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Travel Planning Tips + Resources for Savvy Travelers

We’ve planned many trips over the years and have come to trust and rely on certain companies for travel products and services.

The travel resources below are ones we love and believe in.

We’ve also learned a few tips along the way (e.g., why you sometimes don’t want to book airline tickets with third-parties like Expedia).

These tips are shared below too.

Travel Resources

Contents: Trip planning resources

Hotels | Agoda | Hotel booking tips

Vacation homes + apartments
Vrbo | AirBnb

Google Flights | Snagging cheap tickets | Airfare cancellations and refunds | SeatGuru | Airline reviews

City transport pass | Taxis | Uber | Car rental

Local tours + attractions
GetYourGuide | CityPASS

Travel insurance
Credit card | World Nomads | Medjet

Travel gear
Travel shop | Travel product reviews

Some links below are affiliate links; we may earn a small commission if you click on them.


As professional travel writers, we’re sometime invited to stay at hotels for free or at a discount so we can review them (see all our hotel reviews).

When we pay for hotel accommodation, we usually use

The site has a huge selection of hotels and resorts around the world, and it doesn’t charge any booking fees. Plus, it’s so easy to use.

What we especially like about

We like that most properties offer free cancellation and don’t require payment in advance.

(You can often pay less for non-refundable prepayment. But we prefer to pay a bit more for the ability to change our plans.)

Another plus: With, once you book a second hotel within two years, you automatically become a “Genius” member.

Depending on your Genius level, you get 10% to 15% off hotel rates, free breakfast and free room upgrades at select properties around the world.


Agoda is widely used for booking hotels in Asia – we used it successfully to get good rates on hotels on one trip to Thailand. (Interestingly, it’s owned by

Rates for some hotels in Asia may be slightly less than on

And some people find that the reviews on Agoda are more detailed.

Finding great hotels:

So how do we come up with possible hotels we might like to stay at?

Why we like for hotels

We read hotel reviews by The Telegraph (British newspaper), Mr. and Mrs Smith, Condé Nast Traveler and

Google, for example, “best luxury hotels in X city” or “boutique hotels in X country” – these publications and sites often yield articles on great places to stay.

We also scour pictures on Pinterest for hotels that look incredible.

Then we dive deeper and check out reviews of particular hotels on TripAdvisor. If a common theme crops up (like “thin walls” and “noisy”), well give the hotel a pass.

Other hotel booking tips

1) Make sure airport hotels are actually at the airport and have a 24/7 airport shuttle.

2) Check that the hotel is walking distance to restaurants and cafés. You don’t want to be stuck with limited eating options and forced to pay high hotel restaurant prices.

3) Book hotels close to train and subway stations if in big cities, so you can easily get around.

Vacation homes and apartments


If you’d rather not stay in a hotel and would like more space to spread out – plus a kitchen! – check out Vrbo (Vacation Rentals By Owner).

We’ve had great success with Vrbo, booking cottages for summer vacations on Salt Spring Island and condo-style units for winter vacations in Kauai.

When we’ve had to cancel, we’ve always received a full refund (no issues).

Having a “home away from home” is especially nice when you’re staying put for a while.

Vrbo is like Airbnb. But Vrbo only offers whole apartment units, cottages and homes – no single rooms in a house. (This means you don’t have to filter out shared stays when you search.)

For search filters, we always click “highly rated for cleanliness” plus properties owned or managed by “Premier Hosts” that are rated 4+ stars.


We’re also a fan of Airbnb.

We stayed at several Airbnbs in Victoria, BC – the city where we now live – before moving and buying a home here.

Tips for finding great Airbnbs

1) Pick Airbnbs with great reviews and whose hosts are quick to respond to your emails.

2) Choose Airbnbs that are rented out exclusively as a business (not used personally at all) and ones that are professionally cleaned after each stay.

3) Pick a place with Super-hosts– this almost always guarantees a good Airbnb experience.

4) Look at at Airbnb Plus properties – these are listings boasting “exceptional quality, comfort and style” (4.8 average guest rating in the previous year).


Tips for booking flights

Tips for booking flights:

We often start looking for flights by checking Google Flights first.

It’s great for getting an idea of prices and the airlines that fly to where you want to go.

We also check directly with the airline website to see what prices they offer and if they have better connections or routes.


Kayak is one of the most popular flight (and travel) search engines.

And for good reason.

It’s trusted and reliable, and it’s designed to help you quickly research the best flight options. (You’ve no doubt heard about it!)

Enter your destination and dates, and in just a few seconds, Kayak will compare the airfares from hundreds of airlines and travel sites to come up with the best flight deals.

Clicking through takes you directly to the airline or online travel agency, where you can book your flight and finalize your payment.

If you’re not yet ready to book, Kayak can send you price alerts.


For booking the cheapest flights, Expedia is one of the biggest and best online travel agencies.

(If you’re in Canada, use the Canadian Expedia site.)

Flight cancellations and refunds

It’s very tempting to buy your airline tickets through a third-party website or online travel agency like Expedia, especially when you can find better fares through them.

Just be aware that your tickets may be non-refundable. And if you need to make a change, you typically have to go through the seller; the airline may not deal directly with you (much more hassle than contacting the airline directly).

If the airline offers flights for the same price as Expedia, for example, you may be better off to book directly with the airline.

Sometimes you may even prefer to pay more than the lowest price for the ability to change your flights or cancel them for a refund (perhaps with a penalty) – without losing everything.

Because, you know, the best-laid plans of mice and men…


And don’t forget to check SeatGuru before booking your seat!

It provides seating plans for most airlines and planes. You want to pick a “green” seat. (We personally also like to be closer to the front of the plane.)

Read some of our airline reviews

Emirates Airlines | What’s it like to fly economy class on Emirates Airlines?

EVA Air | EVA Air economy is pretty good! We’ll fly with them again.

Qatar Airways | Fasten your seatbelts and fly with us as we share our experience in economy on Qatar Airways.

Getting around

Transportation within a city

Walk | If we can, we like to walk most places.

Bus, subway, train | For longer distances within a city, check out bus, subway and train transportation options.

Transport pass | Consider a city transport pass. Will it be cheaper than doing multiple bus or subway rides?

Taxis | Don’t assume taxis are always expensive. In some places, cab rides are only a few dollars and worth shelling out for.

Uber | See if Uber is cheaper than a taxi. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

Car Rental:

Hertz is one of the biggest rental car companies, with over 3,700 locations in the U.S. and offices in 150 countries around the world.

You can find offices in cities and places away from airports, which can be convenient if you don’t want to rent directly from the airport.

Hertz also has a very good loyalty rewards program.

We’ve been very happy with Hertz.

Car rental returns and refunds

Be cautious about booking through a car rental aggregator site like

While you can often save money, their return and refund policies are less flexible than if you book directly through the car rental company.

We recently booked and prepaid almost $600 for a rental car in Sicily for six days. (It was a little cheaper than going directly through the main car rental company in Sicily, Europcar.) But we returned the car within 24 hours, upon quickly realizing we were no match for Sicily’s drivers – and requested a refund for the unused rental.

Too bad, said It was in the fine print (which we didn’t read.) There are no refunds for canceling after the arranged pick-up time. Ouch!

Lesson learned. In future, we’ll only book a rental car directly through the car rental company (hopefully Hertz, if they operate in the place where we want a car).

Local tours and attractions

Guided Tours


Traveling independently? You might want local experts to show you around in the city or country you’re visiting.

GetYourGuide is where you can book guided sightseeing and other tours plus adventure activities.

It’s a global platform, used by millions, that connects travelers with more than 40,000 tours and excursions around the world.

Choose from a wide range of experiences – everything from guided walking and bicycle tours to cooking classes to pottery lessons with local artisans.


CityPASS bundles the admission fees to some of a city’s best attractions and tours in one low price (saving you up to 30 to 50%). And you get to skip many ticket lines too.

Cities where the pass is offered include New York City (Yeah! We loved visiting the Met Museum and other NYC hot spots with CityPASS), Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Orlando, Chicago and more…

Travel insurance

We never travel without travel insurance.

Travel medical insurance covers you if you need emergency medical treatment while traveling out of your country.

It can cover things as simple as getting an ear infection while snorkeling in Thailand and needing to see a doctor for antibiotics. It also protects you in the case of serious accidents or illnesses requiring hospitalization.

What’s covered are your medical expenses.

Then there’s trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance.

This insurance reimburses you for your prepaid (and non-refundable) trip costs if you have to cancel your trip because, for example, you get sick before you go.

It also reimburses you if you have to cut your trip short and fly home if, for example, severe weather cancels your flights or damages your hotel. And if your trip is interrupted, it will pay for you to get home.

Sometimes a travel insurance package includes both the medical expenses component and the trip insurance.

You can also buy just the travel medical insurance separately and the trip cancellation and interruption insurance separately.

Your credit card:

You may already have travel insurance coverage through your credit card. Do check the details and limits. For example, if you have a premium credit card, it may cover the first 15 days of your trip if you’re under 65.

World Nomads:

Since 2002, World Nomads has been protecting independent travelers.

Designed by travelers, for travelers, World Nomads travel insurance covers over 150 adventure sports and activities so you can explore your boundaries. 

They offer simple and flexible travel insurance  to help you travel confidently. They offer coverage for emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.

Even if you leave home without travel insurance or your policy runs out, you can buy or extend while on the road.


As well as travel insurance, we also have a Medjet membership.

If hospitalized, Medjet will fly you to the hospital of your choice within your home country.

Yes, standard travel medical insurance covers emergency medical evacuation. But it will only cover transportation to the nearest hospital they deem acceptable that can treat you.

After reading about a traveler stuck for weeks in a South African hospital who couldn’t get flown back home to the U.S., we decided to buy peace of mind with Medjet.

It means we can be transported to a hospital back home if we end up in hospital while traveling.

Travel gear

Click here to browse our travel shop!

Our travel product reviews

Beach sandals | Find cute flip-flops, comfy water shoes and other lovely beach sandals for women.

Travel sandals | See this selection of the best travel sandals for men and women – they’re stylish and super comfortable!

Water sandals | We’ve also sussed out the best water sandals for women. (Hmmm… Do we have a thing for footwear?)

Men’s footwear | Hey guys! Check out the best flip-flops for men (ones that are comfortable to wear all day long in summer).

Ear plugs | When you’re a light sleeper, you want the best ear plugs for sleeping (these ones are perfect for at-home and traveling).

Essential carry-on items | Check out the carry-on travel essentials you’ll want to take on the plane with you, from the best travel neck pillow to nifty disposable toothbrushes.

Looking for more travel stuff?

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Enjoy your trip!

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Travel planning and travel resources

About the authors:

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!