Being on an exchange program is an excellent opportunity to travel around your new country as well as surrounding countries. Although booking plane tickets is often seen as the concrete way to confirm travel plans, that’s usually far from true unless your destination is an all-inclusive resort. Planning and organizing trips (especially ones that are aimed at cramming an entire city into the span of a weekend) while also being in school can get tiring and difficult.
Throughout the last few months I’ve spent countless hours confirming flights, finding accommodation, purchasing museum/tourist attraction tickets and bookmarking landmarks on Google maps. By planning one trip after another, I have discovered the most efficient way to go about travel preparation. Some of my favourite apps and resources for planning a trip include:
TripIt (On Apple Store and Google Play)
If you love to travel and haven’t heard of this app, you’re missing out on the only thing that keeps me grounded and organized during trips. Tripit has become my holy grail. I don’t know about you, but when I’m booking a trip (especially if it’s last minute), I often find my booking confirmations getting lost in all my junk mail. I constantly have to scroll through dozens of irrelevant emails to find that one flight number or Airbnb reference. After you connect your email to Tripit, all your booking details are automatically synced onto the app and categorized by location and date. This includes anything from dinner reservations to concerts to hostels/hotels. If the app doesn’t pick up one of your reservations, there is an option to manually enter the information for your booking.
There are hundreds of websites for searching through the cheapest flights but Skyscanner is my absolute favourite. I love that you can put in your current location and have “anywhere” as the destination. Skyscanner will show you exactly where the most cost efficient place to fly is and that’s a great tool to have if your destination is still unknown!
Traveling around the world can get expensive, especially on a student budget. Hostelworld is the most reliable and user-friendly site to find “backpacker” style accommodation. The great thing about Hostelworld is that it is continuously expanding. Now, there are also hotels, bed & breakfasts and more featured on the site. There is something for all types of budgets. It’s great to read through reviews and get a clear image of travel accommodation without having to worry about whether or not you’re booking from a legitimate site.
Maps.me (On Apple Store and Google Play)
The struggle of not having endless amounts of data becomes real when you’re hiking through a dirt path in the middle of nowhere without a single bar of cell service. Maps.me allows you to pre-download a city map of anywhere you want. It’s extremely convenient to have as you don’t need internet connection to use it, you can zoom in and out without freezing issues and bookmark specific landmarks. We all know how frustrating it is to follow outdated paper maps in a foreign city or attempt to zoom into a pixelated Google map, so this is the perfect solution to having a reliable guide.
Been (On Apple Store and Google Play)
This app is basically a digital scratch map. It includes all the cities and countries in the world and allows you to tick off the places you have visited, while showing it on a visual map. Been even gives you the exact percentage of what you’ve seen in each continent and in the entire world. It’s a great (and free) way to keep yourself up to date on all the places you’ve been!
Rick Stevens Audio Europe (On Apple Store and Google Play)
Forget paying extra to get a guided tour through the Colosseum, Pompei, the Eiffel Tower, Algarve, Streets of Madrid or anywhere else in Europe. Rick Steves Audio Europe is the best app I’ve downloaded on my iPhone to date. It’s completely free and contains enough knowledge about the entire continent to have you listening for months. Aside from audio guides on historic landmarks, there are also walking tour audio guides for almost every major city in Europe. You can download any of the audio guides using WiFi and they stay on your phone after you’ve disconnected. Don’t forget to bring a pair of headphones with you! Although this free audio guide is only for Europe, Rick Steves also has many other books and audio playlists for the entire world that aren’t yet featured on app stores.
I hope these resources will help smooth things out for the next time you plan a trip! You can follow the rest of my journey through the #RUAbroad series by RU Student Life and at my personal blog.