The World’s Greatest Travelers™ know what is important to know…and why. There are an estimated seven million (yes, seven million!) travel-related websites and 100,000-plus travel apps. Don’t get overwhelmed or distracted. After you have peruse our annual 101 Best Travel Website™ list; here is our down and dirty serious travelers short list (with links) of all the travel essentials you are likely to need to know. Why? Because being prepared is being ready for anything.
First off, that old saw is true: If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. So, we care about your HEALTH:
For those of you with a series of germ-phobias this is the site for you! All the official USG travel health information you could possibly want from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And for those that want a real Big Picture understanding of potential global bugs, there’s always the World Health Organization (WHO) also offers traveler advice in a more general way.
Next up…no matter where you go you have to do official PAPERWORK:
First you’ll need an official passport, so contact the U.S. State Department’s Bureaus of Consular Affairs to get a passport, get extra pages or renew one. (Always make sure you have at least one empty/blank page per country visiting before you go, as well as, at least 6-months left on a valid passport.) You may also need a visa to enter a country (either stamped in your passport by an embassy prior to departure, or the new-fangled pre-authorized electronic ones you apply for online), so you better check out the places you want to visit. We use a site called CIBTvisas that has all the latest up to date information you might need. Then, on the flipside, you need to know what you can bring back from your travels. So, whether you purchase tacky tourist trophies, priceless objects de art, jewelry, or household goods; you better check with the U.S. Customs & Border Protection folks to see if it’s legal to bring your stuff back into the country.
What could be more important than your SAFETY when traveling:
Politics aside, it’s always best to check out a few sites to see whose protesting, planning coups & counter coups, torturing their citizens, planning terrorist attacks or raping Mother Earth, etc. We like to include several sources in our research: The first place to get the official party line is at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs office for “alerts and warnings”—digest this info with a grain of salt! Other reputable sources include: Canada’s Foreign Ministers Report, Australia’s Smart Traveller site, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Country Files, and finally, the sun may have set on the British Empire, but they still have great spies everywhere and their offers great travel-related advice at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Foreign Travel Advice desk. But, for a completely unbiased sources you could check with the new myriad of risk management companies that have popped up since 9/11…some like Kroll Associates. We also like Country Watch. Remember, governments will continue to disagree, but people are people everywhere!
Ready, set, now for the DESTINATION INFORMATION:
Our National Intelligence Program (NIP), spends $80+ billion-a-year of your hard earned tax money, so make them prove their worth and check out the CIA’s World Fact Book. You can get travel brochures e-mailed directly to you from just about everywhere now, so click to the World Tourism Directory and pick your destination.
Three sites that we really like that may help you put together a thoughtful travel adventure are UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites and the Man and Biosphere program for great natural sites. Or if people matter to you, check out the highly informative Human Rights Watch reports, and the equally important Amnesty International country reports.
Other fun and HELPFUL RESCOURCES while on the road:
Know the time differences anywhere in the world, check out The World Clock.
Know the International Dialing Codes for making calls at CountryCode.
Know what electronic plugs and sockets you will encounter when you need to power up at WorldStandards.
Know the golden hour photo op times for great sunrise and sunsets wherever you at TimeandDate.
Know the local currency at XE Live Exchange Rates.
Use Google Translate to communicate effectively when that Russian language class eludes you.
Find out all your transportation options between two destinations at Rome2Rio.
Need to know where your hotel is located and what is around you? We use Google Maps a lot…street views are just fantastic!
Never over pack or get caught in a snowstorm by knowing the 5-day, 10-day weather forecasts for any destination whether urban scavenging, skiing or being a beach bum at The Weather Channel.
ARRIVING & DEPARTING:
Check out any airport’s services, food and other travel info at the terminal before you arrive, by visiting any airport at FlightStats. You can also check out any flight status (arriving or departing) from any airport in the world with that same source.
Don’t get surprised with entry fees and departure taxes in any destination, Wikipedia keeps track of all that for you.
Getting GROUND TRANSPORTATION from airport to downtown:
Maybe the best site of its kind that allows you instant maps to all the world’s mass transit systems is at Subway. But know that almost every airport in the world now has a website that provides arrival information and ground transportation options. Use them use FlightStats to access those websites directly.
For bus, ferry, rail and car rentals…look it up!
Air and lodging BOOKINGS:
Needless to say, TripAdvisor is the place to go for reviews…just be aware of nasty comments and puff reviews. Lonely Planet remains helpful too. We have been using TripExpert recently that only posts professional (read: industry propaganda) hotel reviews.
Finally, if you have consumer-related problems with your travels, here are the best places to go:
I highly recommend Chris Elliott; here is the European Union site for passengers right’s (yes, you have them there–just not here!); how to file an FAA complaint and the Department of Transportation too.
A few travel blogs we like:
ConsumerAffairs (for car rentals & other keen insights):
Chris Elliott’s blog
Anthony Bourdain’s blog
Economist Magazine’s Gulliver blog
National Geographic’s intelligent travel blog
The Cranky Flier blog
Los Angeles Times Travel News blog
New York Times In Transit blog
Lonely Planet’s blog
Perceptive Travel blog
Yahoo! Travel blog
Huffington Post Travel blog
Johnny Jet Travel Insider blog
Borders of Adventure blog
Open World Travel blog
Anything we missed? Please let us know at: gsh[@]globalscavengerhunt (dot) com
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