Many of my friends have asked me how I plan itineraries for
trips I take, and have wanted my recommendations about the best travel guides
and websites out there.
For deciding where to go:
- Talk to your friends! People you like have
probably traveled to places you’d like. Start there
- Lonely Planet’s “The World” Guide– This
full-color, photo-laden tome offers a “top experiences” list for every country
in the world. That’s right, all of ‘em.
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die– This monster
of a guide has in-depth information on a thousand top experiences in the world,
grouped by region and then by country. It’s a good resource for getting some
For planning an itinerary:
- Maps are a great resource- especially if you’d
like to visit multiple countries, maps can help you simply identify what places
are near each other, whether they are accessible easily overland, or whether it
would be a longer journey. For example, if you visited Vienna, Austria, you
might not know that the capital of Slovakia- Bratislava- is just a quick train
ride away and can make an excellent day trip.
- Frommer’s– Their website has excellent guides by
country, with most featuring recommended itineraries for various amounts of
- Intrepid Travel– This is a travel tour company,
but even if you don’t want to book with a large tour group, you can still use
their website as an excellent resource for planning your itinerary. All of
their trips have extensive trip notes available online for free which detail
transport from one place to the next and recommended activities for each spot
as well as some cultural and historical information. Even better, you can
search on their website by country, website, duration, region and other
options, helping you narrow down how you will want to spend your time. Note-
other tour outfitters, like Gecko’s Adventures and Top Deck, also post their
itineraries online. They are not as detailed and informative, however. That
said, if you want to actually book a tour, the general itineraries are near
identical to what Intrepid Travel offers, and almost always significantly
For self-guided walking tours:
- Rick Steves– If you are traveling to Europe, you
must take Rick Steves with you. He has a free audio app available where you can
download audio guided tours for most major European cities on to your device to
listen to as you walk around the city. He’ll give you all the historical and
cultural information you need! His guidebooks are also great, and have even
more self-guided walking tour itineraries jam-packed with great information. If
you are short on space or money, though, you can skip the travel guidebook and
stick with the free audio app.
- Lonely Planet– If you are going anywhere that’s
not Europe, I recommend buying the Lonely Planet guidebook (or renting from
your local library). Lonely Planet guidebooks, in my opinion, are the best
organized guides out there, and most of the ones I have seen also include some
self-guided walking tours for different neighborhoods and cities.
- City Walk app– City Walk has self-guided walking
tours available to download via an app for each location. They have some
limited content for free (which I honestly only ever used as a last resort if
Rick Steves or Lonely Planet weren’t available), and more content for purchase.
I recommend this if you have nothing else to go on.
- If all else fails, just Google “self-guided
walking tour of <city name here>” – you’ll find something! For example,
we found a great self-guided temple tour of Chiang Mai online and used it to
guide our walk around the city one day. As an aside, many cities around the
world, and most in Europe and South America, offer free walking tours or tours
for tips. Look it up online, or ask reception at your accommodation. Most
hotels should know, and any hostel definitely will know, if there is one
offered in that city!