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I’ve compiled resources that have been essential for planning spontaneous travel and living a fulfilling and sustainably conscious life. For my recommended travel gear, check out the Gear Guide page.
Resources for planning trips and making the most of your journey.
Google Flights | Let me start by saying this is better than Kayak or any other flight search service I’ve ever used in the past. Google Flights lets you pick a destination, and in the calendar dropdown it actively shows you the price of the cheapest flight on every date listed. It’s so much faster than any other service I’ve used to find flights and lets you pick legs individually for ultimate flexibility. You can also set up alerts for when a flight is cheap. We snagged summer flights to Alaska with a great route and times for $381 round trip, on a major airline in regular economy. These flights (when we had booked in 2020) were $800 each.
Escape.Flights | Hand-picked flight deals and flash sales from major metro areas like New York/Newark, Chicago/Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and Austin/San Antonio. Get their email updates or follow your city on Facebook to get the best spontaneous travel deals! Great for planning that weekend getaway to someplace you never thought you’d visit.
Airbnb | Open yourself up to spontaneous travel by staying in someone’s spare room or entire apartment instead of a chain hotel. You’ll learn local tips and tricks from the host and get a glimpse into what it’s really like to live in that destination. Bed and Breakfasts are also excellent choices if you’re not ready to stay in someone else’s home, since they usually have lots of character and also provide a free breakfast to get you going. (Note: You can find places like this without using Airbnb, too. Just think outside the box!)
Moon Travel Guides | When researching our trip to Belize, my husband and I looked at all of the guide books out there (Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Fodor’s), and settled on Moon for the colorful pictures and text, easy to read format, and excellent information. Those other books might have great recommendations, but the Moon book made us excited to travel and were a breeze to find what we were looking for.
TSA Precheck and Global Entry are must-haves for US-based travelers. Imagine going through a security line in 5 minutes instead of waiting in an hour-long line, not having to remove laptops or liquids or shoes, and walking casually through a metal detector instead of the full-body scanners. TSA Precheck is $85 for 5 years and gets you into the quick security line, which is great for domestic travel. Global Entry is $100 for 5 years and provides all the benefits of Precheck plus quicker customs re-entering the country. You’ll need to go to a facility (often at your local airport) for a quick interview and fingerprinting, but it’s totally worth it. Some credit cards will even cover this application fee.
Clothing, bags, and accessories that I use every day and when traveling.
Annie’s Gear Guide | Over my years of travel, I’ve come across some products that I have tested and trust to work well. These are all items that I’ve bought of my own free will and with my own money, and I really believe in them. It’s constantly being improved as I test out more categories of gear (no socks, undergarments, or cameras yet) but hopefully you’ll find something to make your next trip even better!
Pack Hacker | When I made the transition from rollaboard to backpack-only travel, I stumbled across Pack Hacker and it’s changed my life. These guys and gals test backpacks and other travel gear for months or even years at a time and post thorough video reviews and blog posts about each item. I used their site to both discover and purchase the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Backpack that has changed my life! Now, I’m down to a 28L backpack and my husband is down to a 21L pack, but the Allpa was what got it all started.
OneBagTravels | This YouTube channel has excellent reviews of items for one bag travel, from bags to accessories. He actually packs the bags he tests so you can see how much they fit and it they work for your purposes. A small channel that could use some more views!
Sustainable Living and Conscious Consumption
These are general resources that have helped me adjust my mindset about what’s important in life.
My Green Closet | Well-vetted product reviews, tips, and ideas for sustainable living in all parts of life. Verena Erin truly stands behind her advice and does reviews of everything from capsule wardrobes and how to thrift efficiently to no-VOC paints and how to repair your own clothes.
Yoga With Adriene | Hundreds of free yoga videos taught by the wonderful Adriene. She has a calendar of free daily practices to keep you motivated, and every January has a brand new set of 30 days of yoga. I practice 20-30 minutes every day in the morning and feel so much calmer and mindful, more flexible, and stronger. She is welcoming to all levels and body types and invites you to “find what feels good” instead of pushing your body when it’s not ready.
You Need A Budget | It might seem like budgeting every dollar is the opposite of spontaneity, but I’ve actually been much more free to spend spontaneously since using YNAB. With YNAB, every expense is mapped to a budget, so you always know there’s enough for things like bills and living expenses. With what’s left, I can set up budgets for spending money and travel, so when a spontaneous opportunity arises, I know right away if I have enough money to do it without worrying about the consequences on my daily life. Note: This one’s a referral link, so if you subscribe, each of us gets a free month.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo | When your life is full of unnecessary stuff, your brain is, too. I read this book and took the opportunity to get rid of anything that didn’t “spark joy.” As a result, I have a more positive outlook on life and am less stressed. I now prioritize experiences and am no longer obsessed with buying things I don’t need.
Mr. Money Mustache | The grandfather of financial independence/retire early (FIRE) blogging, MMM is the place for inspiration and tools toward becoming less dependent on stuff and restructuring your life so that you’ll have more time to do the things you want.
Inspiring Books and Websites
Note: If you are inspired to buy a book, please buy it from a local bookstore (check out bookshop.org to support your local bookstore online) instead of Amazon. While I am an Amazon affiliate, I’d rather local bookstores get that revenue and put it back into their communities. If you do use Amazon, check out Amazon Smile to donate to your local charities.
BookRiot | Find reviews and recommendations of a diverse selection of books, plus podcasts and a daily deals list of low-priced Kindle books. I can spend hours exploring this website and adding books to my To Be Read list.
Libby | If you have a library card, chances are you can get free ebooks and audiobooks through the Libby app on your phone. These books can typically be sent to a Kindle and you can push out holds if you’re not ready for a book when it becomes available. You can check out books from the library without ever having to leave your house. This is how I access over 90% of the books I read.
iTalki | If you’re traveling someplace that speaks another language, the best way to learn is through actual 1-on-1 practice with a teacher. iTalki helps you connect with native speakers at affordable rates.
I’m going to include more book reviews on this site in general, but the single most influential book for me is John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America. After reading this book in high school, my dad and I were inspired to go on a 3 week road trip through the Southwestern United States and it was one of the greatest spontaneous experiences of my life. Definitely my number one must-read travel book to become inspired about spontaneous travel. I talk about my reflections in my What Makes a Journey? post.
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson is next on the list. This book chronicles Bill’s multiple travels around Australia and is packed with his trademark sense of humor and critique of social situations.
I’ve recently been recommended Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Heat-Moon for its poetic language and fascinating descriptions of encounters on the backroads of America in the 1980s.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte got me really, really into dinosaurs. Turns out dinosaurs lived pretty much everywhere in the world, so no matter where you travel, there is likely a museum or paleontological site to visit.
My Favorite Travel Blogs
My Wanderlusty Life is the travel tales of Ashley, who is based in Boston, and her “Time Budget Travel” philosophy, where you don’t need a lot of time to be able to explore the world. I love her writing style, sense of humor, and selection of places to go. Her post on Belize was a huge help in planning my honeymoon and getting this blog started.
A Dangerous Business is Amanda’s explorations of the world, ranging from weekend trips to New Orleans or New York City to two-week adventures in Turkey or Morocco. Her writing and perspective is accessible and inspiring, making it possible for anyone to travel.
Earth Trekkers is a family of four’s travels around the world, complete with excellent itineraries for 5 and 10 day adventures. If you travel with kids or just want some great ideas for week-long travel, this is a great place to start.