Best Travel Sites

in
By: Jamey Ordolis, Steven and Chris' Web Wonder Woman

I know people traveled before the web existed... but it must have sucked compared to now! Hours spent on the phone with airlines, hotels and travel agents to find the best price; showing up to a hotel praying it still looked like the photo in the five year old brochure; lugging around travel books, dictionairies and maps? Doesn't sound like any fun to me.

But I'm spoiled. By the internet. And by all of these amazing travel sites that will help you make your next trip a dream.

Let me know what you think of these and if you have any other great ones to share in the comments below.


Planning your trip

The world literally is at your fingertips.

Whether you're trying to decide on your travel destination or already know where you're going, the Lonely Planet Travel Guides site and Wikitravel will teach you everything from what time of year to go, to how to avoid the latest gypsy scams.

I like to hit the search bar on the Lonely Planet site, pick a city, then immediately go to related shopping listings, but that's just me. Art, culture, restaurants, activities - they've got the most comprehensive general information on a city, plus lots of photos and blogs from their writers.

I like to read Wikitravel as well for a complete picture of the place I'm headed. Plus, Wikitravel loads easily on my phone when I'm actually traveling and I want to look something up quickly.

But if you have a smartphone you must check out the Lonely Planet's mobile applications. I relied heavily on the Lonely Planet iPhone app during my summer trip to Paris.


Booking it

Once you know where you're headed and what area(s) you'll be staying in, it's time to book your travel. We all know the travel discount sites by now, but just in case, here are a few of my favorites:

Hotwire
Orbitz
Expedia
Travelocity
Priceline

And a smart traveler won't book anything without visiting Trip Advisor first, for the largest resource of user reviews on flights, hotels and things to do. You can also compare prices form various deal sites and share your own reviews with other travelers.

If you'd like to stay somewhere a little more "authentic" than a hotel, renting an apartment (or heck, a villa!) might be for you. HomeAway helps you find that perfect home away from home from a huge resoure of vacation rentals around the world, from cottages in Aspen to penthouses in Athens.

And if you can't find a vacation rental in TripAdvisor.com, you can always check out the location and surrounding neighborhood using Google Maps.

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Switch to Street View to get a good look at the building and its surroundings. I like to use this before going anywhere new, especially when I'm traveling, so that I know what landmarks to look for when I get there.

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And the Satellite View is also pretty cool and really helps you get the lay of the land. I really like this view if I want to see where my hotel is in relation to sites, restaurants and shops on my list.

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Doing stuff

When I'm in a new place, I want to check out all the great shops and restaurants and out of the way places only the locals know about, in addition to the must-sees.

I used to tear pages out of magazines... then lose them. But then I found Fabsearch, which keeps record of travel articles from websites, glossy magazines and trendsetters, so you don't have to worry about keeping track of tear sheets anymore. You can search recommendations from Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle Magazine or search by city.

Chowhound is the site for all you foodies out there. Just type in a question about the type of restaurant or recommendation you're looking for in a given city and the huge Chowhound community never disappoints with their suggestions. This example of a guy who asked for help finding a restaurant in Rome to propose to his girlfriend in is one of my favorites. Browse existing discussions by city or go ahead and post a question yourself.


Packing

A fun and easy tool to help you get organized and get packed is the Packing List Online, which takes you through a series of questions then generates a packing list for you based on where you're going and what you're doing. You'll never forget your flip flops or your snorkel again.


Talking

The amazing Google Translate tool blew me away! It allows you to type in words, phrases, even paragraphs of text in one language and then automatically translates that text into another language of your choice. Not sure how to pronounce the translation? Click the Listen button to HEAR IT! Seriously.

Here are a couple of examples, but you really must go play with it yourself now. There are 50 languages to choose from.


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Sharing

Okay, 50% of the fun of traveling is bragging about it afterwards. It's one of my favorite things to do. But I have seen my friends and family leave their bodies while I take them through hundreds of photos on the computer or the flat screen. So, I've found two great ways to share your travel photos and stories in a really fun way...

Travelpod is the ideal travel blog site for someone who wants to tell the stories to go along with the photos. You can sign up for a free account, read other people's travel blogs and share your own adventures and recommendations. It's easy to create your travel profile and add a new travel blog for every place you go, with multiple entries featuring text, maps, photos and videos. I'm more likely to do this daily, as I travel (especially when I'm jet lagged and can't sleep at night), but you might also prefer to write a retrospective account of your journey once you've returned.

I love how easy it is to share your posts on Facebook and Twitter and by email.

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If you're all about the photos, you MUST try the Trip Wow slideshow creator. It's fun, it's so easy to use and it adds all kinds of great bells and whistles to jazz up your photo slideshow - like animation based on your location. You can also add captions to your photos and upload your own music.  No one will ever be bored by your travel photos again!

Check out this slideshow I created with Steven and Chris using the photos from their trip to Southeast Asia. It's really easy to share your slideshow on Facebook, Twitter, by email or embed it in your blog, like I did here.

WATCH STEVEN AND CHRIS' SLIDESHOW:

Our Trip to Southeast Asia Slideshow: Steven's trip from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to 5 cities Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Halong Bay was created by TripAdvisor. See another Thailand slideshow. Create your own stunning free slideshow from your travel photos.




If you do create a travel blog or slideshow, we'd love to see it so please post the link in the comments below or ask me any questions you might have about these sites.

Happy travels!

Jamey Ordolis
aka Web Wonder Woman


 

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