Planning a trip? Here are our very best recommendations to make everything go smoothly, maximize your adventure and–of course–get the most bang for your buck.

By now we’ve done a lot of global gallivanting, which has given us plenty of time to sort out which services to use and which ones to avoid.  What you see reflected on this page are our absolute favorites that we use nearly every time we travel.  Some of them are regionally-focused (e.g. Ctrip and Wegolo), but all of them will make your travels better and easier.

Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you use the services we recommend we earn a commission. That said, we only link to the companies whose services we use ourselves when planning itineraries and on the road. If you’re ready to go on a trip yourself and would like to support Wing-It Worldwide in some way, clicking on our recommendations is a great way to do that. Best of all, you won’t pay a penny extra. (Oftentimes, you’ll save.)

It’s a complete win/win for everyone.  And yes…if you ever have any questions about our experiences with the products and services we recommend just ask. We’ll be happy to answer.

Remember, when you click on the links below you’re supporting the site, which helps us keep the fun going for free.

World Nomads

World Nomads

Why fly without a net when there’s World Nomads? These guys are the best there is when it comes to insuring every aspect of your trip, from lost luggage to illness to complete cancellations. You can even opt for “extreme” insurance if your adventures are truly bonkers. That said, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the craziness they cover at no extra charge.

Start Here:

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor

We started traveling long before there was ever a TripAdvisor.

I’ll never forget after one particularly heinous hotel nightmare, Emily said, “You know, there should be a site where you can not only book hotels and stuff, but users could rate their experiences first-hand.”

Why we didn’t hire a web developer and git ‘r done I have no idea. That was a really good idea.

But hey, someone else did work instead. Nowadays TripAdvisor is like the microwave oven. How did we ever live without it?

I mean, we haven’t endured a bad hotel in, what…five years? That’s because all we do is click here and all of our worries are no more.

And flights? There’s just no substitute for entering origin and destination and boom…watching hundreds of flights show up, all sorted by best price from all the various travel sites out there. My “secret weapon” is building multi-city itineraries on TripAdvisor. It’s not unusual to save hundreds by stringing flight segments together rather than buying them all separately. If you get as fired up over planning trips as I do, TripAdvisor is basically your dream engine…on steroids.

Oh, and don’t forget to feast your eyes on all the Traveler’s Choice Winners. That’s one of TripAdvisor’s coolest features.

Wegolo

Wegolo

If you’re going to be catching flights around Europe, Wegolo is the site to choose.   Its special niche in the travel world is finding flights on low-cost airlines.

This is mission-critical because now it’s often as inexpensive to fly from place to place in Europe as it is to take the train.  Never mind that getting a Eurail pass was the default standard procedure just six or eight years ago.  Nowadays the Wizz Airs, EasyJets, AirBaltics, et. al. of the world have changed everything.

Get there cheaper and faster with Wegolo.

Wikitravel

Wikitravel

As you’ve probably already guessed, this site is basically the Wikipedia for travel destinations.

We discovered it about five years ago, and since then have never bought another travel guide book.

Here’s why.

First, its FREE. ‘Nuff said about that.

Second, travel books are HEAVY. Since Wikitravel is a website, it weighs no more than the device you’re already bringing on the trip with you regardless. We now save those valuable extra pounds in the luggage for cool stuff like beer glasses with “Tusker” logos on them and Mongolian leather knife sheaths. Hell yeah.

Third, even though Wikipedia’s critics may claim that the site’s information may be inaccurate or out of date, we’ve found quite the opposite to be true. In nearly all cases the listings are remarkably reliable and usually fresher than even the most recent edition of the major travel guide books, let alone the 2007 version you’ll find at the public library.

Finally, you can pull up a Wikitravel listing for virtually ANYWHERE on the fly…including probably thousands of places nobody has gotten around to writing a guidebook about.

Tripit

Trip-It

The logo says “Tripit”, but the site says “TripIt”. Either way, this is the coolest travel app we’ve ever used, and that’s saying something.

What it does is aggregate your hotels, flights, day tours, ferry boats, trains into one linear digital itinerary. All you do is create a trip in the TripIt system by choosing beginning and ending dates and slapping a name on it (e.g. Eastern Europe Adventure). Then, all you do is forward your confirmation messages from booking sites directly to TripIt and BOOM…a contiguous itinerary is automagically stitched together for you.

Obviously, having a “big picture” plan of action on your smartphone or tablet is way better than schlepping a stack of papers with you. The only drawback is that you’ll need wifi to get an updated view of your itinerary. While that may not seem like a biggie to those who plan ahead, the main value of the real-time feature lies in the weather reports and flight status info that TripIt layers on top. How cool is that?

Rome2Rio

Rome2Rio

This site performs a seriously unique and slick function…all with brain-dead simplicity.

All you do is enter an starting point and a destination, set the site in motion, and it comes back atcha with the easiest, cheapest and/or fastest way to get there by air, sea, train or bus.

Let’s just say that the random “feasibility studies” us traveldork types tend to drift toward when we’re bored just became A LOT more serious. Fair warning: Playing around with this site can become addictive…just like the girl next door back in high school.

seatguru1

SeatGuru

Have you ever wondered why all these online companies always name themselves something that’s two words turned into one word, but then they capitalize both words anyway as if they’re still separate?

I hadn’t, at least until right now. But it’s sort of true.

Anyway, SeatGuru (now owned by TripAdvisor…go figure) is one of those sites with a seemingly small, almost inane purpose. But it isn’t until the first time you DON’T use this free service and WISH you had that you realize how immensely valuable it is.

I’m talking about that feeling when you score a window seat on United, only to find out after boarding that 12a on their 737-900 has a WALL there instead of a window.

Or that your seat on that Qatar Airways 777-200LR is right before an exit row…thereby welcoming you to a sixteen-hour non-reclining experience. Suddenly Doha just turned into “Doh! Ha…”

No more disappointments. All you do is punch in the airline, flight number and date and voila…the seat map of your aircraft appears and you’re that much smarter in a flash.

As you get to know us, you’ll find that we have a refreshingly wonkish world view when it comes to airlines, aircraft types and yes…even seat assignments. Those factors conspire to make a MASSIVE difference in how cool and enjoyable getting there can be. We’ve become intentional about planning our international flights in granular detail, and WOW has it paid off. Look for a blog post in the near future on how we finagle that sort of stuff.

Ctrip

Ctrip

If you’re going to the Pacific Rim, Ctrip is a killer “ace in the hole” to play if the mainstream booking sites frustrate you.

This past February we decided to book a trip to include Osaka and Tokyo, only to find out that the hotels were booked solid…even at two months out! Ctrip came to the rescue, giving us the right hotels at a price that beat our expectations.

I don’t know exactly how they do it, but it’s best to enjoy this site’s magic before everyone else in North America discovers it.

FlightAware

FlightAware

This is the ultimate geeky travel tool for aviation enthusiasts. FlightAware allows you to track any flight on the planet at any time of day, giving you almost too much information about the aircraft type, airline, speed, origin, destination and more…even the tail number. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it started telling you the pilot’s name after the next software update.

The utility of a site like this is practically endless, even if you’re not necessarily the Rain Man of granular aviation factoids. For example, when researching flights you can type in the flight number you’re interested in and find out, say, its record for being on-time over the last several weeks.

It’s also cool to see the global route of an upcoming international flight. I know I was excited to find out ahead of time that my flight from Newark to Beijing would be trans-polar!

There are also airport stats, including the “misery map” which tracks delays and cancellations.

By the way, did you know there are 104 Airbus A3800-800s in the air as I’m writing this?