There are thousands of online travel resources to help you travel smarter and cheaper… actually, there are too many. It’s easy to spend hours wading through them all. So don’t!
That’s why we’ve gathered the crème de la crème. The best of the best. The… ok, you get my point.
Thanks to my prized Amazon Prime, I always check Amazon when I’m looking for new travel gear. But be sure to shop around because sometimes you’ll find a better selection from other online shops.
REI is the gold standard when it comes to outdoor gear so it’s the place to buy backpacks, shoes, socks, etc. There is also have REI Outlet — which often has good deals on previous season gear.
It’s hard to beat Zappos when you’re looking for shoes — they seem to have everything. Plus, their shipping is crazy fast and returns are easy. Additionally, they also have a good selection of backpacks and some clothing.
Best For: Shoes, backpacks, and socks.
Sierra Trading Post doesn’t have the selection of REI but they do have a lot of good deals on travel gear. Additionally, Backcountry sometimes has decent promotions.
Best For: Basic outdoor gear.
The Ultra World Famous Savvy Backpacker Packing Lists
What should you pack? What should you leave at home?
We got you covered!
World Nomads is the most popular travel insurance for budget travelers. I used them on my first trip to Europe and they get pretty good reviews from fellow travelers. And it doesn’t cover just health issues — it also covers trip cancellations, theft, car insurance, and a few other things. Signing up is quick and easy.
Airfare and Flights
There are hundreds of airfare websites so it’s easy to get lost down that rabbit hole. Don’t be one of those people that spend dozens of hours trying to save $10 on a $1000 ticket — remember, your time is valuable.
That’s why I’ve gathered the best booking sites below. Using these resources there is a 95% you’ll be able to find the best deal without spending countless hours in front of your computer.
If you want to get mired down in the nitty-gritty details of trying to save every penny on airfare then you should check out FlyerTalk.
Momondo is quietly an excellent airfare search engine that a lot of people don’t know about. Many times I find the best price here — especially for international flights/flights within Europe. They also have a few extra tools to help fine-tune your search.
Sky Scanner is the other site I always check when I’m looking for airfare. I’ve found that Sky Scanner is one of the best when it comes to looking at tickets within Europe.
I’m still a fan of Kayak and I always check them out when I’m looking for tickets. It’s especially good for finding tickets to Europe but it rarely finds the best intra-Europe tickets.
It’s Google so you know it has to be good. Google actually owns the software that all other airfare booking sites use. I like how Google Flights shows the price of flying into a number of airports around Europe — which is nice if your itinerary is flexible.
CheapOair excels at last minute bookings… but its prices are nothing special in most other cases.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is an awesome email list that sends you daily flight deals that are super cheap. There is both a free and premium service — I highly recommend this service.
Airfare Watchdog is great because it monitors airfare deals and then sends you alerts when it finds something. This is a great service if you’re flexible with your travel time.
Not all seats on an airplane are created equal so before you choose your seat you should check out SeatGuru. It gives a rating for every seat on every plane so you can get the best seat possible.
While it may suck, sometimes you just have to sleep in an airport. Sleeping in Airports list just about every airport and tells you the best place to catch some zzz’s.
Taking the train is arguably the best way to travel through Europe — but don’t forget about driving and long distance coaches!
Rail Europe sells rail passes and train tickets for most of Europe. Rail Passes can be a good deal if you take a lot of trains so you should do a little research on that option. Rail Europe also sells point-to-point train tickets but their prices are sometimes higher than if you were to buy directly from each country’s rail network website. Usually, you’re paying extra for the convenience of not having to deal with buying tickets for a foreign website.
Eurail sells rail passes (the same pass as Rail Europe) but I think they do a little better job of helping you choose which pass is the best option. I don’t think you’ll find much price difference between the two sites but they sometimes have special offers.
Seat 61 (aka The Man in Seat 61) is a no-nonsense website that covers just about every aspect of rail train in Europe. The entire site is run by a single English dude that obviously has a deep passion for rail travel. So, if you have a question about train travel, this is a great place to start.
The German National Rail Service website has train schedules for every train route in Europe (but it only shows prices for routes for German trains). It’s crazy.
Most major US car rental companies also operate in Europe — and Auto Europe searches all those companies for the best deals. I used them when I rented a car in Paris to visit Normandy and the entire experience went smoothly. Europcar is another similar site that you can check out to compare prices.
BlaBlaCar is “Airbnb” of ride-sharing and it’s exploding throughout Europe. The idea is simple — drivers post their travel itinerary and how much they’re charging for a seat. Riders then log in and search for drivers that are taking the same route. And, of course, prices are usually much cheaper than the train and you get a chance to meet a local.
Long Distance Coach Travel
There are a number of long-distance coach services throughout Europe. The largest is Eurolines and they have routes that crisscross the continent. Megabus is a discount carrier that serves much of Western Europe and they often have a limited number of super cheap fares (i.e. under $10).
BusBud is a solid website that searches multiple coach services for the best price/route.
It’s no surprise that I love Airbnb. It’s my first choice when I travel and I’ve rented an apartment over a dozen times (I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel).
Hostel World has been my go-to hostel booking site for 10 years. They are the largest hostel booking site and they make finding the perfect hostel simple. Alternatively, there is also hostel bookers (but they’re owned by HostelWorld so I haven’t found a difference).
Sometimes it’s nice to stay in a hotel and Booking.com has made my shortlist of hotel booking sites.
Priceline is nice because it lets you bid on hotels. It does take a little work and there are deals to be found out there.
No other company has changed the face of travel more than Trip Advisor. So it’s no surprise that you can book a hotel on Trip Advisor. They pull in results from multiple booking engines so it’s a great place to start your search.
Want to meet people and not spend anything on accommodation? Check out Couchsurfing! It actually takes a bit of time, luck, and flexibility to find someone to host you but it’s possible.
Whether you’re looking for a place to set up a tent or want to rent a cabin, camping can be a great way to slash your accommodation budget — or at least escape the city. The two main campsite finders are CampingInfo and Eurocamp.
Each country usually has a specific website for camping so just google camping + country and you’ll find something (i.e. Camping France).
Travel Planning and Inspiration
Rick Steves Travel Videos
Good ol’ Rick Steves has all his videos posted on Hulu (see here). Additionally, he has many full episodes available for free on his Youtube channel. Personally, I like watching videos to get inspiration for places to visit.
WikiVoyage is a crowdsources travel site that is basically the Wikipedia of travel. You’ll find a wealth of free information on each country and just about every city.
Reddit has numerous subreddits dedicated to travel.
r/travel (general travel information)
r/askeurope (ask Europeans questions about anything)
r/askcountry (ask country specific questions)
r/longterntravel (long tern travel community)
The major travel guidebooks also have free information on their websites. Don’t expect super in-depth information (that’s what their guidebooks are for) but they’re still worth taking a look.
Timeout City Guides — Timeout actually has a lot of good information about many major cities in Europe. The information skews to a young and hip audience, so it’s a good place to find trendy bars, clubs, restaurants, hip boutiques, and art shows.
Frommer’s — Solid source of basic travel information.
Lonely Planet — The Lonely Planet website has good general travel information for many cities and countries but their best feature is their Thorn Tree travel forums.
Rick Steves — Pretty good destination information and videos. Rick Steves is geared toward middle age Americans but a lot of the information is solid for all travelers.
Trip Advisor has a wealth of user reviews for restaurant and attraction reviews. I don’t rely on it exclusively because it’s well know to be full of fake reviews but I do think you can get a pretty good idea of a place by reading all the reviews.
Atlas Obscura is a website dedicated to the weird, strange, and off-the-beaten-path sights in cities throughout the world.
Rome2Rio is a journey planner that displays all the methods for getting between two (or more) places. For example, type in Paris to Budapest and it will tell you how to get there via air, train, bus, car, or a combination of multiple methods. It will also display an estimated cost and travel time.
It isn’t perfect so it probably misses some route options but it’s still a great planning tool.
Volunteer + Free Food and Accommodation
Looking for a different travel experience? Consider volunteering. There are a ton of people looking for volunteer help (usually manual labor) but they provide food and lodging. The three main websites to check out are WWOOFing, Help X and Work Away.
XE.com is a great site for easily checking current exchange rates.