Travel Tools & Resources
The companies and tools I list below are all ones which I've personally used to travel better, longer and cheaper, all over the world. Click each category's logo below and you'll be taken to that specific topic within the page.
In 2014 I decided to leave a field I’d studied and worked in for more than 10 years. I decided to “take at least one year and travel the world” and that’s where I find myself. I’ve learned and refined a ton of tips and useful advice related to travel, specifically traveling for very low cost or sometimes even free. You don’t need to quit your job, sell all your possessions and travel the world. Most people aren’t looking for that. They simply want to take a vacation, spend time with friends or family, and do it without burning through their life savings. It can be done. I’ll show you how.
Gear & Technology
A list of the top gear and items to pack when you travel
Earn rewards and travel bonuses when you shop online, IF you go through a specific portal
Guides & Ebooks
Look at the guides, checklists and ebooks I have to earn travel rewards
Travel Credit Cards
The top credit cards I’d recommend to earn travel bonuses and promotions
Airfare & Flights
A hidden gem that’s becoming less and less hidden, I have no idea how these guys don’t have a million facebook fans and twitter followers. Don’t let the simple website fool you, they collect flight deals, offers, discounts and mistake fares from throughout the airline industry and post them for you to see. They tell you the dates, details and other specifics you need to nab the fare, usually ones that are only available for a couple of days at most. They are not a booking site though, so you’ll have to go through the booking agent or airline to get it.
An excellent search engine, I've found Skyscanner to be especially helpful when searching for flights within Europe. It also picks up the low cost and budget airlines that some of the other major search engines seem to leave out.
Pretty much the standard bearer, especially for U.S. based flights. Use Kayak to get a sense of the general cost of a ticket, but keep in mind they do leave out a number of low cost carriers.
A tremendously fun and intriguing tool, Kayak Explore let's you see where you can go if you just want to travel, "Somewhere." Enter your city and the month or even general season you're able to travel and Kayak Explore will show you prices for tickets all over the world.
Accomodation & Lodging
A huge listing of home owners and renters offering up their houses, apartments or spare rooms. These are regular people looking to make some extra cash by renting out extra rooms and are often much less expensive than a hotel. SPECIAL BONUS: Sign up through this link and you’ll receive a free $25 credit to use on your first stay. That’s free cash right off the bat to cut down on your lodging costs.
With over 600,000 properties worldwide, Booking.com presents a great option to find a place to stay. What sets them apart is the ability to search not just for hotel rooms, but hostels, cabins, apartments, villas and more. I like them because I can see a lot of different options and then decide from there. There are also no booking fees on any reservation, a nice benefit when you’re looking to save money.
Right now this is my #1 preference site to book a hotel. In addition to a great selection and usually wide range of prices, you earn 1 free hotel night for every 10 nights you stay. I’ll take 10% of my rooms for free, any day.
International Hotel Group (IHG) includes a number of hotels such as Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. In addition I've found the best value by grabbing their “PointBreaks” which are hotels around world offering limited time promo stays for only 5,000 points (normally 15,000 or 20,000 points). While sometimes the promotional hotels are usually outside of large metro areas or in more out of the way places, but if you know how to manage this properly, you can get a tremendous value. I’ve used this most recently for a friend’s wedding and got an amazing deal.
Acting like a regular hotel search engine, Rocket Miles then gives you bonus frequent flyer miles when you reserve a room. It's not always worth it to book through Rocket Miles as sometimes their rates are higher than what other website are charging and their selection is lower. However if you can find a good deal, you can pick up thousands of extra frequent flyer miles on a single booking plus they allow you to select which program you want to earn miles for from more than 30 different airline options.
A start-up marketed to help you make money by booking a hotel and then writing a review. It’s a hotel booking site like any other, but allows you to then write reviews of the place you stayed. If anyone sees your review and books that hotel because of it, you get paid a commission. SPECIAL BONUS: Sign up for a free account using this link and get an additional $10 in free credit to use toward your first booking.
Cars, Buses, Cruises & Trains
While you can also bid for flights and hotels as well, I've found Priceline.com to be the most useful for rental cars by far. That's because Priceline's most useful tool is the "Name your own price" feature. While you'll most likely want to decide the details of your hotel or airline ticket, most people aren't tied to one rental car company over another.
An excellent search engine for cruises, it also boasts strong filter and search features to narrow down what you’re looking for. I’ve never booked a cruise without checking here first. They emphasize last minute cruise deals, so if you’re able to just pick up and go on a cruise in the next week, check here first and you can score an amazing last minute deal.
Also referred to as "The Man in Seat 61" this is pretty much the last website you need when it comes to traveling by train. Guides, maps, and ticket pricing for trains all over the world. If you're thinking of taking a train pretty much anywhere, stop by Seat 61.
The Free Cruise Challenge- Coming Soon
In February of 2015 I took the final steps to complete a goal I'd set the previous year; to get a 100% completely free cruise. And "free" means EVERYTHING from start to finish. From the cruise itself, airfare to the ship, a hotel and dinner the night before, even cash to spend at the casino or in the islands. I used a combination of credit card points, frequent flyer miles, and other travel techniques. See how I did it, and how you can too!
Gear & Technology
If I had to recommend one single item as the absolute must have for an airplane, it would be these. These sound cancelling headphones are worth absolutely every penny and since I got mine a few years ago, I've never gotten on a plane without them. I won't try to tell you otherwise, they are expensive, with the newest model costing just under $300.
However I was just as skeptical of the price. I laughed at myself for ever doubting once I started using them. They are nothing short of amazing. You really have no idea how loud an airplane is until you put these on, and then take them off to compare. Engine noise, annoying passengers, that guy who just won't shut up on the red eye flight... and the big one... SCREAMING BABIES.
Put these one, flip on the noise cancelling switch and add some music. Babies can scream their brains out for all I care. Doesn't bother me at all. They also work great for loud bus rides or really just any situation. The sound itself is crystal clear and can be used for any type of activity when you want to listen to some good music. Again, my absolute highest recommendation.
These things do the job. I fit all of my clothing for my Round the World trip in a single compression sack and then fit that into my backpack. Compression sacks expand to let you put clothing or even sleeping bags inside, and then "compress" down to about 1/2 the size. They even have straps you pull down to compress even more.
A "Virtual Private Network" is a must for anyone working on the road, especially while traveling through other countries. Encrypt your internet traffic and protect personal information while using cafe's or public wi-fi spots. Access videos/ tv shows or websites that would otherwise be blocked while you're in another country (China blocks facebook and google, but a VPN can get around that). I use Express VPN because they have good prices, solid customer service and more options for Google Chromebooks than any of the other VPN's I've found. I can access the internet and appear to be logging in from any one of 15 different countries. BONUS: Use this link to start any subscription and you'll get one additional added to your subscription absolutely free.
This is the backpack (in black) that I used to travel the world for one year. That's right, just a 28L backpack for a year of travel. I specifically wanted a backpack that was around 30L so I could avoid having to check it on smaller airplanes as well as since most travelers will tell you, "The bigger the bag, the more stuff you'll find to stuff into it." I found this to be a good size with lots of extra compartments including a space for a laptop. It also comes with a rain cover.
I knew when I started traveling the world that I wanted to stay in touch, do some light work, and continue writing (especially for my blog). But I also knew I had a five year old laptop that barely held a charge. I knew I'd need a new one but wasn't crazy about spending a fortune. A took a chance on a Chromebook and have never looked back. I highly, highly recommend this computer, which is fast, super light, and more than powerful enough for my needs. Chromebooks get a rap because they are mostly "only online computers" but I've found I can do almost everything I needed before. Plus in today's world there is an internet connection pretty much anywhere. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 comes with USB ports, and even an SD card reader. That means you can take out the card from your digital camera, insert it directly into the computer and upload your pictures. No extra cords or software required. The price is fantastic at about $330. The whole thing weighs about two pounds and I'm tremendously happy I ended up taking a "chance" on a Chromebook to serve as my computer while traveling.
I don't do any shopping online without first visiting EV Reward. Type in the store you want to buy from (Walmart, Macy's, Apple, etc) and simply by using the link EV Reward gives you, you'll get extra points or miles added to your account with airlines, hotels, etc. If you do any shopping whatsoever online, you're just throwing away free miles if you're not using a shopping portals.
Guides & Ebooks -Coming Soon
In 2014 I picked up more than one million airline, hotel, and travel points without flying on a single airplane or staying in a single hotel room. That's right... One million...simply through travel based credit cards and signup bonuses. Here I'll show you some of the best cards to apply for, use and start earning bonuses for cheap or even free travel.
Travel Credit Cards
This card has great benefits if you’re looking for an immediate way to redeem the bonus and plan on extensive travel, especially through Europe. The card earns 2x points on every dollar spent, includes a 40,000 “Arrival Mile” bonus, and it also includes chip and pin technology. This is not the same as chip and signature, despite what some people might tell you. Many countries are transitioning to chip cards, and in places like subway stations or train depots in Europe, the machines will demand a pin with your credit card. This card has it. You earn “Arrival Miles” through your spending, then when you make a travel purchase you can cancel it out at a rate of 100 points to 1 dollar. So purchase a plane ticket or hotel for $100 and redeem 10,000 points to cancel out the charge like it never happened. I used this card to do most of the heavy lifting to get myself a completely free cruise.
If I could recommend only one single credit card for someone looking to earn travel rewards without applying for a ton of new cards it would be this one. It uses “Ultimate Reward Points”which can either be used to purchase travel through Chase or a better value of being transferred to 5 airlines, 4 hotels, and Amtrak. You earn 1 point for every dollar spent or 2 points for every dollar spent on travel or dining purchases and points never expire as long as you have the card. The current bonus is 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. There is no foreign transaction fee, which is a must if you’re traveling, plus the card has no annual fee the first year. I used the points earned from this card to redeem for two first class tickets from China. At $6,000 for each ticket, what would have been a $12,000 bill instead cost me a total of $60 in taxes.
By Citibank, this card earns you points to use at Hilton hotel properties. The bonus works a bit differently though and that’s where the value comes in. Spend $2,500 in the first 4 months and you’ll receive two free certificates to use on a weekend night at virtually any Hilton property in the world. Then spend at least $10,000 a year and you’ll earn a free weekend night certificate each year you hit that spend. You’ll also have Hilton Gold status included, which can often get you free breakfast, internet and room upgrades. The fee is $95 (not waived the first year) and there is no foreign transaction fee. These certificates are tremendously valuable at expensive properties. I used mine to stay in Hawaii and saved well over $1,000 just in one weekend.
Though the “SPG” program is known first as a hotel program, with this American Express card you receive a 20% bonus when you transfer at least 20,000 points to any airline. There are more than 30 airlines that are transfer partners, making the options plus the bonus a powerful tool in your rewards portfolio. The points are a bit more difficult to earn, making them among the more valuable travel currencies out there. There is a foreign transaction as well, which precludes me from bringing this card on trips out of the country. The current bonus is 10,000 points + 15,000 additional points for a $5,000 spend in the first six months. But consider waiting until the summer to apply for this card. SPG has run a promotion every summer for the past four years, increasing the application bonus from 25,000 to 30,000 points.