Planning a vacation can be a time consuming endeavor, but if you want your trip to be a success, putting some effort into a bit of research is key. When I was a kid, my dad would check out travel guidebooks from the library, copy the pages that related to our trip, highlight key information, and then paper clip them all together to bring along on our journey. Fortunately these days, with all of the resources the internet provides, planning a trip is much easier. Here are my three favorite travel websites, and how I use each of them, when researching a vacation.
Once I have chosen a destination, Expedia is my first stop online. They have great search options for researching flights – allowing you to easily adjust preferences like dates, time of day and number of stops. I like to try several airports within an hour or two of my home – if a little driving is going to save me big money on a long flight, it is worth it. Expedia is also great for searching hotel options. Often they offer discounts if you pay upfront for your reservation, and you can include criteria like free breakfast in your search (which is key for me with a family of four!). However keep in mind that if you do have any special requests, like connecting rooms, you will need to contact the hotel directly.
I cannot recall the last time I traveled anywhere without first checking out the rankings and reviews on Tripadvisor. While there are other travel websites with destination reviews and rankings, none are as robust as Tripadvisor. Just search for your destination, then click on different categories like “Restaurants” or “Things to Do” to see which options have the highest ratings. Then you can read the reviews to get more personal insights from other travelers. Tripadvisor also allows you to save restaurants and activities that interest you, so the next time you login they are all right there organized by destination.
Though not as well-known as Expedia and Tripadvisor, I have been using Fodor’s for many years, and their travel expertise was available in guidebook form before the internet existed. My favorite thing about Fodor’s is the forums. The site has a very active online community and people with in-depth knowledge of almost any destination always seem to be ready for your questions. You can also ask general questions, such as advice about traveling with a pet. Their forums are easily searchable, so you can reference previous posts, and there are many insightful trip reports available as well.