Booking Cheap Flights
1. Kiwi. I love this booking site! I use it for all my flights these days. It is the only multi-carrier search engine that I have used which can find ALL the budget airlines and mix them with normal airlines to get the best price. Because changing airlines as you go can be scary (missed connections), they have a guarantee that they’ll book you a free flight on the next flight out (and if it’s the next day put you in a hotel). They also have an “anywhere” and ‘zone” function to find crazy deals. It’s wild! Cheap flights here are best if you don’t have a lot of luggage (as you’ll pay for each airline) and if you don’t mind layovers.
2. CheapOair. I don’t book without looking at CheapOair to compare prices. I also go here first (before Kiwi) if I am traveling a journey where I don’t want layovers or I have a lot of luggage so need a code-share. I’ve found good prices here for 10 years and never had an issue with their customer service when I needed to change/cancel flights, although sometimes there is a fee like all third-party sites.
Booking Cheap Hotels
1. Airbnb. For a nice house, homestay, or apartments on rent use airbnb.com worldwide. Usually this is for something a bit more unique and turns out cheaper & better than staying in a hotel.
2. Agoda. This is known as the BEST & cheapest booking site for hotels. Recently, it’s actually becoming a more world-wide booking site and is the first I check.
3. Hotels Combined. For discounted hotels worldwide. They have a huge inventory & compare prices from all the major booking sites so definitely check on here before making a final call.
Booking the Best Deal on a Rental Car
1. Rentalcars.com. This rental car company is what my Kiwi.com and Agoda recommend and use as their exclusive partner in their search results which is what got me interested in them. I used to hate finding rental cars, but this website has all the companies in their results so you can compare without going to a million websites. You get the cheapest price without shopping around.
Booking within India
1. Agoda. For hotels, I usually stick to Agoda no matter where I am in the world.
2. Kiwi. It has all the budget Indian airlines in their inventory. I am in love with this booking site!
3. Cleartrip. I use this for TRAINS. Their smartphone app is really convenient. You can also book trains on here very easily and make cancellations – but you do need to add your foreign credit card.
World Nomads Travel Insurance. When backpacking I get insurance and used this top ranked company mainly because it’s recommended as a Lonely Planet partner. It was $211 USD for just under 3 months the first time I got it. Quotes now for me are at $80 USD per month. Here is a post on exactly what is covered on World Nomads insurance.
iVisa. You can use this site to find out what visa you need for anywhere in the world. If you’re coming in India less than 60 days you can get an e-visa from the government, but I have had readers e-mail that it has declined their cards or had other errors. iVisa charges an admin fee, but does all the work for you and allows you to submit it way ahead of time, which the government one doesn’t allow. It’s your buffer so you don’t deal directly with the government site and they assure your documents are all sorted.
Hippie in Heels’ Guide to India. This is a massive 100,000-word ebook that plans your entire trip to India (put together after 6 years of traveling here). I’m positive you’ll have a killer trip if you use my “no BS” guide. Click through to see more details on what is included in each chapter as well as all the bonuses like activity and itinerary maps.
Insider’s Guide to Goa. I wrote this 170-page ebook with ALL my tips on Goa. This is the real deal; a local telling you all the best and secret places that never make it into blogs or Lonely Planet guides. If you’re coming to Goa, it’s a must.
G Adventures. This is the only international company I recommend to readers who email with questions about joining group tours. They do tours all over the world, and the ones in India are great for people not ready to travel alone. Here are the exact tours I recommend in India through G Adventures.
Trabug. Trabug is a travel phone that you can have shipped to your hotel in India. This phone has the internet and all kinds of India travel apps on it. It’s more expensive than a SIM, but SIM cards are sometimes a huge hassle for foreigners in India. You don’t want to be in India without access to the internet. Go for the Power plan.
Yoga Retreats. I get asked the most about taking yoga retreats in India. The link goes to the most respected site for comparing yoga classes, filtered by the most recommended. It’s important to do your research and read other yogi’s reviews. If you want yoga teacher training courses, check out these reviews.
India Travel Tips Hippie in Heels Facebook Group. This group is run by me and is a great place to ask questions about India travel and have a community of other people who love India travel, help you with advice! You can also meet other travelers here and I engage with most of the posts.
NordVPN. I have used a VPN when I travel for 6 years. I do this partly to protect my information online when I use public WiFi and partly because I turn on a VPN before booking flights so I can get a cheaper deal. It also allows me to watch USA Netflix, Hulu, USA cable TV, Amazon Prime and everything else that would otherwise be blocked while out of the USA.
Skype. Even though I buy a SIM card when I travel to swap out, I don’t call from it and use up my talktime. I connect to 3g and call via Skype. It’s so cheap, nothing compares, plus these days most people have skype so you can call direct for free.
Couchsurfing. I have used this all over the US and Europe, and even India. I used to host a lot in the USA as well. You need to build a profile and be safe in choosing a host for this free service. Here are some tips to stay safe on Couchsurfing.
Megabus. For the US. When I was in University at OSU, I took Megabus to Chicago and other nearby cities. If you book seats early, you can easily get a ride for under 10 USD.
Lonely Planet. When travel planning, I do use Lonely Planet along with reading other travel blogs to help. I download the PDF and save it on my phone on a reader, which was perfect while backpacking in India. You don’t need the internet to read it and maps are in the PDF and a great lifesaver in a pinch.
Blogging Recommendations: If you’re a blogger, the hosting the I use and recommend is Siteground which can handle a lot of traffic on the GoGeek plan (something like $14/month). If you are a new blogger, you should start with Bluehost though which is cheaper. It’s just $2.95/mo with this special discount link. The theme of my blog is called Avada from ThemeForest and it’s highly customizable. Nomadic Matt (the top travel blogger) has a course I recommend if you want to be a travel blogger or up your game. For email, I use Mailerlite (switched to it from Mailchimp easily, is more easily customizable, and it saved a lot of money). You can sign up with my link and get $20 off Mailerlite.
Here is my absolute favorite high-quality gear that I have traveled with for over five years. I recommend all these products because I personally use them! You will find a couple links in here to very detailed packing lists for clothes per location that may help you as well. Now you can shop my favorite things.
Backpacks & Suitcases
REl Traverse 65L Backpack This is my main backpacking bag. I have had this bag since 2008 and it’s been to 30 countries. I use this on trips that are one month or more. I find that 65L is the perfect size when you have areas which expand. I never fill it full before I leave and out of the U.S. have even taken this on carry-on when it’s only half full. Like my old go-to brand, REI, Osprey also has a lifetime guarantee on their products and I have used and love their products too although they are more expensive.
REI Flash 45L Backpack This is my secondary backpacking bag. I use this mainly when I do two weeks or less, typically I take it within India now when I’ll be on a train or bus. I’ve had this bag for 4 years now and it’s still like new. When filled up this can still be brought on as a carry-on.
Delsey Luggage Helium Shadow 25 Inch Exp. Spinner My new birthday bag! I love this suitcase. As an expat, having only a backpack makes no sense. This is a very wide bag and I don’t think it’s necessary to have a larger size even if you are moving abroad because the bag is so large it would become overweight. The 25 inch, I packed completely full and had no overage fees. It’s gorgeous too! I did a LOT of research before purchasing and this is the less expensive, but equally as hardcore version of the Samsonite.
Delsey Luggage Helium 19 Inch Carry-On Same exact bag as above but smaller. I’m over backpacks on small trips and needed this as a weekend getaway bag (well even for a week long trip it would work). Just got this addition for Christmas and LOVE it so much. If you want to play it safe for budget airlines, go for the 19 inch.
Packing Cubes They keep my luggage so organized; I can’t live without them. I use the small ones for tech items, the larger ones for clothing, and the long one for shampoo, comb and other long toiletries. I have this exact set in black.
Fossil tote bag I love fossil. I get a fossil bag every year (which is a little extreme, I agree). I always have a SECOND carry-on which I call my “purse” although the totes from Fossil are big enough for my laptop, tablet, phones, notebook, camera, jewelry bag, and most importantly snacks. It fits perfect under the airplane seats.
Panasonic DMC GX85 Mirrorless Camera I had been using a phone camera mostly up until August 2016, which is why you might have noticed my images got better from my trips to Israel, Morocco, and onward. I am obsessed with this vintage looking mirror-less camera. It’s as good as a DSLR but compact. It’s my new favorite toy!
Panasonic Wide Angle Lens 7-14mm I wanted a wide-angle more than anything else because I love being able to capture so much in a shot + it’s really good for shooting inside.
Panasonic Lens 35-100mm This is the second lens I got, about a year after the first. This is INSANE. It takes such good photos. I took a nighttime photo of fireworks from a moving helicopter – and it was the crispest shot ever! Obsessed.
Megagear case I have four MegaGear camera cases. Two neoprene cases one for the kit lens, one larger for the two bigger lenses. These fit like a glove and are cheap so a must have if you buy that camera. I have two leather cases also in those two sizes and they are cuter (I have the tan color) and are hard-shell so more protective when I’m traveling. These cases are specifically made for this camera so they are just perfect.
Panasonic Battery Charger & Two Extra Batteries Nothing worse than your camera dying when you need it most. This isn’t a “real Panasonic” product but those are SO SO expensive and these on Amazon work fine. I travel with two space fully-charged batteries in my purse.
SanDisk 16GB Class 10 Flash Memory Card I have two of these and for good reason. I had my camera stolen in Barcelona and had it not been for a tech-savvy cousin and back-up SIM card, I would have lost all my photos. The culprit had deleted my photos, so I switched to a second SIM and kept the “deleted SIM” to be restored later. In case you accidentally delete photos, they can be retrieved as long as you don’t replace the image with something new. Hence, two SIM cards. Plus I never have to worry about running out of space.
Computer & Gadgets
Apple Macbook Pro w/Retina I just upgraded to this from the original white MacBook. I got the 13 inch with 258 GB storage space because I use a hard drive as well. If I could do it again, I’d pay the extra and go for the 500 GB. I got the 8 GB RAM which was $150 more than the 4 GB, but so worth it. This computer runs SO fast. With all this added, it’s the same price as a similar Macbook Air, but I took this one with additional weight because it had a faster processing speed.
iPhone 8 Plus I finally got an iPhone! I was using a Chinese phone called Xaiomi for years but the new cameras finally sold me and I am obsessed with my phone.
LifeProof FRE Phone Case I would not have bought that expensive of a phone without getting a case for it. This is the best case on the market and is waterproof up to 3 meters, so I can take it in the sea and pool. It’s also really thin compared to other bulky waterproof cases. Can’t beat this.
Amazon Kindle I cannot travel without this. I didn’t get the fire because you can’t read it that well in the sunlight. This one, the Paperwhite, is the cheapest most basic version and it’s the best for outdoor reading. It’s always in my purse.
Transcend 1 TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive with Military Drop Standards. I guess you know you’re serious about blogging when you start asking for stuff like this for your Birthday. I hook this up to my computer once and week and the Mac Time Machine (a built-in feature) goes to work backing up all my photos, documents, downloads, etc. I can literally use the Time Machine by picking a random day in the past and it will show my what my computer had on it at that time. Genius!
Anker Portable ChargerThis charger is small and lightweight.
World Travel Adaptor I travel with a world adapter so I can put any plug I own in any socket in the world! Can’t beat it. This one is special because it has a two USB ports AND works as a power bank.
JOTO mini power strip When you travel with a phone, kindle, and camera it seems like there are never enough plugs. This has an extension cord, 2 USB plugs + regular plugs, and has a surge protector.
Extras you Need To Travel With Ease
Chaco Women’s Unaweep Sandal I live for Chaco sandals when I’m traveling. I bought the double strap, but would go for the single strap option on my next pair. They last forever so I may never need another pair. I have worn them all through India and Thailand from hiking to whitewater rafting. I am actually not embarrassed to wear these in cities with short and a cute top. They look super cute in a neutral color.
KEEN Women’s Voyageur Mid Hiking Boot KEEN is a kick-ass brand. I bought mine at REI and they have a lifetime warranty. I wore these in November in the Himalayas with a pair ofDarn Tough Vermont Coolmax Boot Full Cushion Hiking Socks (I got the men’s size small) and a pair of sock liners under those. My feet were absolutely comfortable and toasty on long hikes. Love these boots so much that even in medium/cold weather I would wear them with jeans in Northern India.
Cocoon Silk MummyLiner was my lifesaver when I backpacked in India and would have been awesome to have while I was in Europe on the trains. It’s thin, tiny, and lightweight. I pulled it out on sleeper trains and buses and even in dirty hotel rooms. Other than being comfortable, when I got off the trains I would still be clean!
Therm-A-Rest Compression Pillow is the best travel pillow on the planet. I’ve tried a handful and this one takes the cake. It’s larger than most, but truly compresses smaller than any I’ve had. It rolls up inside itself. I didn’t just use it on transportation, but in hotels that had hard pillows- this was actually more comfortable!
Master Lock 8147D Combination Bike Chain Lock It’s lightweight and four feet long. I put this in the top of my Osprey 65L and the weight never bothered me. I did a lot of research on bike chains / locks for trains and this one came up over and over. I slept like a baby knowing this was keeping my bag safe on the base of the train. I also use put a couple
Master Lock 4688D TSA Accepted Cable Luggage Locks on my closed backpack zippers while I sleep. These come in handy all the time and are lightweight.
Microfiber Fast Drying Travel Towel this is pretty self explanatory. In India you stay in guesthouses more than hostels and oftentimes a towel will come with your room. I still used this plenty when in the few dorms I stayed at, swimming, and when couchsurfing.
Petzl Headlamp was worth it’s weight in gold. In India you’ll learn power outages are very common and overnight buses are pitch black. I used this constantly, even on pre-sunrise hikes.
Casio Travel Alarm Clock It’s a genius little thing. It knows what time it is wherever you travel and changes automatically. It has thermometer reading, is very tiny, and great when you want to save battery on your cell phone overnight. Perfect for making sure you don’t miss your train stop. In sleeper class, nobody is going to wake you up.
Conair Adapter/Converter Combo perfect to charge my computer and phone at the same time. Because it has a surge protector, you don’t have to worry about blowing any fuses or any of your electronics going on the frizz.
While these items are for traveling anywhere, I have a list specifically to India on this website. To see all the things I packed for India check out my Ultimate India Packing List. I go into more detail on what clothing and toiletries you’ll need here.
My Girly Must-Haves
Bumble and Bumble Surf SprayI love putting salt spray on my hair. When I moved to India I didn’t even bring a blowdryer or straightener/curling iron. I either use nothing or spray this on for extra waves. It’s perfect. I bring it from the US and when I run out I order the Toni & Guy surf spray from Flipkart online.
Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief I realized recently, when asked about my number one packed item in interviews, I had said Clinique moisture surge in EIGHT interviews. Hello, Clinique, I should be your spokesperson. I LOVE this stuff. I tried to replace it with a few “similar” ones, but the don’t compare.
Dior Addict Lip Glow Color Awakening Lip Balm with SPF is in my purse at all times. As often as I use it, it still lasts a year. My favorite lip product by far because it has no color but draws out your natural lip color while keeping them from getting burnt and chapped!
Opi Bubble Bath Polish This kit is heaven for nail polish lovers. It has all the top selling colors and my favorites like: Bubble Bath, You Don’t Know Jacques, Cajun Shrimp, and Lincoln Park After Dark. Don’t travel with all ten, but change it up each trip and take these when you get a manicure in case they have awful color choices.
Boscia oil Blotting Papers I’ve used these for years and they really come in handy. It’s really bad for your skin to wipe your face on your shirt or sleeve if you’re feeling greasy. These will prevent breakouts.
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