I must give Mark full credit, he planned the bulk of Southeast Asia. He’s a magician on the internet and found us great deals at great locations. Below are some resources we (he) utilized for our adventure.
Mark is a Google Drive master. He created this elaborate Abroad file with calendars, expenses, hotels, itineraries, etc. You might not get super organized like this so my point in this is to say that Google Drive enabled us to stay connected and organized. We were both able to access our “Abroad 2019” folder and add useful information like passport photos, visas, hotel confirmations, list of medications, etc. Drive is nice because it can be accessed anywhere via any device. It allowed us to have one central location for materials, as opposed to constantly searching emails or digging through files on our laptops. We can quickly pull up information like: we’ll be in Bali from XX to XX, we booked X tour in Hanoi, etc.
TripAdvisor is key when booking lodging, tours, classes or researching any activity. Unlike Yelp, TripAdvisor tends to have very accurate and up-to-date reviews. International businesses take immense pride when they receive high ratings on TripAdvisor and when you are asked to leave a review, they’ll refer you to TA or Facebook. Some businesses will copy and paste the TA logo on their signs, so visiting the site is a good way to see if that establishment is truly highly recommended.
We mostly looked to TA to compare prices, read reviews and start our brainstorming session on what to do in each city. We did not book anything through TA, so we aren’t familiar with that aspect of the site.
Largely speaking, we’ve found the TripAdvisor reviews to be accurate. In other words, a highly-rated, “Travelers’ Choice” establishment is truly (IRL) a gem. For lodging especially, we always looked for the TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence”, that’s always a good sign that a place is legit.
Blogs are an excellent way to research places to stay and things to see. As cool as you are, many people have done the exact trip you are planning to do and they offer beneficial insight. There are many different types of blogs so there is a good chance your question(s) will be answered: family trips, backpacking travels, solo travels, luxury, and budget trips. Sometimes blogs are better than guidebooks or sponsored sites because it’s written by a real person who really went to that place. They aren’t necessarily paid to do so, so their opinions are honest.
Blogs are full of useful insider information like what to pack, what’s overrated, what’s underrated, logistics and transportation. We booked our cruise on the Mekong after reading about it on a family’s blog. Their adventure looked amazing, they had great reviews and they provided the name of the company.
Below are some blogs we frequented:
When we weren’t reading the interwebs, we learned via word of mouth. The best travel advice comes from fellow travelers so hit up your family, your friends, your coworkers, etc. Through my family members and cousins, I was able to book food tours, pin restaurants and visit awesome spots.
Besides blogs, we also visited a lot of other travel sites to look at the weather, research flights, compare prices, etc. When possible, we tried to book tours (walking tours, food tours, etc) via the company website. We so far have avoided booking tours at tour companies in SE Asia.
We downloaded some apps prior to our departure that all have really come in handy since we’ve been traveling:
- Grab (Asian Uber, options of cars or motorbikes, pretty cheap most of the time and payment via cash)
- Line (Asian Whatsapp, very popular with locals)
- Google Translate
- Google Maps (also cool because you can pin restaurants and sites to access while you are out and about)
- Google Photos (if you don’t use Google photos, use something to keep your phone/photos backed up)
- some currency converter (I have a Pixel and I use xCurrency, Mark has an iphone and he uses XE Currency)
- Netflix/Amazon Prime (great for long flights, hotels with no TV)
- Maps.me (mobile offline maps)
- Snapseed (photo editing app)