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7 Online Travel Guides to Help Make the Most of Your Next Trip

Published: May 9, 2012

By now, you’ve probably realized that there are a lot of online options for buying plane tickets, booking hotel rooms, and finding your way around a new city. But what about figuring out exactly what to do while you’re there? In ages past, travelers would go to a local bookstore to pick up a paperback destination guidebook. You’d spend some time dog-earing pages and circling interesting items, and then hope that the information wasn’t outdated by the time you actually arrived.

Now, the internet provides a plethora of travel information to help you not only find the best deals but also discover the amazing details that can really make your travel experience one to remember. These seven websites can help you find the best places to shop, the most interesting enclaves off the beaten path, or the most unusual activities once you’ve arrived at your destination.

1. Frommer’s

Frommer’s has been one of the most popular travel guides since the 1950s, when the company released the classic Europe on $5 a Day. Now in addition to its print guidebooks, Frommer’s has an extensive website offering all sorts of tips and ideas for traveling around the world.

If you already know where you want to go, start with the Destinations tab, where you’ll find an impressive amount of details about a wide range of locations. Each destination entry essentially has an entire guidebook’s worth of information at your fingertips. Not sure where you’d like to go for your next vacation? Try the Dream Trip Recommender, an interactive page where you can select options and choose how important various aspects like luxury, culture, food and drink, and nightlife are to your choice. The website will then suggest options that might fit your requirements. The Trip Ideas and 100 Family Trips tabs also offer suggestions for places to go and things to do with your next chunk of free time.

2. Fodor’s

Fodor’s is the world’s largest publisher of English-language travel and tourism information. With hundreds of guide pages highlighting top destinations around the world, each location entry features an overview of sights, restaurants, hotels, entertainment, shopping, activities, and travel tips. A section called Fodor’s Choice highlights some of the most interesting options and a brief primer on the language spoken in that location. Fodor’s also includes extensive information about hotels, restaurants, and cruises around the world, and for the somewhat more budget-conscious, the Deals section lists some of the more affordable options.

3. Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet is the largest travel guidebook and media publisher in the world. Aimed at backpackers and other budget travelers, it offers both standard tourist information and a hefty offering of destinations and options off the beaten path, letting travelers explore the real countryside outside the typical souvenir shops and well-worn photo ops.

Lonely Planet offers hundreds of articles about everything from Europe’s hidden gems to a guide on packing light. If you want a more personal web experience, the Thorn Tree Travel Forum is touted as the oldest travel community on the web. There, you can chat with other travelers to get advice and ideas about everything from getting a good latte in Lesotho to traveling through Tibet.

4. Rough Guides

Like Lonely Planet, the Rough Guides guidebooks were originally marketed to low-budget backpackers, though Rough Guides has now expanded to include travelers on all budgets. Containing information for hundreds of destinations, Rough Guides helps you plan your trip with tips about accommodations, restaurants, sights not to be missed, and tips on when to travel.

An ever-expanding library of articles about everything from local festivals to trips for first-time travelers will help whet your appetite for adventure, and a photo gallery features gorgeous images from around the world. You can also purchase hard copies of specific guidebooks, phrase books, pocket guides, and maps.

5. Rick Steves

Travel aficionados and lovers of public television are probably already aware of Rick Steves, the eternally cheerful travel writer, host, and tour guide whose Europe Through the Back Door series is incredibly popular. As the title implies, the books and website focuses on travel in Europe, including destinations from Scandinavia to Turkey.

A large library of travel tips and articles helps even the most nervous traveler feel confident traveling alone or with a group, and the website’s Graffiti Wall is a huge online community of travelers eager to share their experiences and advice. Articles about individual cities, regions, and entire countries can be found in the Plan Your Trip section, offering invaluable advice and suggestions.

6. Let’s Go

The Let’s Go series is unique in that it is entirely researched, written, edited, and run by students and was the first of the budget and backpacker travel guides. In addition to the usual information about tourist sites, accommodations, and restaurants, you can also find details about hostels, travel deals, and “beyond tourism” options such as volunteer or temporary work opportunities.

Personal stories from travelers young and old can be found under the Stories tab, offering tantalizing glimpses into some of the most unique destinations on the planet. Recent posts include “24 Hours in Norway” and “Desert Wanderings of a Solo Female Nomad” — sure to get your travel itch going.

7. WikiTravel

Following the model of Wikipedia, WikiTravel aims to create “a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable worldwide travel guide.” With almost 26,000 destinations currently in its database, it’s certainly well on its way. Most entries start with a section of general information and include details like getting to and around the destination, languages and currency, tourist destinations, food and drink, and culture.

Much like its larger sibling, WikiTravel is an easy website to get lost in. You’ll find yourself clicking link after fascinating link as you explore the world full of options. Since this is such a dynamic, user-created community, you can also be assured that information is probably even more timely and up-to-date than that coming from publishers that have to wait until the next publishing cycle to update their guides.

Know before you go

While there’s something to be said for heading out and going wherever the road takes you, it’s generally a good idea to have some sort of plan in mind before venturing into the great unknown. Whether you’re a backpacker looking for an inexpensive trip to the wilds of South America or a family interested in exploring the arts and culture of Europe, you may never need to purchase another guidebook again if you first spend some time exploring these websites!

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  • Susan Shwed

    What a great article! Very informative, concise, descriptive, clear. As one who has up to now used paperback guidebooks–reading, circling things, etc as the author describes, I welcome helpful info on new ways to plan my next trips overseas.