneath. That way, I don’t have to root around in my luggage. Everything stays organized and easy to reach.
I started off my packing cubes love affair with a combo pack and slim pack, both from eBags. I’ve since purchased a set of medium cubes, as I tend to use that size the most. I use the slim packs for undergarments or for an extra outfit in my carry-on. If I have a long trip, I use the large cube for shirts and dresses and medium cubes for bottoms. I use the medium cubes for PJs or shirts and dresses on shorter trips. I use the small cube to keep important items organized in my carry-on or daypack, like snacks, medication, etc.
Earlier this year I also purchased the padded pouches from eBags. I use the large one for my power bank, Skyroam, and various chargers and plugs. I use the smaller ones for jewelry.
Cameras + Camera Accessories
I love to capture my travel memories through photographs and videos. I have a bunch of photography equipment, but these 4 are my favorite affordable tools.
A selfie remote comes in handy for when you want to get a picture of yourself, but you don’t want to leave anyone out of the photo or keep running back and forth to set the timer.
GoPros are my favorite digital camera at the moment, aside from my beloved iPhone. In my opinion, they are a step above the typical point-and-shoot digital camera due to their durable and ruggedness. The GoPro HERO 5 and 6 cameras are even waterproof!
Gorillapods are one of my absolute favorite camera accessories, regardless of which type of camera you use. These bendy tripods can help you get amazing shots without the need to drag around a full-sized tripod. They even have a model with magnetic feet. You can also add an attachment to hold your smartphone.
Last up is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 instant camera. These candy-colored cameras are the latest reincarnation of Polaroid-style cameras. They are so much fun for parties, group trips, and backpacking adventures.
While my first smartphone was an Android, I crossed over into Apple fandom many years back and have no intentions of going back. I am currently using the iPhone X (looooove the camera’s Portrait mode!). I love that I can use it to call, text, email, take pictures, get directions, book accommodations, and so much more, all on a tiny handheld device.
If I anticipate the need for a laptop while traveling, but don’t want to lug it around, I use an iPad Pro 10.5 with the smart keyboard cover. It’s like a baby-sized laptop! While I do have a Kindle, I only travel with it if I’m expecting to read outside, like at a beach or sunny resort. Otherwise, my iPad fulfills that need.
To keep my devices charged while on the go, I rely on a rechargeable power bank. I am currently using the 12000mAh charger from DULLA, which can recharge my devices a few times on a single charge. It’s larger than my phone, which isn’t great when I want to stick to a small crossbody bag during the day. In that situation, I recommend the Mopower 3000mAh portable charger. It’s slightly larger than a tube of lipstick and can charge a device ~1 time on a single charge.
Tours + Activities
Viator is my go-to for finding tours and activities where I travel. Viator is like a broker for local tour and service companies. What I love about it is you don’t have to root through Google search results and worry about whether a local company is a good pick or worse, whether it’s even legit. Viator takes care of that vetting process, so you can be sure you’ve picked a reliable tour or service.
My favorite tour to date was a historical walking tour through Paris that discussed what life was like during World War II. It was a fascinating way to tour one of Paris’ gorgeous neighborhoods and learn more about its history. I’ve also booked airport transfer through Viator and each time it has run quite smoothly and was cheaper than a taxi or shuttle at the airport.
Another provider I like for tours and activities is CityPass. CityPass is only available in a handful of US and Canadian cities, but it’s a fabulous deal nonetheless. In a nutshell, CityPass offers a discount on select attractions in each city it operates.
I have used CityPass in Atlanta, GA, so far, and look forward to using it again in the future.
I love the National Geographic walking guides, which include walking itineraries for select destinations. These guides are great for those that like to explore cities on their own, rather than pair up with a tour guide for the full week. I hope they’ll expand beyond US and European cities in the future!
If you’re looking for a good read for your next flight or beach bum vacation, here’s a few of my favorite travel-related reads. My post about the 10 Best Travel Memoirs by Women might also pique your interest. Here’s a few more of my favorite travel-related books:
Whether you’re into travel blogging or blogging for some other topic, it pays to start off with a solid set of tools, like a solid design and good hosting. From there, add on tools to help you automate or manage your time better.
There are many blogging and micro-blogging platforms out there, but none are as good as WordPress. WordPress has 2 versions: WordPress.com (free to use and hosted for free) and WordPress.org (free to use, but you need to find your own hosting).
You might be tempted to start off on WordPress.com, but I don’t recommend it if your intent is to make money off your blog (even if it’s just a side hustle, not full-time). Cheap hosting can be found, and you’ll avoid the headache of eventually having to move to WordPress.org when your blog takes off. All the authority and trust built on your WordPress.com URL will be undone when you switch to a self-hosted domain and site.
I use the Genesis Framework and Infinity Pro Theme from StudioPress. There are many advantages to using the Genesis framework as the base for your theme. It’s lightweight, secure, mobile responsive and easy to customize without worrying about breaking anything. If you choose to change your Genesis theme in the future, you only have to pay for the theme, so you don’t have to worry about a hefty fee when your site is in need of a design makeover.
My website is hosted on Dreamhost. I initially started on their basic shared hosting plan, but switched to the Dreampress plan when my hosting plan was up for renewal. I’ve used Dreamhost since the late 90s on my personal and business ventures throughout the years and have recommended for just as long. Hands down, they have one of the best customer service teams I’ve encountered – not that I’ve ever been in a pickle big enough to depend on it. But, with the few times I had questions or needed assistance on something with my website, they
I manage my Pinterest account with Tailwind. Tailwind is a Pinterest-approved tool that enables you to setup pins to be automatically posted to your Pinterest boards. I manually pin throughout the week, but keep my feed active throughout the day using Tailwind. Plus, Tailwind’s Tribes tool is a great way to find pins related to your blog or business and in turn, support fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs by pinning their pins.
I use Social Warfare Pro for the awesome social media sharing buttons and “popular posts” widget you see throughout my site.
What are your favorite travel resources?