Traveling to a new place- My favorite websites

I thought that perhaps my process for researching our next destination would be helpful for some people who are preparing to travel overseas and don’t know where to start. We find out where we are headed and when about 2 weeks before we leave. This gives me very little time to research and prepare, so I have developed a little process for how to go about doing this. Here are the links:

1. Travel.state.gov– This is the first place I go. There is a handy search box about half way down the page that allows you to input your destination and learn more about it. This website has all the U.S. Department of State travel warnings and advisories, as well as good safety information about where we are headed. For example, because of statements regarding Indonesia having frequent earthquakes and other natural disasters, I bought Life Straws which filter any fresh water into drinking water, and are compact for travel.  I go to this website first to determine whether the country Austin is headed to is somewhere I want to go with children.

2. Center for Disease Control– This site is great for figuring out which diseases I need to worry about in which countries, and the vaccines that are recommended before traveling there. Just go under the “travelers” box, type in the country you are going to, and then I always select “traveling with children” which gives more useful tidbits. It also lets you know if it will be safe to drink the tap water and eat fresh food. In general, the recommendation is to peel or boil all fruit and veggies before eating no matter where you are, but I find it depends on the sanitation conditions of the country how strictly I follow the policies.

Kurta recommended for India…

3. Weather: Before making a packing list, it is important to check what the weather is like in the place you are going. I find Accuweather.com has a handy monthly outlook tool that lets me look ahead to see what the average temperature and precipitation levels are in the areas I am traveling.

4. Accommodations: Most often, our accommodations are picked for us by other people at Austin’s company. For side trips and the occasional assignment, however, we are in charge of finding a place to stay. My personal favorites websites for finding awesome apartment-style places to stay include airbnb and vrbo.com. I also like to simply google “(insert destination here) vacation rentals” and look at local rental websites. We have stayed at all kinds of places from really nice to drab, but it is always an adventure and much cheaper than hotels. Of course, we use free hotel nights if we have them.

Our guesthouse in Sokcho- best host ever!

5. Things to do: The easiest thing to do here is Google, but I also like to look at lonelyplanet.com and tripadvisor.com to give me ideas on fun things to do. I make a table in Excel (because my husband speaks Excel almost exclusively) with the city, fun things to do, where they are within the city, any costs associated with going there, and normal operating hours. As I do more research, I try to group attractions together by location and prioritize with my favorites near the top. Once at our hotel, we typically ask the Concierge what they recommend for x number of days seeing the city, and have them hire us a taxi (to avoid being robbed, etc).

6. Expat blogs: Search expat and the country and I have always been able to find awesome information about wherever we are going. I do this last because I can get lost in the sheer amount of information contained on the blogs and websites. This step usually puts my mind at ease regarding safety as I read about others’ experiences living overseas long term. There are usually good restaurant recommendations and safety tips that are much more specific than those on the travel.state.gov website.

In general, the travel.state.gov and cdc websites are great resources even during your travel if something happens to your passport or a weird illness sets in. I can’t imagine trying to do what we are doing right now without the convenience of internet searching and hotel/flight booking. I am grateful for the peace of mind a little research can give, and I’m ready for our next adventure in Java, Indonesia!

What are your favorite travel websites?

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