Traveling can be a great way to log off, relax, and recuperate from the stress of everyday life.
But planning your next travel adventure? That can be a downright existential hellscape, a task that can quickly turn from exciting to tedious as you try to juggle various destinations, figure out the best time to travel, how to find the best deals, and what to do when you actually get there.
And that’s just the basics. Factoring in canceled flights and the hoops you need to go through to travel in our current day, the idea of traveling can eventually inspire a dull but persistent sense of dread.
Fortunately, that’s where the internet comes in. There are a variety of websites and apps designed to take the stress out of traveling and make sure that planning your next trip is as fun and easy as possible. For example, apps like HotelTonight, which will help you find cheap hotel rooms on extremely short notice, and SitOrSquat, which will direct you to nearby restrooms while you’re already on the road, should be a part of the essential toolkit for any travelers.
So whether you’re you’re looking for travel inspiration, trying to find plane tickets on the cheap, or looking for ways to make your life easier once you’re on the ground at your next destination, here are the best apps and sites for travelers.
If you’re looking for travel inspiration:
Armchair adventures begin with Instagram Credit: Getty images
Instagram started as a simple photo-sharing app, but as the platform has developed over the years, it’s transformed itself into a must-have app for travelers. With new features like the ability to turn on notifications for specific users (which lets you stay up-to-date with your favorite travel ‘grammers), Instagram maps that let you explore photos taken at specific places, and the ability to save photos that inspire you, Instagram can be a great way to keep abreast of everything that inspires you to travel.
We recommend following National Geographic, for a sneak peek at some of the most unique parks of the world, and With The Locals, which invites guest ‘grammers from all over the world to curate hidden gems from their city.
Snap Maps give a great insight into far flung places. Credit: Snapchat
We’ve got two words for anybody surprised that Snapchat is an essential tool for travelers: Snap Maps. The feature, which launched in June 2017, shows users what other people are snapping, in real time, at any given destination. That means whether you’re taking a digital tour of an area while trying to decided on your next travel destination, or if you’re already on the ground and looking for your next activity, Snap Maps can help you discover hidden gems at any destination.
Traveling with families Credit: Earth Trekkers
For travel inspiration, you can always go to Pinterest — or you can also head to Earth Trekkers, especially if you’re looking for family-friendly tips. Julie, Tim, Tyler, and Kara — two parents and their kiddos — spent a bit over a year traveling around the world, and they’re looking to keep going.
Apps to help you get up and go
Credit: Francesca Tirico/ Unsplash
TripAdvisor is your one-stop-shop for travel. Not only will the site help you book a flight to your next destination, but it’ll also help you find hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, and more. But the true beauty of TripAdvisor is its price comparison feature, which will show travelers where they can find the best deal when booking a trip. And who doesn’t want to save a buck while traveling?
Credit: Christopher Neugebauer/ Flickr
If you don’t want to have to juggle searching through multiple sites to look for and compare travel deals, Skyscanner is for you. The site uses a self-built technology to search through hundreds of travel sites for hotels, flights, and car rental deals. Plus Skyscanner launched a Facebook Messenger bot in 2016 to better help you book tickets on the go.
Get going on the cheap Credit: Kayak
Kayak can help you find flights, hotels, cars, travel activities, and more — all on a budget. This is a great site to head to once you already know where you want to go, and want to make sure you’re doing it the most inexpensive way possible. You can also give Momondo, Expedia, and Air Fare Watch Dog a look.
Momondo is a travel search website that offers a cheap way to find flights, hotels, and car rentals. Rather than booking your tickets directly through the site, Momondo links out to the relevant booking sites, which means extra fees aren’t tacked onto the price of your airfare. In other words, you can find flights that are good for your wanderlust and for your wallet.
RoadTrippers is an invaluable tool Credit: RoadTRIPPERS
You don’t have to fly somewhere to embark on your next great adventure. Roadtrippers is a travel planning platform that will, as its title suggests, help you plan unforgettable road trips. Not only will Roadtrippers show you how to get from point A to point B, but it’ll also create for you the most interesting route to your destination, highlighting great locations off the beaten path. Roadtrippers also let you sort based on things to do, sleeping, food and drink, “weird stuff,” and more, which means your road trip can be as direct or as whimsical as your heart desires.
If you’re ballin’ on a budget
Credit: Nomadic Matt
You don’t have to pay exorbitant prices to be able to travel. Nomadic Matt specializes in budget travel, and promises to help you “travel anywhere better, cheaper, and longer.” The site’s founder, Matthew Kepnes, originally started out as a blogger, but over the years, the site has expanded, publishing everything from advice on how to save money for your next trip to suggestions on how to find cheap airfare and hotels. Then, once you’ve booked, the site also sells budget travel guides for destinations ranging from Paris to Bangkok.
If you’re looking to save money on airfare, Hopper is for you. By watching and analyzing ticket listings for billions of flights, Hopper will tell you when is the best time to buy tickets for your flight, when an airline drops ticket prices, and even help you calculate the extra fees accumulating while you plan your next trip.
Credit: StudEnt universe
StudentUniverse bills itself as “the world’s leading travel booking service for students and youth.” With the goal of making travel easy and accessible to young travelers, StudentUniverse will help you find cheap flights, hotels, tours, activities, and more.
Whoops! I Shoulda started planning sooner!
When it comes to booking last-minute travel, HotelTonight is the best of the best. The site helps you find last-minute hotel deals, or deals for hotels up to a week from your search, which means you’ll always find a place to stay, even if you procrastinated.
If there is one word that explains the strength of Google Flights it’s “speed.” With filters that let you sort based on the number of stops on your trip, the airline, time of day, and more, Google Flights offers travelers a quick and comprehensive look at available flight options. And with new features like the ability to predict delays, Google Flights will not only help you get to your next destination but make sure you’re informed as you embark.
If you’re looking for a place to crash
For when you need a place to stay Credit: Airbnb
When Airbnb first launched in 2008, it was a great way to find cheap and quick alternatives to staying in hotel. Now, Airbnb is so much more than a platform to help you find a place to stay. With listings ranging from Mario-themed homes to homes designed to indulge your inner Star Wars nerd (and even the opportunity to go ghost hunting in Donald Trump’s childhood home), travelers can find sleeping accommodations that are just as exciting as the excursions at that their chosen destination.
Just be warned: Airbnb is not without its scandals, including hosts facing fees from cities worried about affordable housing and allegations from guests that some hosts have been secretly recording them. So be careful with where you rent.
Find a hostel Credit: Hostelworld
Hostelworld is basically the Airbnb of hostel bookings. Whether you looking for a bed or your own room, Hostelworld will help you find a place to stay at destinations all over the world. And with filters that let you search for hostels based on price, facilities, hostel type, and more, Hostelworld will help you find a hostel that’s as cheap or as luxurious as your wallet will allow. The site also hosts a pretty robust blog with information as specific as “the best hostels in Paris” to suggestions as broad as “99 unusual hostels you’ll never want to leave,” just in case you’re looking for some suggestions on your next trip.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, Couchsurfing is a great way to find a great place to stay. Couchsurfing connects a community of travelers with a community of local hosts at any given destination, which means not only will you have a place to crash when you travel, but you’ll meet interesting locals who may be able to offer additional guidance and suggestions for your trip.
So you’ve made it to your destination. Now, what do you do?
Lonely Planet was founded by a couple in the ’70s as a book publisher and added a website presence in the mid-’90s. It publishes digital and physical travel guides so that travelers can discover even the most exotic destinations. And Pro tip: read through Thorn Tree, the site’s extensive forum for endless info from fellow travelers.
Audio walking tours Credit: detour
Detour is a great way to explore new locations, especially if you’re traveling alone. The app curates more than 100 audio walking tours in 17 cities and counting, offering expert insights and additional information on locations ranging from The Vatican to Fenway Park.
Helpful apps for once you’re already on the road
Credit: weather underground
You know what they say: knowledge is power. Make sure you are prepared (and dressed weather-appropriately) for your day’s adventures with Weather Underground while you are traveling. With more than 250,000 personal weather stations, Weather Underground provides hyper-local forecasts. And in addition to the weather, the app can also show travelers what the temperature “feels like” at a given location, monitor things like air quality and flu outbreaks, and tells you the time of sunrise and sunset.
When you gotta go, you gotta go. SitOrSquat is an iOS and Android app that’ll help you find public bathrooms so you can do the do, even when you’re in an unfamiliar place.
A language barrier should never stop you from traveling. Google Translate, available on both web and mobile, offers quick translations of more than 100 different languages. The app version also offers features like image translation that allows you to use your camera for instant text translation and offline translation, which makes translating on the go simple and easy.
Expand your travel perspective:
Traveling while queer Credit: Nomadic boys
As a member of the LGBTQ community, traveling can have its difficulties for a whole host of reasons, most of which are rooted in transphobia and homophobia, like the experience of going through airport security and which nations are safest to travel to. Thankfully, there are a few sites dedicated to helping find those answers, like Nomadic Boys, Couple of Boys, Foodie Flashpacker, and Two Bad Tourists.
Credit: On She Goes
On She Goes is a travel platform designed to help women of color “travel more confidently, more adventurously and more often.” With a mix of articles ranging from “What is travel safety for women of color in a racist, sexist world” and “Travel & financial anxiety is real but don’t let it ruin your trip,” city guides, and travel tips, On She Goes is a must-read for anybody planning their next big trip or just wanting to find a community of fellow jet-setters of color.
Juno Kim has a blog dedicated to traveling the world, and pretty much anyone can get inspiration from her visits or knowledge from her tips — but they’re particularly helpful to women and women of color who are traveling solo. If you want more platforms designed to help women travel confidently and safely, check out Nadine Sykora‘s blog, too.
For travelors of color Credit: Travel Noire
Travel Noire is a site and publishing platform that curates tools, resources, and stories for travelers of color. By highlighting unique perspectives focused on food, destinations, culture, and experience, Travel Noire will not only inspire you to travel but also help you find a community of travelers once you’re on your next adventure.
Related Video: This treehouse is actually a hotel room high up in a French forest
Christianna Silva contributed reporting.
This post was originally published in 2018 and was updated in 2022.