The other day, when I wrote about Europe, I wrote about how valuable Rick Steves was to making our trip a success. There are few more resources that I feel are just as valuable.
The first one is Tripadvisor.com. I used it extensively to find out not about the tourist attractions (I used Rick Steves for that) but for hotel reviews. We had decided to stick with no frills because every-room-looks-the-same chain hotels specifically Hotel Ibis have all we need: a bed and a shower. We understand we were giving up charm and personal service, but it was worth it for having a private bath in our room each night at a generally low-cost. Well, why look up reviews if you are staying in cookie cutter hotels? Because location is everything. I tried to find out if people had issues with safety in the area, how close it was to public transit, and what it was near any places we wanted to visit.
However, reviews can only take you so far. Google Maps are, simply, amazing. When researching, I would often “walk” around the neighborhood that we were staying in. This really put Cristina at ease because I for the most part knew where I was. We only got lost once, in Paris, and that wasn’t too bad…ok it was horrible because of the luggage, but we did get to see a lot of neighborhood butcher and bakery shops we normally wouldn’t have been able to see.
Finally, the MetrO app for the iPhone made public transportation in Europe very easy. All we had to do was type in the tourist attraction we were next to plus which one we wanted to go to and it would tell us how to get there. Best part is that it works offline so that we didn’t have to use the very expensive 3G networks in Europe.