I've been traveling solo for more than a decade (here's my story), and I've come across some great resources along the way. Planning a trip is my favorite past time, and I have go-to websites that I use each step of the way.
The websites below are what I currently use every time I have a trip coming up, and I stand behind them 100%. I update this page consistently to add all the great resources I come across that make my life easier! Bookmark this page to keep it handy.
If you have any questions about the best way to use any of the below sites, shoot me an e-mail or use the contact form, and I'll be happy to share my step-by-step process.
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There are so many sites out there to use when you look for flights. Personally, I find the best deals by subscribing to the alert sites below – and jumping on a good deal that matches a country on my bucket list!
To find the best routes available I use Google Flights and Skyscanner (and love playing flight roulette with both), then check Momondo and FlightHub to ensure I have the best deal possible.
The key to getting the best price is being flexible with dates and deciding quickly when you find a deal that's too good to be true, those are the ones that disappear the fastest!
Google Flights is always my first stop in trip planning! I've saved so much money using their price comparison calendar. I also love playing “flight roulette” by setting my departure and finding out the cheapest arrival city in a given month. It helps if you're flexible — I've flown from Toronto to Europe for as little as $300 with GF.
Skyscanner is my next go-to flight search engine. They also have the “flight roulette” option which I use often when I want to find the cheapest flight by departure point, arrival point, or travel month. I also have handy weekly travel alerts set up — if there's a flight from Toronto for under $200 to anywhere in the world, I'll know about it!
YYZ Deals is run by Chris Myden and showcases the best deals on flights leaving from Toronto! Since I scored my half-price return flight to Australia (hello $995!), it's the only e-mail I open immediately — these deals are so good, they go FAST! YYZ Deals also has sister sites with deals from 26 cities Canadian cities.
It wouldn't be a complete resource list without Expedia. I love using Expedia for vacation packages or when I need to get a hotel and flight together, I find they have the best combo deals for that. If you need to add a car rental to the package, the savings are even higher.
The best site for finding error fares! When airlines make mistakes in prices, the savings can be remarkable. If you're willing to take a risk on a flight that might get canceled, you might just find yourself crossing the ocean on a flight that cost you $75.
Do you have trouble deciding how far in advance you should buy a ticket? Well, Hopper to the rescue! They can predict prices of flights up to a year in advance, and they claim to do it with 95% accuracy — that's pretty impressive. They've been right every time I checked!
Momondo is another great site for finding cheap flights. There have been times when I bought a flight through here that I couldn't find on any other site for the same price. Before committing to any flight, I usually check Momondo just in case, and it usually pays off!
ITA Matrix is owned by Google. I only use it when I buy a flight on points and want to find the best flight option on an airline that has the lowest tax fees. This is how I paid only $50 for my flight from Athens to Toronto, with a free 10-hour layover in Egypt (during which I saw the pyramids).
Airport Lounge Access
Priority Pass gives you access to 1,200+ airport lounges around the world, and it's worth every penny. I now go to the airport early just to have time for the lounge. It's helped me find balance in my digital nomad career. It's worth the annual membership fee, but also offered as a perk by some travel credit cards! Get 10% off your membership.
Booking accommodation is an important step in the planning process, and I like to simplify it as much as possible.
For solo travel, I start with Hotels.com for the 1 for 10 deal and complement my search with Booking.com. If I'm not alone, I start with Airbnb instead, as it tends to be the same price as a hotel, but homier and spacier.
In pricier countries, I check out hostels first, either through Hostelworld, Hotels.com, or Booking.com.
I use Hotels.com the most because I get 1 free night for every 10 booked, which is great for long-term travel! For my 65-day trip to Australia, I racked up 6.5 free nights! Loyalty pays off and that kind of value is hard to match. I appreciate the option to pay at the hotel so I can book ahead of time, save money, and pay later.
Hotels in certain regions in the world prefer will sometimes choose between Booking.com and Hotels.com, so I use them interchangeably. Book 5+ nights to unlock 10% off, and sometimes more. It's also reliable and I love being able to book ahead but pay at the destination or cancel if something comes up.
I often use Airbnb if I'm traveling with a friend or in a group since it's much more convenient and cheaper. It's also my go-to when I want the local experience, I miss home, or when I want to cook my own food. If you're a first timer, use the link above and get $34 USD credit for your next stay, or $13 USD off an Airbnb experience!
Want to compare all the hotel sites and booking engines in one spot? Enter, Hotels Combined. This is my favorite website for comparing all the prices, they just make it easy and convenient.
Hostelworld is a great alternative if you're looking to save money, and stay in hostels. Not all hostels are listed on the other booking sites, and it's great to see them all in one place.
Transportation companies are usually regionally-based, so I've compiled a list of the companies I found most useful during my travels across North America, Europe, South America, Asia & Oceania.
Trains, regular buses, and hop-on-hop-off routes are great ways to see a country and an awesome alternative to driving, especially if traveling alone.
Rome2Rio is amazing. They find all the transportation options between A and B, including airlines, local buses, trains, and more. I use it often to plan transportation in areas like Eastern European and need to find local companies in the region.
Via Rail has an extensive rail network that can take you all across Canada. You can make it up to Churchill to see polar bears, to Jasper in the Canadian Rockies and more! Some wagons have glass tops to take in the scenery – hello, bucket list!
Eurail passes are available for travel around 31 countries in Europe but are open to all non-European residents. With so many destinations, it's a great way to see the scenic & photogenic routes that can only be accessed by train.
How does a $1 bus ride sound? Crazy, maybe, but also realistic with Megabus. You can make it from Toronto to NYC for $1, just one example. That's right, Megabus is mega-affordable with a sizeable coach bus network across Canada, the US and Europe.
I've been taking Greyhound buses for more than a decade and they're my go-to when I'm not driving. Taking the Greyhound bus across Canada, United States, Mexico or Australia is a great way to see each of the 4 countries, considering their size! Their network is extensive!
I've been taking the Flixbus all over Europe for a couple of years and I love it! It's a convenient and affordable way to move across countries. I've been able to travel from Romania to Slovenia for under $10 USD. They have 2,000+ destinations in over 30 countries. Handy!
Buses that allow the option to buy hop-on-hop-off are my new favorite way of transportation. I spent a month hopping all around New Zealand and it was a much cheaper alternative to a month-long tour.
Looking for a hop-on-hop-off bus network across Europe, Asia, and North America? Then you'll want to check out Busabout. They have winter tours, European music festival routes, island hopping options and much more! Your bucket list will never be the same. Great alternative to driving!
Peru/Bolivia Hop is a network of hop-on-hop-off buses that connect Peru and Bolivia. They're a great way to stop at all the amazing locations in both countries without a tour. You can get passes for various destinations and itineraries, ranging between 13 hours to 10 days.
I spent a month on Intercity buses hopping around the North & South islands of New Zealand last spring and I couldn't get enough. The buses were always on time, had WiFi, and were super comfortable. Book in advance to catch the best deals and keep your camera handy!
Australia is huge and this a great resource if you're looking to hop-on-hop-off at cities across the country. Build your own adventure across the vast country with flexible passes, individual tours or activities. The routes go through every city or attraction you'd want to see in Australia.
Car Rental & Ride Sharing
I tend to prefer walking, using public transportation and ridesharing while traveling. I find it much cheaper than renting a car, especially in cities! There's less headache with having to find parking as well.
However, sometimes renting a car can't be avoided and I've done many solo trips in the past year across Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Here are the companies I used.
Rentalcars.com is a great search comparison engine to finding the best rental car prices from around the world. It's awesome when you want to find the best price, since the cheapest company usually varies by region. Do your homework before you book, as with everything!
In the spirit of sticking with known companies, Hertz is my second go-to. I booked through Hertz all over Australia and New Zealand, where all the other rentals were much more expensive. Their drop-off fee to a different location is very low, reasonable and convenient.
SiXT can be found in the smallest and unlikeliest of places, sometimes where a lot of the other bigger players can't be found. Their rates are very reasonable and their service and cars are awesome! They have about 400 offices in over 100 countries, even on Milos island in Greece!
Lyft is another ride share option if you're traveling around the United States and Ontario, Canada. A lot of Uber drivers are also with Lyft so they complement each other. Lyft is usually cheaper than a taxi, especially in cities like Toronto! It never hurts to have more options. If you're new to Lyft, use code IOANASTOICA to get $20 credit toward rides.
I use UBER a lot more abroad than when I'm in Canada. It's so handy, and most of the time, it's much cheaper to use. If you have a local SIM card (which I always recommend), then it's even more convenient. It's also safer not to have to exchange cash while traveling. If you're new to Uber, use code IOANAS17UE to get $10 credit towards a ride.
BlaBlaCar is primarily available in Europe (22 countries) to find carpool rides. It works like an online marketplace where drivers can find passengers for specific trips, and vice versa. It's a trusted service and very popular in Eastern Europe. They even have female-only ride options, awesome if you're traveling alone and you want to try them out.
Sometimes when you're away, you need to be connected! I certainly do now, since I work online and need to keep up with work while I travel. I rely on Skyroam and ExpressVPN to stay connected and safe while online.
There's an app for every aspect of travel nowadays to help make your trip better, smoother, and more enjoyable.
My phone is filled with apps to help me book my flights and accommodation, plan my itineraries, track my flights and loyalty programs, find my way around, and generally just to make my life easier.
Check out my top recommendations for travel app to add to your phone while you're planning your 2020 trips
Sightseeing Day Trips
I love taking interesting day trips when I'm visiting a place for the first time, or doing something unique and different when I'm returning to a place I love. There are a number of companies I always use to find cool things to do.
Some have a special focus, like food or photography tours, and some have a variety of options, but all of them have day trips that are reasonably priced!
I recently started using Get Your Guide to skip the line at some European attractions and I'm hooked. The site brings together the best activities from around the world. They have free cancellation up to 24-hours in advance, convenient while traveling!
I discovered Viator last summer, and it's great for finding tours in destinations all over the world. From day trips, helicopter tours and much more, you may even find a tour that you didn't even know you were looking for! They're owned by Trip Advisor.
This one is for the Foodies! Eating Europe offers eating tours across 10 major cities in Europe – Paris, London, Rome, Naples, Florence, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Porto, Strasburg and Prague. They're amazing and a great mix of food and culture.
I love the Book Me sites, they're a one-stop shop for tours, conveniently organized by city. They're all I used when booking things in NZ and they have an amazing selection across all regions. The discounts are amazing, if you book in advance or are flexible, you can save some serious coin!
This is like the New Zealand version, but for activities and attractions in Australia! I've saved hundreds by booking through them while in Australia, as most activities and attractions have discounted dates and time slots you can choose and save up to 50-70% off the regular price. Score!
Hop-on-hop-off buses are one of my favorite thing to do in a city. Enter City Sightseeing, with tours in 100 cities across 6 continents. I've used them in nearly every big city I've seen them in and I love them because they stop at every major attraction and usually offer discounts to other activities, like biking or museums.
I recently discovered Tiqets – a ticketing platform for museums and attractions. I have found tickets on here that I haven't been able to find anywhere else. They have tickets to over 2,000 venues, including skip the line options to attractions like Sagrada Familia, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and more.
With groups as small as 6 people per group, these semi-private tours feel more like cultural seminars than your average walking tour, which is exactly what they're going for! You can find them in 60 cities across 5 continents. Use code EF0A4D43 to save $10 off your first trip!
This site has providers of free tours from over 124 countries, on every continent but Antarctica. I've been using them a lot, most recently in my hometown, Toronto, and I love the organization of the tours. You can choose to tip at the end if you feel you got value from it – but there's no pressure.
When it comes to what to do in a city, country or region, there are so many options to choose from, and it can get overwhelming.
I always start with my trip intention. Do I want a solo trip and check off attractions on my own? Am I going with a group with friends? In a group with strangers? Is it a location where a big group would work or do I want a small intimate group?
From there I check the companies below that match my intention.
I love Intrepid because they're a champion for responsible travel – they were the first to ban elephant riding on their tours in 2014. Intrepid has over 1,500 itineraries to choose from, in more than 120 countries and their groups consist of 10 people on average.
Another great alternative to finding tours. I find that the tours listed on Tourradar are sometimes different than on any other site. They're essentially an online marketplace for over 250 tour operators. You'll have many choices – over 25,000 to be exact!
Contiki is another great tour company, and they cater to the 18-35 crowd. The itineraries are usually fast-paced and pack a lot in, and groups are bigger than other tours. You'll have a chance to meet a ton of people and see a lot of amazing things.
This is another booking site for Australia but this one offers days-long tours, not just day trips to attractions. Their tours cover every part of Australia, including Uluru, Great Ocean Road, the East Coast, Tasmania and the West Coast. They often have sales so keep your eyes peeled.
G Adventures caters to small groups (15 people max) in over 100 countries, including Antarctica. My first trip with them was in 2017 through the Balkans. I'm still close to so many people I met on that trip. There are tons of tours available, for every travel style.
U by Uniworld proves that cruises don't have to break the bank! Experiential travel at its best. The cruises are currently in 5 countries in Europe (The Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria) and cover 22 ports. The Danube cruise is awesome, and only one of their itineraries. Ships even have a gym and bikes on board. Check them out.
River cruises are a unique way to see a country or region. Uniword is a boutique river cruise line, operating in Europe, China, Russia, India, Egypt, Vietnam, and Cambodia. With all-inclusive benefits and offshore excursions, the cruises are an experience. They're pricy, so if you are looking for a budget version, check out their U by Uniworld itineraries.
Another service offering specialized tours, this one is for photographers! You will love Discovery Photo Tours — there are 6+ tours in 2020 in awesome places like Tanzania, Italy, Japan, Iceland, Norway, Jordan, and Antarctica. They're not cheap but they include luxury accommodation, all meals, a professional photographer, and a local guide.
Canon has an amazing website, Outside of Manual, which is a great resource if you want to learn how to use the manual mode on your camera. My favourite feature of this site, is the Play module, where you can practice changing the settings to achieve the photo you want. You can even do challenges. Try it for yourself with the link above!
Digital Photography School is a great resource for those looking to improve their photography, posing and editing skills. They have e-Books, Lightroom presets and various courses. In fact, their Lightroom course thought me a ton and helped me become the editor I am today. Check out their newsletters too, they always have great photography tips!
Take your travel (and Instagram!) photos to the next level by editing them in Lightroom. The mobile app is free, but the desktop version is not, though it has more features and it's still reasonably priced. The Photography bundle includes Lightroom & Photoshop, for $9/month. The entire suite starts at $29/month and includes all your favorite products.
Travel Credit Cards
My travel credit card of choice! It's pricey, but you get a travel credit of $200 per calendar year. Inside tip: as long as your first year overlaps two calendar years, you can get this twice, then once per year. There are also awesome perks, like unlimited lounge access through Priority Pass, membership in Avis, Hertz and various hotel chains, all kinds of amazing insurance and so much more! Earn 60,000 AMEX points when you apply using the link below, and spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Best to use if you have a trip coming up or big expenses.
Travel Visas, Compensation & More
AirHelp is a great intermediary between you and an airline if you have ever experienced a delay or interruption on a flight from Europe. They take a cut, but you can be reimbursed 600€ per flight, so it's worth the fee. You can check your eligibility for flights up to 3 years old.
XE also has the currency exchange app I use daily when I travel, but their money transfer service is also amazing. You can send money online internationally, and not pay any bank wire transfer fees.You can send money to. over 130 countries in the world.
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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you purchase anything through them. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I use all the companies linked, and I recommend them because they've helped make my travels better. If you have any questions about any of the companies, e-mail me. For more information, read the disclaimer policy.