- Get familiar with the websites of the airlines you expect to use. Find out how to get to key sections. But don’t over-trust them.
- Check out the plane specs, onboard meals and entertainment, etc.
But if you want details of plane configurations and seat selection, go to www.seatguru.com for multiple airlines. They’re very good for selecting seats, and often more up-to-date than the airlines. You can also read comments from actual passengers about specific seats on specific routes!
Airport sites usually have excellent maps of the airport. These maps will include not only where to connect to whatever’s next, but also the locations and hours of key things like tourist offices, ticket booths, SIM card vendors, currency exchanges, and more. Get your download and screenshot skills out.
- Several important points about trains in various places:
- They are often the best combination of price and speed
- A well-timed train is a great way to rest and recharge
- In Europe and much of Asia, the station locations are incredibly convenient
- In Europe and Japan, the trains are almost always exactly on time. No, really.
- There are usually several levels of train, differing in speed, comfort and number of stops
- Trains are quite inexpensive in Europe (except high-speed) and quite costly in Japan and the UK.
You can learn all about trains all over the world at the incredible site www.seat61.com.
I highly recommend going there just for a browse. Maybe set an alarm so you remember to stop at some point.
You’ll want to go back to seat61.com later for specific advice as you dig deeper. It will guide you to other sites you should look at.
Find the train websites for the countries you’ll be in, and get used to how they work. NOTE: no matter how much help and advice you get, it takes a bit of investment in time and patience to get used to train websites. They can be, ahem, quirky.
Learn how far ahead you can look up prices and schedules; for example, Swiss trains only look three months ahead, sometimes less
Note that in Europe you can usually plan a multi-country trip entirely on the website of the country you’ll start from.
Major train hubs often have their own websites. The comments above for airport sites apply.
You can also look on Google. Here’s a map of Paddington Station in London, easily found on Google:
Municipal transit sites
Find the relevant public transit websites – some easier to use, but all are useful to:
- decide whether a hotel is feasible
- plan each day’s timings;
- decide whether to buy a pass, and if so which one
- Learn about fare structures – advance non-refundable non-changeable etc.; watch for that in Expedia and other aggregator prices
- We still tend to use Google for finding a transit route, but early on we check a couple against the transit website to see if they match.
- The government sites (country, state/province or municipal) are usually fair and complete. They might favour companies they have a deal with, but they will usually mention the others too.
- Many destinations have area tourism sites, which can be especially useful if your key target is a little short on other things to do; maybe you can find options that are only a short distance away.
- In larger cities, neighbourhoods may have their own sites, describing things that may not have made the cut in the websites that cover a wide scope. These will steer you to a shopping street, a great coffee shop or whatever. These sites will often have useful small-area maps.
- Watch for other sites that may be trying to look official and balanced, but always seem to steer you to the same pass or attraction or discount book.
While looking at a site for an individual sight (often a church or museum), you may find a site for a group of them. These are good for telling you about things you might otherwise have missed, but most of all they often offer combo tickets that can save you money if you are going to more than one place on their list.
Article and list sites
These days, it’s hard NOT to find these. They’re on Trip Advisor pages, in Apple Maps, and will often turn up in your social media feeds. You know, “Toronto’s Top Charcuterie” or “12 exciting adventures in Costa Rica.” I have found these most useful as added-value ideas, as in “Just around the corner from Famous Place 7 is this wonderful little gelato shop.”