16 Useful Travel Applications and Websites

by Nora Dunn on October 28, 2010

In the last seven months, I’ve visited nine countries, flown on 12 airplanes, embarked on 8 long-distance buses and 12 long-distance trains, volunteered, house-sat, and stayed in more than 13 different people’s homes. Whew!

For the most part, I use (or have used) and endorse all the travel applications and websites listed here. They are part of my regular routine of travel; be it managing finances and websites, to booking travel, to saving money and finding volunteer opportunities.

Here’s a collection of useful travel applications and websites that will help you make your own travels a smooth ride.



Booking Flights

Booking flights is one of my least favourite travel tasks. But I’m pretty good at it, since I can often save up to 70% of the cost of airfare with some hard-earned leg-work. A few tips include booking through the airline themselves, since the after-service (if there are problems) is much easier than going through an internet portal with minimal customer service and likely extra booking fees.


Which Budget

Which Budget is one of the tools I use to locate budget airlines that are flying my desired route (or something close to it) that might not have been picked up with a larger flight search engine. Once I know the budget airlines, I head directly to those airline sites to see what sorts of deals I can find.


Seat Guru

Nothing can ruin a long-haul (or even a short-haul) flight more than a truly crappy seat. Likewise, your flight could be a dream if you had the right seat. Seat Guru will show you the exact airplane you’re flying in based on the airline and route, and will alert you to the good seats, the bad seats, and the seats with cautionary notes. I use this site while I check-in online for flights, so I can choose the best available seat.



Booking Overland Travel

Whenever I can, I’ll travel overland instead of in the air. Here’s how:


The Man in Seat Sixty-One

As a train travel evangelist, The Man in Seat61 is a dream come true. Dedicated to overland travel, you’ll find out how to navigate the rails, buses, and even ferry networks around the world. There are detailed descriptions on how to book the most cost-effective travel, and lots of information about what to expect of the journey.



Volunteer Accommodation

{Note 2013: Since writing this post, I’ve written an entire book on How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World. Here are a few of my initial favourites:}


The Caretaker Gazette

The Caretaker Gazette remains one of my favourite publications for finding work-trade gigs. The quarterly newsletter (and weekly email updates) is jam-packed with opportunities all over the world, varying from picking fruit, to managing hostels or campgrounds, to trail maintenance, to caring for the elderly, to ranch hands, and on and on it goes. The common thread among all listings is that they are for people who wish to work in trade for their accommodation expenses.

Through The Caretaker Gazette, I found a place where I volunteered in Hawaii for 2.5 months learning to live “off the grid”, and another place where I stayed for 7 months in the countryside north of Melbourne, caring for animals, cleaning cottages, and landscaping.

I particularly like the format of the newsletters, since they showcase opportunities all over the world (unlike WWOOFing, where you can only apply one country at a time). I’m willing to travel based on an intriguing work-trade opportunity, and The Caretaker Gazette gives me lots of fodder.


House Carers

House Carers is brilliant for finding house-sitting opportunities. There are listings all over the world, and once you’re a member you can set up email notifications of house-sitting jobs that become available in the countries, time frames, and durations of your preference.

It was through House Carers that I found my house-and-dog-sitting gig in Hampshire, England, and enjoyed the cozy feeling of “’home” for a few weeks. It’s a fabulous way to secure free accommodation and create lots of time to work on a craft, be it artistic or entrepreneurial in nature. House-sitting is a location independent person’s dream come true!

Note: the folks at House Carers have also recently developed sites for Caretaker-Jobs and Pet-Sitters.


Trusted HouseSitters

After sinking my teeth into house-sitting, I was introduced to Trusted HouseSitters as one of the better house-sitting resources, given that it has the best ratio of home owners to house-sitters, giving aspiring house-sitters a better chance at landing gigs. I quickly fell in love with the site, and landed gigs through them in Grenada and Panama.

Grow Food

I used Grow Food (when it was still known as Organic Volunteers) to locate a hostel in Hawaii where I worked in trade for accommodation for four months. Although the platform caters mostly to farm-hand opportunities, there’s a fair bit of variety in there, and it’s worth a peek.


The Hospitality Club

Similar to couch surfing, The Hospitality Club is a hospitality exchange site that connects travelers with homes to stay in while they’re abroad. It’s a great way to experience a slice of local life, and for the hosts to show off their home town and connect with travelers. I’ve used The Hospitality Club for a few exchanges in Australia and some valuable information in Asia.

In my experience, hospitality exchanges have been terrific, whether choreographed by a web platform like The Hospitality Club, or whether on a more informal level through networking or volunteering.



Online Storage and Work


Zenfolio

A fellow travel blogger lost all the photos on his site when the server crashed. After that point (and many days of hard work to reestablish the links), he stopped relying on his server and started hosting his photos online. This has the added benefits of being a backup for photos, taking up less space on the server (to allow web pages to load quickly), and is even a great platform to sell photos if you so choose to. Here’s an excellent breakdown of the various photo hosting services, what they offer, and how much they cost.

I chose Zenfolio because it gives me the best bang for my membership buck, and has a reliable fast server for uploading photos. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can set up a free trial account.

And if you choose to go with a subscription program, use the following referral code to get $5 off!

K5N-RQA-X23


Word Press

Word Press is fantastic for setting up and managing a travel blog (or any blog for that matter). You can create a marginally flexible site for free directly on the Word Press platform, or you can host your own domain using Word Press as your platform for uploading posts and managing the site. (I recommend getting your own domain if you eventually want to monetize it) It’s highly customizable with many simple plug-ins and lots of information available on building and monetizing your blog.


Host Gator

Host Gator is one of the major providers of domain names and hosting services. I use them for both my domain and hosting, and I’ve been quite pleased. Server problems have been minimal, and tech support is very knowledgeable and patient when there are glitches (even if the glitch is on my computer and not the server).

If you’re ready to go for a hosting package, you can get $10 off the package price by using the following coupon code:

ProfessionalHobo



Managing Finances


PayPal

Paypal is an essential tool for location independent entrepreneurs to get paid or receive donations. For increased security, I use their two-factor authentication security button, to reduce the chances that my account can be compromised by adding an additional level of security on log-in. Here’s some more information about protecting your laptop computer and other sensitive information abroad, including password storage options.


XE

XE is one of the most user-friendly currency converters I have found. And because I can juggle up to 10 different currencies in the course of one year (all of which requires reconciling at tax time), this tool is invaluable to me when I manage the books each month.


Trail Wallet

I use the iPhone app Trail Wallet to track my travel expenses on the go. It juggles multiple currencies, converts it all, and I can export the data to analyze and manipulate as I see fit.

 


Miscellaneous Travel Tools


Frequent Flyer Mile Tracking

Since my humble beginnings in the world of frequent flyer miles, I have amassed numerous frequent flyer membership numbers and programs that are getting onerous to manage. There are a few ways you can track your frequent flyer miles, but I tend to use Points.com, it is a free service that allows me to see most of my frequent flyer mile balances in one place.


What travel applications and websites do you use to make your travels go smoothly?



Editor’s Note: There are some affiliate links in this post. I only included them for services I use and endorse, and it doesn’t increase your own cost to use the links.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura October 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

Excellent collection of websites. A few of these I’m not familiar with so I’ll have to go check them out!

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theprofessionalhobo October 28, 2010 at 7:18 pm

@Laura – Great! Let me know what you think!

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Prime October 29, 2010 at 12:51 am

really useful for travelers. thanks for this!

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sell timeshare November 1, 2010 at 2:09 am

A few of these I’m not familiar with so I’ll have to go check them out!

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Libby Walkup November 1, 2010 at 10:30 pm

I believe my life just shifted finding your blog. Thank you.

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theprofessionalhobo November 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm

@Libby – Woohoo! Sounds pretty fantastic. Let me know how I can help!

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Rich November 6, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I would add http://www.helpx.net to your list for volunteer accommodation. Home stays with full room and board in exchange for labour around the property is a great way to travel and live like a local on a shoestring.

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theprofessionalhobo November 7, 2010 at 3:26 am

@Rich – That’s a great addition. I haven’t used it myself, but it seems to be a fabulous resource. Have you any experience with it?

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Chelsea November 15, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Whoo hoo! What a role model you are! I have been a long time lover of travel. I recently discovered some resources and have been doing research on volunteer tourism. This is the best I have seen so far! Not to mention how inspiring your story is. I’ve had this itch the last year, wondering why I am not doing what I love most…traveling. I’ve got a fantastic finance who is at my side ready for our next adventure. I hope a storage unit will hold my belongings :) Any words of wisdom for first-timers?

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theprofessionalhobo November 16, 2010 at 3:03 am

@Chelsea – If you’re researching volunteer tourism, have you checked out the International Guide to Volunteering? Here’s a rundown:
http://www.wisebread.com/the-underground-guide-to-international-volunteering-review

As for words of wisdom, ah so many, and so few! Take a deep breath, relax, and don’t be afraid to be afraid from time to time – it means you’re doing something good! :-)

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Lisa December 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm

These are excellent resources. I’m in the planning stages of a six month trip to Europe and these will be exceptionally useful. Thank you!!

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theprofessionalhobo December 4, 2010 at 5:38 pm

@Lisa – I’m glad this will help! Sounds like an exciting trip! When do you leave, and where do you hope to go?

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Dalene December 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I LOVE your website! Being a fellow gal with no fixed address, I have a few adds that your readers may find useful:

http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/ – The best website out there for “free” volunteer opportunities in South America.

http://www.mindmyhouse.com and http://www.trustedhousesitters.com – While house carers has the most listings, I find their site very hard to use. I’ve gotten two jobs off of mindmyhouse already. The other one is new, but looks to have great functionality.

If you don’t mind, I may pick your brain on some other separate matters. I am a writer as well, and your website has given me some really great ideas.

Dalene

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theprofessionalhobo December 11, 2010 at 5:34 am

@Dalene – I’m so glad you’ve found me! Thanks for the great resources on house-sitting; I had been looking for alternatives to House Carers without much avail.
Let’s touch base about writing and such. I hope your recuperation is going well…

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Dalene December 11, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Nora – I will send you a separate msg soon, once we get settled in Honduras and I get my thoughts collected. Thanks! =)

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nipe December 23, 2010 at 5:14 am

Interesting list. I don’t know many of them but will check them out soon.
I would also add Airlikes website which is an original and participatory website that reviews airlines and airports.
http://www.airlikes.com/

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theprofessionalhobo December 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm

@Nipe – Thanks for the resource! It’s good to know what you’re in for before you arrive at an airport, especially if you have a long layover to contend with…

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LAbackpackerChick August 2, 2011 at 6:12 am

Thanks for this list Nora! This is exactly what I was hoping to find as I prepare to embark on my latest adventure :)

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Ali October 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Hi this a great list. I would like to add http://volunteerstays.com/ in the category of volunteer accommodations. The site offers great opportunities for couch surfing around the world. Also a great resource if you are looking for a travel partner. Do check it out.

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Tim Hunt December 19, 2011 at 1:23 am

This is a great list. Too bad, it’s just now that I was able to read this. Anyway, I’ll take a look at some of the apps that you recommended in here. I would just like to add 25 things to do in Amsterdam. It’s a travel app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch that features a map of Amsterdam that works offline. It also lists 25 of the best POIs in the city, making it easier for me to locate the spots that I have to visit when I get there. The app is also available for Boston and Milan, but I think the developers are adding new key cities. Keep on posting! :)

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Tracy April 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

Hi! What great resources (though it’s now 1.5 yrs later!) and explanation for each. I just signed up for HelpX so will let you know how it goes. Also about to sign up for eco-teer. You mentioned that you’d just downloaded the iTravelFree app and the jury was out — any feedback on that now? I’m considering it …
Thanks again!!

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theprofessionalhobo April 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm

@Tracy – Although I haven’t used the iTravelFree app a massive amount, I really like downloading all the info for a city/country I’m about to arrive to, and it arms me with general information, ideas for things to do and places to go, and certain customs and policies (like tipping) that are good to know going in.
So yes – I do like it!

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James October 22, 2012 at 10:06 am

I second Trusted Housesitters. It’s been our biggest source of housesits in Europe. MindMyHouse second best. Housecarers seems to be more US/Aus-focused.

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theprofessionalhobo October 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm

@James – Since writing this post, I too have successfully used and become a fan of TrustedHousesitters.
Here’s an article that includes a link for a discounted membership with TrustedHousesitters:
http://www.wisebread.com/10-tips-for-landing-the-perfect-house-sitting-gig

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Rebecca December 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Thanks so much for all your advice – it has been very useful in our 9 months around Europe that is now coming to an end. Apps I would recommend include Hipmunk (flights bookings presented in a wonderfully easy to understand graphic interface). I use it as a first flight search engine. Note it always have the el cheapo airlines so I use it with
Whichbudget. Also used Google Translate App and a World Clock App a lot. Agree that XE App is brilliant, as is The Man in Seat 61 – amazing resource and specific hints for train travel.

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theprofessionalhobo December 11, 2012 at 9:07 am

Hey Rebecca – Glad these tools were useful on your trip! Thanks for the app recommendations. I’ve yet to find a translation app that works well without needing a wifi/data connection…does Google Translate operate offline?

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Rebecca December 11, 2012 at 9:41 am

typo – I meant to say that Hipmunk DOESNT always have the el-cheapo airlines. Re Google App – no, it doesnt work offline. It does keep a list of everything you ask it to translate which is then available offline which is only semi-useful. You can also delete/clear all your translation requests, but agree an App that can translate offline would be the ultimate. Otherwise, it’s a little paperback dictionery – almost like something from the Dark Ages!

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theprofessionalhobo December 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

Rebecca – Paper-what? I don’t understand? Do actual books still exist? :-)

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Deborah Benbrook February 13, 2013 at 1:39 am

Hi, I’ve been reading your website and links for hours now. Me and my other half did the same….sold everything after most of our immediate family passed away. We’ve been travelling now for almost 2 years and have no plans to return to the UK. Here’s a link to our travels – http://www.travelpod.com/members/debsndarren

Another website which we have found very useful is workaway.info, we’ve only done one so far and it wasn’t the best experience, but we’ve heard of lots of people of who have had great hosts.

Maybe our paths will cross someday :-)
Debs

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theprofessionalhobo February 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Hi Debs – So glad you found my site and that you’re enjoying it! I’ve heard good things about workaway.info – as with any service the quality of the gig is subjective; I’ve found good and not-so-good gigs on many platforms.
Indeed – you never know when (and where) our paths might cross… :-)

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Claudia February 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm

AMAZING ARTICLE, Nora!!! Loaded with useful info, thank you!

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theprofessionalhobo February 23, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Glad you enjoyed this post Claudia! This is an old post that I haven’t looked at in a while, but I still use many – if not most – of these apps and websites.

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Marcie May 12, 2013 at 10:05 pm

People need to check the visa restrictions regarding volunteering in the country they plan to stay in. For example, I know that in Ireland you are not allowed to volunteer at all if you are an American. They think people use it to get past the “Americans can’t work here” rule.

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theprofessionalhobo May 13, 2013 at 8:11 am

Good observation, Marcie! Always check visa rules, and make sure you’re doing the right thing. I will say that many people do go ahead and volunteer despite such restrictions; some countries are more lenient than others in enforcing it – it’s certainly a negligible “crime” in comparison to working (for money) without a visa…

Here are some travel visa FAQs:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/08/financial-travel-tip-40-travel-visas-faq/

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john January 6, 2014 at 7:56 am

Excellent collection of websites. A few of these I’m not familiar with so I’ll have to go check them out!thanks

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theprofessionalhobo January 6, 2014 at 8:40 am

Brilliant, John – happy surfing!

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EH February 16, 2014 at 5:31 am

Thanks for the list, I’m checking the new ones out!

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theprofessionalhobo February 16, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Awesome, EH! Here’s a more recent list of smartphone apps you may want to check out:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2014/02/25-smartphone-apps-full-time-travel-2014-edition/

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