Summer Travel Web Sites We Love

It’s that time of year: Time to get off the grid for a weekend, a week, or if you’re lucky, a month. We thought we’d share some of our favourite travel sites for planning trips, looking for city info, and staying in touch on the road.

Trip Booking The best-designed (and seemingly most complete) airfare search engine. The user interface is simple and lightweight — not a big noisy mess like many of its rivals. The German national train site. The best Web guide to train time tables across all of Europe, with a handy English search engine.

Priceline: Never had much luck buying plane tickets here, but have with car rentals (cheap in NYC) and hotel rooms (friend got a $75 room at the 5-star Venetian Las Vegas once). This skews younger/less luxurious, but I’ve found it to be the best Web booking engine for hostels and budget hotels, especially in Europe. Real-time room availability info, no language barrier, etc.

City/Country Info

Google Maps: Before I go anywhere, I print Google maps for the neighbourhood surrounding the hotel/hostel and train stations of the town I’m staying in. (Not a replacement for fold-out maps unless you’re walking around with a mobile gadget.) The satellite imagery is handy for finding parks, landmarks, beaches, or just cool-looking sights.

Rick Steves: This should be one of your first stops if you’re going to Europe. Rick’s Web site has daily news and info for travellers, plus monthly updates to his guidebooks and a plethora of archived stuff. A great companion to his guidebooks and PBS shows — some of which you can find on YouTube.

Wikitravel: Like Lonely Planet, but free. Not very convenient to take on the road — unless you’re walking around with an iPod touch — but good for exploring or brainstorming.

Gridskipper: Now owned by Curbed, previously by Gawker Media. One of our favourite travel blog sites, with some cool city guides, too.

Cheapo Vegas: The best guide to saving money in Vegas.

Apple iTunes Museum Room: Free audio guides to museums in the U.S. and abroad.

Staying In Touch

Meebo: Web-based access to AIM, Google Chat, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenber. After AIM express failed on a half-dozen Internet cafe computers, I found Meebo, and it’s better.

Facebook: The fastest way to ‘bookmark’ the people you meet on the road. Four years ago, when I spent three months backpacking around Europe, I had to write everyone’s email address down in a paper notebook. Now people just quickly add each other on Facebook at the hotel computer or Internet cafe. Skews younger, but it works for what it’s for.

Twitter: Keeping a travel blog is great for longer, more thoughtful reflection. But if you’re walking around with a mobile phone capable of sending text messages, a few Tweets a day could be great updates for the folks back home. I’ve really enjoyed GigaOM tech blogger Om Malik’s Tweets the last week while he’s been in Israel, for example.

Anything we’ve overlooked? New sites we’re missing? Let us know in comments below. Thanks to USV’s Fred Wilson for his tips, too.

Photo: Dubrovnik, Croatia by Dan Frommer

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