Monday, February 18, 2013

Helpful Websites for Traveling in Europe

With tons of resources available on the interweb, it can be difficult to narrow down the most trust worthy and helpful sites for booking your flights, rentals, and hostels when backpacking through Europe. Below are a few websites I've been using for my travels.

1. Trip Advisor
Trip Advisor is one of many corporate travel sites that offer tips on where to go as well as reviews of hotels and restaurants in which ever city you wish to visit. I have found this site very easy to navigate. The attractions for each city are laid out clearly, so it helps new-be travelers like me narrow which cities are worthwhile to visit and which are not. The public forums are especially helpful, as I've found answers to many questions I've had regarding topics from safety to hole in the wall restaurants and attractions off the beaten path.

2. Rail Europe
Rail Europe is basically a one stop shop for train tickets in Europe. For other Americans out there who haven't made the transatlantic trek yet, the train system in Europe is very intricate and travels to almost every major destination in Europe.  The Rail Passes are great for extensive travel within a single country, such as France or Spain. However, I have found that single way tickets can be more expensive than flying if not bought far in advance.

3. EasyJet
I wish we had a company like EasyJet in America. The closest comparison would be Southwest Airlines. EasyJet is an airline that flies all over Europe for a fraction of the price of other major airlines. They fly to every major city, and allow one standard carry on bag for free.
TIP: You can save money by booking everyone's flight on one debit or credit card, each passenger saves you a little bit more! Also, booking with a debit card saves you a couple more dollars than a credit card.

4. Hostel World and Booking
Both of these websites are great for tracking down affordable accommodation. Watch out for booking fees! Once you track down the place you want to stay, see if the main company website or if another travel website is offering the same deal without a booking fee. usually has no booking fee and almost always offers free cancellation.

5. AirBNB
AirBNB is an example of consumer focused innovation of the BNB industry. Now, normal people can rent out rooms or entire dwellings and earn an income like any other BNB or hotel. With detailed reviews from both the home owners and customers, it makes it easy to find safe accommodations for short and long periods of time.
TIP: Read through all fees (extra person fee; cleaning fee; security deposit). Read the reviews carefully to make sure almost everyone received their security deposit back and to ensure that other people had positive experiences.

6. Couch Surfing
Looking to meet locals and experience the daily life of the city your visiting? Then check out couch surfing! Couch Surfing is an international organization that connects travelers with FREE accommodation all over the world. People open up their homes to travelers, and are usually more than happy to discuss places to visit and exchange travel stories.  Like AirBNB, couch surfing has a detailed review system to keep the site safe and honest. When surfing, make sure you provide a gift or service to the home owner to show your appreciation. The gift should be the equivalent to what it cost them to host you. For short term visits, taking them out for coffee may be sufficient. For longer term visits, make sure to do something more, such as helping with yard work or making them dinner. Basically, you don't want to make their life harder by being there. Simply think of the costs you would incur if you were hosting them in your home (i.e. food, water, electricity for a day). Couch surfing operates on the philosophy of reciprocity.

I hope you find these sites helpful in your trip planning. What are your favorite travel sites?

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