Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: My Favorite Travel Companies and Gear: 2013 Edition

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: My Favorite Travel Companies and Gear: 2013 Edition


My Favorite Travel Companies and Gear: 2013 Edition

Posted: 06 Jun 2013 10:10 AM PDT

lonely planet guidebookMany years have passed since the last time I wrote about the travel companies I use and a lot has changed in those years. Now, there's a ton of travel apps, new search sites, and resources available to help plan your trip. And while many of the companies I use have stayed the same, many have changed as has some of the gear I take with me.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is:

"Matt, who do you use when you travel?"

Since the last time I answered that question was 2010, I am overdue for a response. Below you will find a list of all the companies, apps, and gear I use:

Travel insurance – I still am a loyal user of World Nomads. I've been using them since I started traveling in 2006 and I'll continue to use them until I stop traveling. Their prices are competitive, they offer comprehensive coverage and great customer service. Overall, they just rock. They are the official travel insurance of both Lonely Planet and National Geographic and I figure if they were good enough for them, they're good enough for me. I’ve never been disappointed.

Backpacks – When I went to Africa last year, South African Airlines lost my REI Mars backpack. It was my baby. After 6 years on the road with me, it functioned as good as the day I took it home from the store. I still miss that bag – it was a constant on the road. It went everywhere I did, saw everything I did. So after mourning its lost, I walked into REI and bought the same one. Their products last forever and come with a lifetime guarantee. I'm a customer of theirs for life. Now, let's just hope this backpack doesn't get lost either.

Guidebooks – I don't always use a guide book but when I do, it's Lonely Planet. Everyone has their own guidebook preference; Lonely Planet is mine. I like the look of their guides as well as their light weight. After a redesign in 2011, the books are now better organized with more photos and better maps, and I enjoy their emphasis on budget travel.

Camera – I used to be a Nikon guy, but Canon has really improved the quality of their night photographs. Since my Nikon point-and-shoot was a little outdated, before I went to Africa, I bought a Canon SX 500 because of its really impressive zoom lens. I mean, look at the detail on this moon photo! That's pretty amazing detail. Now, I keep the Nikon around for city shots but if I'm taking a lot of nature shoots, Canon is what I use.

Video Camera – For the videos I post on my site (I'm starting to publish weekly videos, so be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel) I use a Panasonic HC-X900M. It's supposed to be the top-of-the-line HD video camera under $1,000. It shoots in full HD at 1920×1080 and since starting to use it, I've noticed a vast improvement in my video quality.

Computer – For all my website design, video, and photo needs, I use a Macbook Pro. I find it easy to use and it never breaks down. I love my Mac. Once you go Mac, you never go back.

Hotel booking sites – When it comes to hotels, I am a Starwood hotels loyalist. I don't often stay in hotels but when I do, I love the W and I use the points I get from travel hacking to stay for free. But if I do have to research I like to use Hotwire, Hotels.com, Expedia, and Booking.com.

Travel Apps – I don't use many travel apps; I've never been a huge fan of them. Why would you be checking apps while on the road? I never find myself in the middle of a jungle or on a beach thinking “damn, I wish there was an app for X!” But a few do come in handy: Google Maps (the handiest app of all), Skype, and Currency cover my basic needs. The rest are just filler.

Airline booking sites – I tend to be loyal to American Airlines. I fly a lot so being loyal as a frequent flier pays off. But when I am looking beyond AA, I use the following sites: Momondo, Skyscanner, Vayama, and ITA Matrix. Those sites are the start of any search I run for airfare prices.

Hostel booking sites – The best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and availability is Hostelworld. I use them for my bookings and I like them so much that I started a partnership with them two years ago.

Tour company – I took my first overseas trip to Costa Rica in 2003 with G Adventures. That trip turned me into the travel junkie I am today. I like their commitment to the environment and local communities, small group sizes, and balance of free time and scheduled activities. It's the way touring should be done. They too have been a partner of the site for a while and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be making a major announcement regarding them that will save you a ton of money!

Airline alliance – While I travel hack the world and use points to fly just about anyone I can, when I am paying for my flights or have the miles, I am a Oneworld loyalist. While the Star Alliance has more airlines to choose from, American Airlines (the US partner) is far better than United and I'm also a huge fan of Cathay Pacific and British Airways! Win, win all around.

Travel credit card – This is a bit tricky since deals, cards, bonuses change so often. I sign up for a lot of cards in order to travel hack so I can fly for free. But when it comes to my everyday spending, I rotate between three cards: Starwoods AMEX (business expenses), American Airlines (points for free flights), and Chase Sapphire Preferred (some points, plus no foreign transaction fees).

So there you have it: my favorite travel companies – the ones I use constantly throughout my travels. These are the ones I recommend throughout my site because they constantly get me great deals, offer great customer service, and are just all-around amazing. Are these the perfect companies for every traveler in every circumstance? No, of course not — but if you're looking for some consistently good companies to check out first, these are the ones.

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