On this page you’ll find a collection of all of my favorite travel tools, including sites I love and my favorite travel books to read while on the road (or not on the road). I’ve also included my favorite blogging tools as resources for bloggers and freelancers. Enjoy!
Skyscanner – This is my go-to site for booking airfares. I love the “to: Everywhere” search feature and the ability to see flight prices throughout an entire month in one click. I usually start my search here then navigate to the airline’s website to buy the tickets.
Secret Flying, TravelPirates, The Flight Deal – These sites consolidate amazing flight deals from around the world and web. I follow all three on Facebook so I see alerts when there’s a random $500 roundtrip flight to Hawaii, etc. Only caveat is that you have to be pretty flexible time-wise to take advantage of the deals.
Airbnb – You know this one. Go stay in someone’s home or rental property while traveling as opposed to sterile hotels.
Hostelworld – I use this site when looking for hostels while traveling. Reviews from fellow travelers are super helpful in narrowing down my choices.
Couchsurfing – I love CS. Just make sure you establish ground rules for yourself to stay safe and comfortable whilst surfing. For example, I’ll only stay with female hosts while traveling alone.
BlaBlaCar – A great site for arranging rideshares around Europe
SiteGround is incredible for web hosting. I started with their StartUp plan but soon upgraded to a GrowBig account so I could host multiple domains. Their customer service is literally the best customer service I have encountered with any company ever. If you’re starting a blog and looking for the best host, I can’t recommend them highly enough.
The Theme Foundry offer this amazingly customizable drag-and-drop WordPress theme for free. I use the premium version but the free one has a ton of options, especially for a free theme.
I wrote up this post for newbie bloggers looking to get started. I go through how to pick a domain, set up self-hosting, connect to WordPress, and more.
If, like me, you don’t have the Adobe Creative Suite, Canva is your answer to all things graphic design. I make all of my Pinterest pins there, and use it for media kits, infographics, and even one-page resumes. The site is generally free unless you want certain upgrades.
Learn how to build a website for your business with this free five-day class. Every day you’ll receive a video in which Shannon walks you through step-by-step how to set up your site from zero to hero. You’ll use the same blog theme I use (Make), but the free version.
Facebook Blogging Groups
I belong to a few Facebook groups in which bloggers and online entrepreneurs promote each other’s content by sharing blog or social media links. I recommend Grow Your Blog for blogs of any niche and Travel Blog Support for travel bloggers specifically. There are a lot more groups out there like this if you search around.
Flickr provides 1 terabyte of space on their cloud for FREE. I upload all of my photos to albums on Flickr instead of keeping them on my hard drive to preserve my limited computer space for other files and processes.
I use the free version of Buffer to manage my Twitter account. It’s a great way to shorten Twitter links (I shorten mine to bit.ly’s), schedule tweets, and see which tweets perform better than others. The free version is limited of course so you might even want their paid one.
The Nano Puff is great for high 40’s-60’s degrees F, breathes really well for when you sweat during outdoor activities, and keeps you warm even when wet because it’s synthetic instead of down. Plus it rolls up into the tiniest, lightweight little ball which is perfect for backpacking or just packing light in general.
Cost: $200 on Amazon
This particular boot has a lot of cushion so I never ever even needed to break them in. I wore them all around Peru and during my 5-day Salkantay Trek. Love them. I continue to wear them now anytime I go hiking in Atlanta, Baltimore, California, wherever.
Cost: about $100 on Amazon
It looks like they’ve discontinued the exact style of my Gregory backpack, but they have a few others that are similar. I chose a 60-liter pack because it’s small enough for overhead storage on planes but big enough for packing for winter travel. I love that this pack has both top and front-loading options. It’s comfortable and easy and most importantly I can adjust the straps and waist belt on my XS version to my tiny body.
Cost: about $200 on Amazon
I love my turquoise stainless steel 20-ounce insulated Klean Kanteen water bottle with the loop cap (as pictured). I carry this bottle in my bag in everyday American life and bring it along on trips to countries with potable tap water. The insulated version is great for both hot and cold drinks. Amazon recommends buying one of those scrubber sticks so you can clean the water bottle easily by hand and I think that’s a great idea, but you can also put it in the dishwasher.
Cost: $30 on Amazon
You don’t have to settle for those useless foam earplugs they give you on the airplane. These silicone ones mold to your ear and create a formidable sound barrier. I bring these everywhere I go. You never know when there will be snorers in your dorm room.
This is a great addition to any trip involving water. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I had one of these on hand to keep my valuables dry while swimming, wading through mud, kayaking, boating, SCUBA diving…They seal up watertight and come with a strap so you can wear it across your body.
Cost: $20 on Amazon
My Favorite Travel Books
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild is the true story of Chris McCandless, a college grad who burns all of his money and abandons his family and possessions in favor of a life of solitude living off the land. He travels the States for two years before making his final journey into the wilderness of Alaska, where he ends up living in an old school bus.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The tragic yet true story of the failed 1996 Everest expedition that claimed 8 climbers lives in one 24 hour period. Krakauer, an experienced mountaineer, accompanied Rob Hall’s team up the mountain, but most never made it back down. This is the first person account of that tale, ridden with hypoxia, frostbite, and the flaws of human pride.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
A novel inspired by true events, Roberts depicts his experience as an Australian fugitive who steals away to Bombay to to seek refuge. He lives the slums and sets up a clinic to treat a cholera epidemic; becomes involved in the black market; is tortured in prison in India; and survives a dangerous journey to Afghanistan with the mafia. The book is about 1000 pages long and I’ll be honest – you can skip 100 pages around the 500 page mark and not be lost (that’s what I did). Don’t be fooled by the content; the book reads like poetry sometimes and constantly imparts the wisdoms of a well-worn traveler. Further, it will bring parts of India to life that you’ve never imagined before.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Not a travel book per se, but there are few other books that will make you want to quit your 9-to-5 job, start a business making passive income, and travel the world in your spare time more than this one. I read this just after finishing my master’s degree and really wish I had read it before getting the master’s degree instead…
The Beach by Alex Garland
A must-read for anyone traveling through Southeast Asia. This is the dystopian story of a a British backpacker looking for his own personal slice of paradise in Thailand. He finds an isolated beach inhabited by a small community of travelers who will do anything to keep their way of life a secret. If you liked Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness, this book is for you. Make sure to watch the movie starring a very handsome 25-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio and taking place in Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi (which has since become a site of pilgrimage for backpackers on the Southeast Asia trail) but only after you finish the book. (The book is better!)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
A loosely arranged novel based on the lives of various characters in Prague in the 1960’s and 70’s. The story features love, infidelity, and strong philosophical undertones related to the meaning of existence and the ‘lightness of being’.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
You’ve seen the Disney movie but have you ever read the book that started it all? Lewis Carroll is one wacky guy and this is one wacky story that will take you down the rabbit hole and into the wonderful and nonsensical world of Wonderland. Watch for moments of wisdom and insight – there are more than a few teaching moments scattered throughout Alice’s journey.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
A true story of a young woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on a whim after struggling with drugs, depression, and the sudden death of her mother. This is kinda the girl version of Into the Wild…except she lives to write the book.
For more book recommendations, check out my favorite books that will make you think about the meaning of life.