Ultimate Guide to Travel Resources
I recognize that our life on the road is not easy for everyone to replicate, or even understand. And, it seems we are asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. We always get questions about how we make money on the road, how to find great hotels, how we rent apartments, or even how we run our website.
After four years traveling the world I’ve realized that our travel resources have just become second nature for us, even if they are not obvious to others. We’ve created our travel resources page to help people plan their travels, plan their culinary travels, and launch a travel blog or a food travel blog.
The list below just scratches the surface of our travel resources, but hopefully can provide travelers and travel lovers some place to start their next journey.
How To Find Perfect Accommodations
A few years ago, we told a family member that we rented an apartment in Europe for a week. He was stunned. How can you do that as a foreigner? For less than a year? Did we need to sign a lease? Even more simply, friends have asked us how to book accommodations without using a travel agent. It’s when I realized how much we take for granted that booking accommodations is second nature for us.
When we first look for accomodations, we will search a booking site, like Agoda or Hotels Combined. This gives us an idea of what the prices are like, what’s available, and where hotels are located. Each of these booking sites also offer customer reviews and honest photos of the properties, which I like.
We’ve also done a lot of work on the blog with Marriott, and can’t recommend them enough, particularly in Asia. They’ve become our go to hotel chain, even when we are not working with them. We each have a Marriott Rewards credit card, and often use miles to book.
As an alternative to hotels, we also love Airbnb, the top apartment rental website around.
Check out our accommodations booking resources for travelers:
We stay at a lot of Marriott Hotels. Like other major hotel chains, Marriott has been offering their best rate by booking directly on their site. If you want to book with a particular hotel brand, I will always take a look at the hotel booking sites first, to get an idea of price, before booking directly. But, in the end, it is sometimes better to book direct, particularly with a brand like Marriott, where they incentivize guests to book with them.
When we stay in one location for more than five nights, we look at apartment rentals, normally through Airbnb. Airbnb lets you book a private room in someone’s house or an entire apartment or house. It is great when we want a little more space, a kitchen, or are traveling with friends. And, if you want to try Airbnb for the first time, use my Airbnb friends and family link, and receive a discount on your first stay!
Agoda was one of the first booking sites we used as early as 2009, during our first RTW trip. Although more popular in Asia, and in particular in Southeast Asia, it’s possible to use Agoda when booking around the world. They also offer a reward program, which allows you to earn credits towards future stays.
Must Have Items For an Overseas Trip
There are loads of blog posts out there that call themselves the ultimate packing guide. I can’t really help on that. Mot “normal” people pack for a week long trip, maybe two weeks if lucky. They have the luxury of packing some of their belongings and leaving the rest at home. They also have the chance to shop for each trip they head out on.
It’s different traveling while being an expat overseas. First off, our temporary home base apartment is tiny, and can’t hold a lot of extraneous stuff. We are tactical with every purchase we make. Further, most of our purchases are made at strange stores on the far side of the universe. We make do with what we can. And, most of these items are not ones you can buy in the United States or in Europe to take with you on your travels.
But there are a handful of MUST HAVE items, items that I can’t imagine traveling without. These are products we have bought in the US or in Europe. They make our traveling life that much easier.
And, these items make my list of must have items for an overseas trip:
Being a recovering attorney, there is no way I’m traveling with a typical wheelie suitcase. And, we have clearly graduated from backpacker. We found a perfect compromise with the Eagle Creek Load Warrior Carry-On Luggage. Eric has the slick black with red, and mine is in shades of blue. It fits in the overhead bin, and unlike a typical wheelie bag, it’s a little soft around the edges making it easy to cinch tight, or fill it to the brim. And, by fill it to the brim, we can carry it for a month long trip to Europe, and Eric can fit his dress shoes and blazer neatly in side. We are big fans!
One of the very few items we have carried with us since day 1, of our first RTW trip, which started in 2009! Quite the ROI on our investment. Our Eagle Creek Packing Cube has been with us to seventy countries. Although we don’t use a ton of packing cubes to organize our clothing, this packing cube holds everything important, and stays with Eric in his carry on. It holds money, passports, medical cards, back up credit cards, headphones, external batteries, charging cords. It holds all of the small stuff in Eric’s carryon. We love this bag so much that we affectionately refer to it as “The Cube.” Seriously, we don’t leave home with out it.
I wrote awhile back about being too hippie for square town and too square for hippie town. I knew I didn’t fit into the corporate world back in Chicago or Washington, DC. I also knew that I was too conservative to live in Ubud, one of the hippie enclaves of Southeast Asia. I was a little bit of both, at least at that time.
Since then, I know I am firmly NOT a hippie, and I am embracing my corporate skills more and more. But, I bought my first pair of Birkenstocks last year and love them. I wear them every single day, I go nowhere without them. I can walk for miles and miles each day without sore feet or blisters. And, I bought them in a dark silver so they feel a tad more dress up. They were well worth the investment! Please, just don’t call me a hippie. I’m merely practical.
Eric loves this bag. His Timbuk2 Messenger Bag also goes everywhere with us. It is comfortable to carry. It doesn’t look as backpackery as a backpack. Because it’s black it can be dressed up when needed. And, it fits a lot. He can carry our camera, a few lens, his laptop, and even my laptop, our trust packing cube, cords, and more! Although this exact version doesn’t seem to be available anymore, as the bag is over 4 years old, Timbuk2 messenger bags are easy to find. Just remember, their large size is, well, large. Eric’s is a medium, fits his laptop fine, and looks plenty big on his frame.
Gadgets and Electronics for Travelers
This is a hard category, as technology changes so rapidly. And, travelers, whether long term or short term, want to take fabulous photos and videos, keep up to date on work if needed, and keep in touch with people back home. Between the two of us we carry two MacBooks, two phones, a camera, three lens, a GoPro, a mess of external hard drives, a small tripod, and all of the adapters and cords that go along with them.
I understand we are “professional” travelers, but I think so many of the tools we carry could be very useful, or even fun, to take with you on your next trip!
Keeping all of this in mind, travelers also don’t want to feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. And, I am a firm believer in packing light!
Keeping all of this in mind, these are my recommendations for gadgets for travelers:
When we started our trip in 2012, we had an older DSLR camera, which we thought we needed. Then, during a quick trip home not long after, we purchased our Sony Mirrorless Digital Camera. Mostly because of size and weight. Eric was tired of our camera taking up half his carryon bag. I didn’t want to carry it around all the time, so we never brought it out unless we were doing some sort of big event. The Sony Mirrorless was a godsend. And, Sony just came out with its newest version, which I am buying as soon as possible! I’ve been working overtime the last year in trying to improve my food travel photographs. I try my best to make our blog posts just scream “eat me.” And, recently, people have asked me what camera we use to capture food photos. It’s not the camera that makes the difference, but the lens. We use a Sony 50mm f/1.8 Lens, which offers a short depth of field, making both food photos, and portraits seem a lot more interesting. It took some time to get used to the manual settings, but it makes all the difference in the world.
We’ve been iPhone people since before leaving the US. I, personally, carry an unlocked iPhone 6, which allows me to switch sim cards at every border. But, recently, we were sucked in by the Samsung advertising while living in Bangkok. After all, a large part of our business revolves around photos and videos, and Samsung promised the best. Eric swapped in his iPhone 5 for a Samsung Galaxy S7 and we haven’t looked back. Not only is there a possibility to expand its memory to up to 200GB by adding a microSD card, but it takes amazing photos and videos! Shortly after buying the Samsung, we bought a SanDisk Ultra 128GB microSDXC UHS-I Card for added memory, so we don’t have to worry about deleting photos or videos while on a trip because we’ve used up all the space. It also makes it easy to transfer the photos and videos to our computer using a little adapter. One of the best purchases ever!
I am here to dispel the myth that a GoPro is only for adventure travel…what about Adventures in Food?
I am so happy we bought our GoPro. It takes some of the coolest photos. Although we don’t use it for mountain biking or heli-skiing or diving, we still get a lot of use out of it. We’ve taken it under water, to see fish, and just for fun. We’ve used it for great beach photos. It makes airports and airplanes look sexy. And, the time lapse setting is amazing.
On the “basic but absolutely necessary” list, is a Universal Wall Charger. We usually carry a couple of these with us, because we have so many devices to charge. And, they are cheap, as little as $12.
I will say, we’ve traveled on quick overnight trips, checked into our hotel room, looked at each other and realized, neither of us packed the wall charger (I always blame the husband, of course). Havoc generally ensues. Now, it’s one of the first things we pack, and we even will carry one in our carry on bag to charge at the airport.
One of the things I love about this universal charger is that it takes care of all countries in one device, so there’s no need to carry multiple adapters.
Resources For Food Travelers
aka “How To Find the Yum”
Whether looking for something to read while exploring the world for food, or to help prepare you for your trips, I would recommend a handful of books to look for food travel inspiration. Our good friend Jodi over at Legal Nomads penned the ultimate guide on how to find great food on the road in The Food Traveler’s Handbook. An energetic and friendly Thai woman named Chawadee published THE definitive guide to Thailand’s Best Street Food. These are the types of books we would turn to in order to aid in our culinary travels. For general inspiration, or for those armchair food travelers check out 1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die and the recently updated Where Chefs Eat. Of course, more than anything, I turn to blog posts for inspiration on what to eat when we visit a new country or city. Try searching for “Top things to eat in ___” or “Where to eat in ____” These types of searches will produce better results than what are the “Best restaurants in ____,” which more likely will result in a series of TripAdvisor links.
Technical Resources For Bloggers
The day we got a VPN was the day I felt we finally became digital nomad adults. For a long time now, everyone was telling us we needed a VPN, for security and more. Finally, we had enough reasons. It’s great for banking in the US. We use it when traveling in China. It really is just a must have. There are loads of options out there on VPNs, but we’ve been using Express VPN with no problems. Purchasing a year in advance also reduces the cost to only about $8 a month. Click here to learn more about Express VPN Services.
One of my first major purchases when I realized, wait, why don’t my photos look anything like other bloggers’ photos. Now, I am not a professional photographer and don’t even know how to fully use Photoshop. But, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a must-have. It not helps with editing photos but also helps to organize and tag photos to find them later. And, when you ultimately end up with thousands upon thousands of photos, this is important.
Through Bluehost, you can register your domain and host your site. I’ve used Bluehost for all of my websites, and I have a few for other businesses we run. Hosting starts as low as $5.95 a month, and I’ve never had a problem with them crashing. I think Bluehost is a great hosting service for a new travel blogger.
Resources For Long Term Travel
I’m a firm believer in learning from the best, and when it comes to successful professional travel bloggers, Caz and Craig from Ytravel Blog are one of the tops. Although their series has less to do with travel blogging than long term travel, it’s the perfect place to start to create the life on the road you’ve dreamed of. From organizing travel, to budgeting, and making it sustainable. Click here to learn more about How To Create a Travel Life You Love.
We met Mike and Tara of Two Travelaholics in Hanoi a few years ago, and had a cranking good time. It’s always wonderful to meet fellow long term travelers. It’s just nice to meet someone who doesn’t think all your life decisions are crazy. Their book, Create Your Escape: A Practical Guide for Planning Long-Term Travel, is the perfect resource to plan and budget your long term travel.
We are by no means budget travelers, and we can’t get by on $50 a day. But, a lot of people do. And, if you’re not interested in doing the digital nomad thing, or the professional travel blogging thing, if you just want to travel long term and have a great time, then Matt Kepnes’ How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is the best resource out there!