We trust you know the usual sites for booking hostels and hotels, but for true deals how about a little gambling? At Off & Away you can “win” a luxury room in a New York (or other U.S. destination) hotel for the price of a standard room. Here are some useful bidding tips.
Our Hostels resource page has plenty of tips you’ll want to know (like where to have sex).
And in case you don’t like booking blind, there are resources like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums, and Matador’s own travel forums where you can read/post reviews and ask questions of those who’ve been before.
Not interested in paying for lodging? That’s alright. Besides the uber-popular Couchsurfing.org, you’ve got HospitalityClub.org and GlobalFreeloaders.com to find a free place to stay. 10 Ways to Improve Your Couchsurfing Odds is priceless if you’re new to this.
Just remember, it’s never only about the free accommodations — the real takeaway is cultural exchange and broadening your perspectives.
We’ve covered this issue super in-depth at Matador. All you need is on our Packing Tips Focus Page.
Search JiWire to find wifi hotspots around the world. That way you can start or keep up your very own travel blog and let everyone back home know what you’re up to. Beats sending postcards.
Unless that postcard is sent from your iPhone.
Phone calls can be a bit harder to work out. Country Calling Codes will help you put together the mess of digits you’ll need to dial internationally. CountryCode.org is good too, and has other useful destination information.
Also, European travelers may benefit from learning How to Buy, Set Up and Use a Cell Phone in Europe.
Travel safety is #1. SquareMouth compares different travel insurance policies so you can choose what’s best for you. TravelInsuranceFacts should answer any question you might have about travel insurance.
A lot of Americans hate on the State Department’s travel advisories…with good reason. But if you like the idea of Uncle Sam knowing where you’re at and shooting you updated warnings, you can register here.
Through Whatsonwhen, you can search by city, date, and category to find parties, festivals, and other events taking place at your destination.
There are plenty of specialty sites (far more than we can list here) that you can use to find specific activities/opportunities that appeal to you, like hiking trails, rock climbing gyms, hauntings, free guided walking tours (Europe), audio city guides, disc golf courses (U.S.), cooking classes, Irish pubs, Hash House Harriers, geocaching, …
General Destination Info
The destination pages at Lonely Planet’s site are good for a general logistical introduction to place — facts like weather/seasons, transport info, and visa fees are covered. You can also download pdf’s of their guidebooks, by chapter.
Project Visa has more visa info than you ever wanted to know, on what looks like every country in the world.
No matter where you’re going, Localyte lets you put questions to local folks. As of this writing, a user who’d written in “Looking for a good beach town near Rio” had received 20 responses in 2 days.
Road Junky can help you plan your budget with their “Country Cost Comparison Tool.” And don’t forget the plastic: Best Credit Cards For Travelers.
Fodors has some very basic but also very free language lessons. You can even print out a pdf of key words to carry around with you.
And for everything Southeast Asia, you can’t go wrong with Travelfish.org.
Matador’s got you covered when you get back. Read about How To Reconnect With Your Friends After The Journey, 6 Simple Ways To Beat The Post-Travel Blues, and Facing Off Against Reverse Culture Shock.
For every website listed here there are probably a dozen we’ve missed. What are your favorite sites to use when travel planning?