So you’ve decided you want to visit a new city, but you don’t know anything about it. Great! This is perfect, actually! Your trip is a blank canvas, and you get to decide what to do with it. Isn’t that the most exciting thing ever?
Well, maybe just to me, because I love planning trips. I have all kinds of spreadsheets (yes, SPREADSHEETS) for this very purpose. But like most people, I still struggle with how overwhelming it can be at first. It’s like trying to pick 5 of the best wineries in Napa Valley or 4 of the best restaurants in New York City. Where do you even begin?
The great thing about the Internet is that there are so many resources for information out there. The bad thing about the Internet? There is so much information out there! It does take some patience and work to sift through it all, but now more than ever, you can plan some pretty cool trips all on your own if you just know where to look.
So with that, these are my 6 favorite travel apps for finding trip inspiration:
TripAdvisor | By sheer size and volume of information, TripAdvisor still holds its top rank as a solid place to start your trip planning. Searching for ‘Things to Do’ in a particular city is easy, with the city’s top attractions ranked by most popular based on reviews. I find that TripAdvisor can be a bit overwhelming sometimes though, with some of the same old things (churches, parks) coming up over and over again. It can be hard to truly decipher credibility in the reviews too (you know, like how chain restaurants consistently land in the top 20 restaurants — not my first choice for dining out in a new city). That said, consider TripAdvisor a good place to start, and then move on to other travel apps for more local recommendations.
Gogobot | In more of a community-based format, Gogobot breaks down a city by “Play”, “Eat”, and “Sleep” (and then smaller sub-categories like “breakfast” or “outdoors”). Locals are encouraged to review places in their own city to earn expert status there. One of the cool things about Gogobot is that you can view recommendations on a map, so you can, say, easily find a good breakfast spot next to the museum you’ll be spending the morning at. Use the search feature and you can narrow down activities by “tribes” based on your own personal travel style like “families”, “foodies” or “outdoorsy”.
Pinterest | Ok, I know this isn’t exactly a “travel app”, but more and more I’ve found myself using Pinterest to plan our trips (sometimes almost exclusively). Searching is easy and intuitive, with phrases like “Charleston with kids” or “where to eat in Charleston” yieldings hundreds of eye-catching results in an instant. I usually look for a mix of pins from travel bloggers, tourism websites, and major publications like Travel + Leisure, which will guarantee a nice combo of must-see places and local faves. Plus, since most travel bloggers take their advice from other travelers who have been there (or better yet, locals) you’re more likely to find those off-the-beaten path spots that you might not see written about in a magazine.
RueBaRue | Truly don’t know where to start or just want someone else to do the work for you? There’s an app for that too! Enter a city, your interests, number of days, and the pace you want to go, and RueBaRue will create a sample itinerary for you in seconds. Each itinerary takes into account opening days and times for attractions, how much time you’ll need at each stop, and the travel distance between sites (something often overlooked when planning), so it takes out some of the guesswork on timing. I tried a sample itinerary when planning our Chicago trip and was surprisingly impressed by how well RueBaRue managed to fit in the city’s top attractions in the most efficient way. Of course, if you’re a control freak like me, you can customize the pre-set itinerary to better suit your tastes.
Airbnb | Did you know Airbnb now has guidebooks for most major cities? The popular home share website has branched out from offering just a place to stay and is increasingly working towards creating a full travel experience for its users. The guidebooks are an extension of the host guidebooks that have been around for a while already, but you can now easily access top host recommendations all in one neat, categorized place before you even book an apartment. And since Airbnb tends to draw a younger crowd more interested in immersive travel, recommendations for things to do (like visiting the flower market in Mauerpark Berlin) will be geared more along the lines of “living like a local”.
PS. Use this referral link and get a $35 travel credit when you book your first Airbnb stay!
Localeur | Localeur is the “list” version of a travel app. Users can create lists for just about anything, like “Breweries in the DC Area Beer Snobs Will Love” or “Best Hikes in SF that Don’t Require a Car”. Check out a city’s “Leaderboard” to see which restaurants or landmarks show up most frequently on the lists. One downside: the app is limited to US cities only. And just be careful of falling down the rabbit hole…it’s easy to get addicted and keep scrolling through list after list after list… 🙂
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start planning!
I’d love to hear what travel apps or resources you swear by too!
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