In our travels to over 50 countries, we’ve learned a lot of lessons and tried out all kinds of websites, booking tools, gear, and travel resources. This is a collection of the best travel resources we’ve found for trip planning, packing, and buying gear, along with our personal recommendations for how we travel and what we use.
Building a timeline and checklist
Getting ready for a trip is always exciting. There’s lot of anticipation of the fun you’ll have, but it’s a time for planning, too. Here are some of our top tips:
- Passports – If you don’t have a passport, apply as soon as possible. If you do, check the expiration date. Many countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond your stay and/or that it has a certain number of blank pages, so think about renewing yours if you’re cutting it close. In the US, it’s possible to renew your passport by mail.
- Visa requirements – Some countries require visas to enter the country depending on the origin of your passport, so check visa requirements well before your trip. US citizens can check the State Department website for details. Canadian citizens can find entry requirements here.
- Vaccines – Depending on where you’re traveling, you may need to get travel immunizations. Visit the CDC travel website or the World Health Organization’s Country-specific Reports to see what immunizations are required and recommended for different countries. It may also be a good idea to go to a pharmacy or clinic that specializes in travel vaccines because they can help you uncover potential issues you may not be aware of.
- Insurance – If your insurance doesn’t cover you and your possessions overseas or there’s a chance your plans may change, consider travel insurance. From health insurance to trip cancellation, there are different types of travel insurance policies that have varying coverage and prices to meet your needs. Travel insurance may not always be necessary, but it’s generally better to be protected.
For even more details about what we put on our checklist, check out our article.
Flight booking and travel hacking
Kayak is our favorite search engine for flights originating in the US. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great place to get a sense of availability, costs, and options across airlines.
Skyscanner is great if you’re looking for flights between countries outside the US because it taps into airlines that Kayak may not – especially regional carriers and budget airlines. It’s also a good option for finding flights from a specific country to “anywhere.”
Expedia’s extensive search options may return different airline combinations and prices than other websites.
The Points Guy
A great resource for understanding the best ways to earn points and miles is The Points Guy. They always have the most current deals, often before anyone else.
Nomadic Matt’s Travel Hacking Guide
Budget travel expert Matt Kepnes provides tips and tricks for traveling for free with points and miles.
We recommend using an online points or mileage tracker like Points.com to keep track of points/mileage balances.
Booking.com is a great search engine for finding hotels, B&Bs, and other types of accommodations at low prices.
Using Airbnb to rent a room, an apartment, or a house can be a great way to have a very different experience in a city than staying in a hotel, often at a lower cost. Sign up through this link and you’ll get credit on your first stay. (For more details on getting the most our of Airbnb, check out our post.)
Similar to Airbnb, VRBO has a wide selection of vacation rentals.
Driving can be a great way to see areas of a county that aren’t accessible (or at least convenient to reach) by public transportation. It also lets you set your own schedule and have more flexibility in your trip.
Tips and Advice
We’ve rented cars and driven in countries all over the world. Here are a few of the most important things we’ve learned and some resources for making driving abroad a stress-free experience.
- Get an International Driving Permit (IDP) – Strictly speaking, an IDP is not required in every country, but it can be beneficial to have, and your rental agency may ask for it. Check the local laws in the country where you will be driving (such as on the U.S. State Department website). It is well worth the $20 investment and you can get it at your local AAA.
- Book ahead – Outside the US, many airports are smaller and have a more limited selection of rental vehicles. You can also get stuck with a car type that is not conducive to your trip (such as not getting an automatic if you need one). Over time, we’ve found that it is best to rent from a major international chain (i.e., Hertz, Sixt, etc.) that can provide services in English if something goes wrong. However, in recent years, we’ve been extremely impressed with the prices and customer service provided by reputable consolidators like Auto Europe and RentalCars.com.
- Get insurance – Most countries require some type of insurance. You can obtain insurance coverage through the purchase of a specialty policy or get coverage through your travel insurance or credit card benefits.
- Learn the rules of the road – Learn all of the internationally recognized road signs and make an effort to learn country-specific signs. Your rental agency may provide you with an overview of common road signs and our book is also helpful in this.
Even more information about the ins and outs of driving overseas is available in our ebook, The Essential Guide to Driving Abroad. It covers topics, including:
- Driving on the left side of the road vs. right
- The International Driving Permit explained
- Booking a rental car
- Demystifying rental car insurance
- Rules of the road overseas
- Driving in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia
- Road guide with an overview of traffic and parking signs
Hertz operates in 150 countries around the globe. They have good deals, reliable service, and an extensive network.
Sixt is one of the largest rental car companies with over 4000 locations in over 105 countries. They focus on the premium rental car market, but at economy prices. We’ve always found good value with Sixt.
Auto Europe is a rental car aggregator that searches at least nine different car companies for the best deals. Auto Europe car rentals are not exclusive to Europe – you’ll find deals all over the world. We’ve used them almost exclusively over the last few years on our international trips.
Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Spinner 20
This lightweight, hard-sided suitcase is a great carry-on option
Osprey Meridian Wheeled Luggage
This versatile bag can be wheeled like a roller or carried like a backpack, so it works for whatever your needs are or whatever terrain you’re facing. We love it so much, we own two.
Size, weight, material, and price are just of the few important things to consider when buying luggage. There’s no perfect answer because everyone needs something different from their choice of suitcase. Websites like Amazon can be an important source of user reviews.
Some of our best packing tips and resources:
- Use packing cubes – Packing cubes are great for separating different types of clothing or outfits, and they’re very helpful for organizing a bag of any size
- Cover your shoes – Shower caps make perfect covers for your shoes to help ensure your clothes don’t get dirty and your shoes don’t get scratched
- Follow the 3-1-1 rule – You can fly with a quart-sized bag full of 3.4-ounce (100 milliliters) containers of liquids, gels, and creams. Make sure to only use a quart-sized bag (not gallon-sized) and separate it from your carry-on luggage when you go through security.
- Use travel container alternatives – For a short trip, you may not need all the liquid that can fit in a 3.4-ounce travel-sized container. If you can manage with less, try filling contact lens cases with the products you need and save the room.
- Bring a spot treater – Throw in a Tide To Go that will let you address any minor spills along the way.
- Ask yourself if you need it –If an item isn’t absolutely essential, leave it at home. If it turns out you truly need it, you can almost always buy one on your trip.
For even more information, see our full article on packing tips.
Noise canceling headphones
Great noise canceling headphones are necessary for tuning out.
Eye mask and ear plugs
A plush eye mask and ear plugs is the best combination we’ve found to help with sleep on a long flight.
This all-in-one charger works for a variety of tablets, phones, and even cameras.
Resealable plastic bags
Quart-sized bags are great for taking liquids through airport security, but they’re great for other things, too. They can be used to organize cords, batteries, or other small things. They’re also great for packing damp items like bathing suits that may not have dried completely.
First aid kit
A small first aid kit is a must for us. While many of these things can be found when traveling, when you’re sick or have hurt yourself, it can be hard to get to a pharmacy in a timely manner.
- Neosporin or a similar triple antibiotic cream
- Benedryl or other anti-histamine pills
- Moleskin for blisters
- Deet product (if going to an area with Zika)
We’ve used a Nikon for nearly a decade. This one makes a great travel camera, especially when paired with a 18-55mm lens. It offers all the benefits of a DSLR at an attractive price-point.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV
A pocket-sized camera, it works well in low-light, shoots in RAW, and takes great video.
Fantasea Underwater Housing
Specially designed for the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III and RX100IV digital cameras, the housing is depth rated to 60m/200 feet. We use it for pretty much anything involving water. (For other non-photographic snorkeling gear we use, see our in-depth post here.)
GoPro Hero 5
GoPro set the standard in the action-camera market.
Slightly bulkier than the GoPro, the TomTom Bandit is a sleekly-designed waterproof camera. The Bandit also excels in still photos, making it an exceptional all-in-one action camera.
See our full article for more recommendations on travel cameras.
Read anything you want on the road.
Otterbox Defender iPhone Case
This case will protect your phone from just about anything you can do it. It’s saved our screens many times.
WD 4TB Black My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive
After a couple of failed laptops, we back up everything religiously, and 4 TB last a long time.
Our favorite guide books are the Rick Steves Europe series because he provides great logistical information and Frommer’s, which usually include nicer restaurants and recommendations for things like shopping, spas, and more high-end experiences.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
- The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
- Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer
- Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
- Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
- The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy
- Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
- The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
- The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club by Marlena de Blasi
- Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole
- The Turk Who Loved Apples by Matt Gross
- The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
- Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places by National Geographic
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: Revised Second Edition by Patricia Schultz
- Lost in Translation
- Into the Wild
- Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Midnight in Paris
- Monsoon Wedding
- Little Miss Sunshine
- Long Way Down
- In America
- Lawrence of Arabia
Some links may be affiliate links, which means Travel Addicts may earn a few pennies to help with the web hosting, all at no additional cost to you. Our recommendations are unbiased and are based on our own personal usage and research.