Wednesday, May 2, 2012

5 Travel Websites I Couldn't Live Without

Travel blogs and websites sparked my wanderlust
 and  inspired me to move to Scotland!
Travel websites are like microwave dinners: there's a million different kinds of them out there, but most of them are unsatisfactory and flavorless.  Still, I've had a lot more luck in my quest for good travel sites than I've had trying to find a good hot pocket. I just had to dig around to find them- a lot aren't nearly as well-known as they deserve to be.

After a good year of browsing travel blogs, transport websites, and tourist forums, I find myself coming back to these five sites again and again:

1. Skyscanner There's a lot of flight aggregators on the world wide web, but I've had the greatest success with this one.  I especially enjoy it's "cheap flights from" feature, which lists the least expensive destinations from your chosen airport- great for opportunistic budget travelers like me who don't have a specific destination in mind.

2. Twenty-Something Travel: A blog by an American college graduate who decided to ditch her desk job to travel the world, this inspired me to start Marie on the Move. Stephanie Yoder writes about everything travel-- accommodation, solo travel, and budgetting are frequent topics-- but she really finds her stride in introspective articles about the philosophy behind the backpack.

3. The Indie Travel Podcast:  A little over a year ago, while planning my great adventure in Scotland, I saved money by working the graveyard shift at a factory.  The only thing that kept me moving through months of mindless, repetitive work was listening to episodes of this quirky podcast. Craig and Linda, the Kiwi-born couple that created it, have produced over 200 episodes.  They cover  every travel topic imaginable, and their website's interactive forum hosts community of like-minded backpackers across the globe.

4. The Guardian’s Backpacking page- For a journalism student with travel writing ambitions I read very little professional travel writing, preferring blogs to newspapers and magazines. It seems so much travel journalism is posh, aimed at the upper middle class-- I can't afford the seaside resorts and fine dining promoted in this type of work.  That said, British newspaper The Guardian’s website has travel articles for every budget- including an entire section on planning gap years and backpacker holidays.

5. Solo Friendly- Every now and then someone will tell me how brave I was to pack up my life and move overseas.  As flattering as this is, the truth is millions of people travel on their own, and lots of these individuals are more daring than me. Take Gray Cargill, this blog's author. She's explored seven countries and 21 US states all on her lonesome.  Whenever I find myself putting off a trip-- whether i an excursion to Ireland or a trip to a new restaurant-- because “I have no one to go with,” I spend a few minutes on this site, which reminds me of the thrill of self-reliance that comes from solo travel.

Of course, these five sites are by no means the only sites I use.  I also rely on old favorites like Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet, and if I blocked Edinburgh International Festival's website from my web browser, I could reclaim hours of would-be study time from imaginary itinerary planning.  So I suppose the internet does have a lot more than microwave meal travel journalism... I'd better up my game if I ever want to measure up to an impressive crowd of online travel writers.

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