On this page, you’ll find all the travel companies, booking sites, and gear that I actually use and recommend – as well as several valuable discounts!
What are you looking for?
- Actually Useful Travel Gear
- Sustainable Travel Companies – Multi-day Tours
- Day Trips & Short Tours
- Hotels & Accommodations
- Trains, Ferries & Busses
- Flights & Flight Deals
- Travel Insurance
- Luggage Storage
- Language Learning Before Your Trip (Free Resource!)
- VPNs & Tech for Travel
Note: This page includes some affiliate links. If you click them and make a purchase, I’ll earn a small commission, without increasing the price you pay. This means you’re supporting Tilted Map – so I can keep writing the detailed guides and reviews you enjoy – just by booking the travel you would buy anyway. (And you’ll still have your Booking.com Genius status, and other loyalty perks with the companies.) Thank you!
Actually Useful Travel Gear
Don’t believe the hype: You really don’t need much special gear for travel. These are the exceptions – the few “things” I really recommend for travel, because I use them to travel lighter and shrink my footprint.
(My two top picks for solid travel toiletries are below. Read this post for my full plastic-free travel toiletry kit.)
This plastic-reducing travel hack is much more than an "as seen on Shark Tank" gimmick: This is the bottle I use to purify my own tap water everywhere I go. (I used it in Mexico for two weeks – no problems, and I didn't have to buy a SINGLE plastic water bottle!)
Unbound Merino makes my favorite packable travel clothes. They don't wrinkle at all (one of the virtues of good quality merino wool), and they stay un-smelly for days and even weeks between washes.
Plus, their designs are elegant and stylish (no logos), and easy to mix in with your wardrobe.Discount:: Save 10% on your first order with the code TILTEDMAP .
If you’ve tried other shampoo & conditioner bars and never liked them, TRY THESE BEFORE GIVING UP! The Earthling Co. has won me over – and won over more of my friends than all the other bars I made them try.
They lather fantastically, smell great (with lots of scents), and nothing makes my hair look better.Discount:: Click any Earthing Co. link on this site to save 15% (no code needed).
This small brand makes the most sustainable skincare products I've ever found – with refillable metal containers and refills in paper. Plus with zero liquids, they're uniquely ideal for travel.
Their solid Vitamin C serum is the cornerstone of my daily routine, and their powdered face wash is also fantastic.Discount:: Save 10% on any Starter Kit or single refill with the code TILTEDMAP .
Sustainable Travel Companies – Multi-day Tours
Experience Italy in a totally new way: Instead of plazas crowded with tourists, you'll ride a bike (or e-bike) through ancient, hillside villages, visiting small wineries, cheese makers, and local artisans. Sleep in cozy, local farm stays, and the end the trip with a dip in the cool, blue Adriatic Sea.
Everything is organized by a very local, boutique travel company in the Le Marche region of central Italy. (Think – Tuscany, but less famous.)
I took this trip in June 2023, and will be inviting readers to join me on it in 2024! Read my blog post about the experience, and get on my email list for updates!
UnCruise is the only cruise company I can recommend from a sustainability and ethics perspective.
That's why I decided to take a trip with them to Baja California in 2023 – and the experience was so much more than I could have imagined! (See my review for all the details!)
G Adventures is a great option for booking more sustainable and ethical trips. They offer small-group travel with a focus on positive local community impact. That impact is measured through their unique Ripple Score, which shows how much of the cost of your trip stays in the local community you’re visiting.
Byway is a fantastic new company in the UK that creates fully curated, private European trips without any flights. They're a Certified B Corp focused on getting us off the beaten path and enjoying a slower pace of travel.
You can customize any part of a route they've designed – like Sicily by Sleeper Train, or Canal Cities in the Netherlands (not just Amsterdam) – or create your own from scratch. They'll handle the bookings, and even restaurant & activity recommendations.
A small, woman-owned travel company, with sustainability at its heart. They run small-group tours all around the UK – everything from trail running and mountain biking, to more relaxed wellness trips, like yoga and surfing. If you want to skip the group (but also skip the planning) they'll even organize self-guided tours.
They're a Certified B Corp, and a member of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency (like Tilted Map!) and have a plan in place for net-zero emissions by 2030.
Intrepid is the essentially the biggest name in sustainable travel. They run all sorts of small-group tours with local guides – from Italy to Iran to Antarctica.
But what makes them unique is that they're a B-Corp, they've been carbon-neutral since 2010, and are the first tour company to have science-based climate targets!
Day Trips & Short Tours
Get Your Guide is excellent for booking all kinds of private and group tours with local guides in Europe, North America, and around the world. It’s especially good for more off-the-beaten path destinations and smaller towns in Europe.
Hotels & Accommodations
Booking’s unique “Travel Sustainable” filter makes it easier to find more eco-friendly hotels. And by logging into the website, you’ll get “Genius” discounts on some properties that really do save some money.
Plus, Booking consistently gives more results than other platforms and, unlike many sites, the user reviews are guaranteed to be real. (You can’t review a hotel on Booking.com unless you’ve actually booked the property and completed your stay.)
Unique Vacation Rentals
Oliver’s Travels is similar to Plum Guide, except that all of their properties are villas – perfect for unique group trips.
They also have an excellent sustainability filter, with dozens of eco-friendly villas for rent across Europe.
Plum Guide does the work of sorting through a million Airbnb listings for you – all you’ll find on Plum Guide are the best of the best properties.
And they’ve cut out all the extra fees, too (cleaning, service fee, taxes…). So unlike with AirBnb, the nightly rate you see on Plum Guide really is what you pay.
Hotel Websites (for Specific Uses)
I find Hotwire works best in big cities in the US. The most value tends to be when you go for a 4- or 5-star hotel in a city center and let Hotwire choose the exact property for you.
(That’s where you’ll find the biggest discounts from normal rates. If you want a specific hotel, you’ll usually find just as good of a rate on Booking.com. At least in my experience.)
Agoda is a good platform for booking hotels in Asia – they tend to have the most selection and best prices on the continent. And they have the same sustainability filter as their corporate partner, Booking.com.
But for anywhere besides Asia, I'd recommend sticking with Booking, as Agoda has a spotty record with customer service and a rather spammy website.
Homestay options for women:
HerHouse is a new, award-winning app and travel platform that lets women set up free homestays, hosted by other background-checked women around the world.
(HerHouse membership isn't free, but once you're a member, each homestay is.)
NOTE: HerHouse normally opens for new members only every few months, but as an ambassador, I can get you in any time through the special link below.
Trains, Ferries & Busses
Omio is my first stop to get the lay of the land (and sea and air) for travel options. It shows train, bus, ferry and flight options in a single search for Europe, the US and Canada.
It’s a lot simpler than buying tickets directly from the train companies – no translation issues, or problems with foreign credit cards. And for booking Amtrak tickets in the US, it's definitely worth a look – sometimes Omio is more expensive, but sometimes it's much cheaper!
Search tickets on Omio:
FerryHopper lets you compare multiple ferry companies' routes, schedules and prices all on one site – with no fees or markups! It's like Kayak for ferries in Europe and North Africa.
I discovered FerryHopper when I visited Paros and Naxos, and I've used it ever since. Other benefits include e-tickets (which mean you don't have to check in at the ferry port – major time saver) and an app with a live map to track your ferry.
Check out my Greek ferry guide for details and tips on how to use FerryHopper.
Search tickets on FerryHopper:
Flights & Flight Deals
Kayak is what I use most often, because I find it to be the simplest and easiest, but that’s just my personal preference.
You can try your own comparison with the flight search engines below:
My favorite thing about Skyscanner is that it has a calendar view for comparing a whole month’s worth of flight fares. (While Kayak only shows one week at a time.) And you can filter for direct flights only.
And Skyscanner seems to search small booking sites that other flight search platforms ignore, and makes it easier to book directly with airlines.
Formerly known as Scotts Cheap Flights, Going is a free flight alert service that emails you deals from your home airport. It's most useful if you can be flexible with your travel dates (and maybe even destinations).
They also have a paid version that sends out extraordinary deals (like "error fares"), but I just use the free version. (You can sign up to try it and always unsubscribe if it doesn't work for you.)
These companies are my first choices for travel insurance:
- Insure My Trip for shorter trips,
- SafetyWing for longer ones.
- MedJet for added protection, evacuation, and even security services. (A level up from normal travel insurance.)
They’re all good at what they do, I just find Insure My Trip and SafetyWing to be easier to use and with better options. (And nothing is really comparable to MedJet for evacuation coverage.) More on all of the options below:
Short-term/ Vacation Trip Insurance:
The largest travel insurance broker in the US, so they have a wide variety of plans that you can compare side-by-side.
You can go with a basic “travel medical” plan, or filter for plans that include “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage. (And it does mean any reason.)
- Great customer service
- Insures travelers of any age
- Filter for clearly marked “Cancel For Any Reason” plans. (And it does mean ANY reason.)
- The most options for travelers not from US
Not as well known as Insure My Trip, but still offers lots of variety, and lets you very easily compare plans from different providers side-by-side.
(Note: If Travel Insurance Master says there are no plans available for your trip, try changing the “Plan Type” on the left-hand side from “Trip Cancellation” to “No Trip Cancellation.”)
- Good variety of plans
- Insures travelers of any age
- "Choose Your Own Deductible" for some plans
Long-term Travel Insurance:
Simple and flexible travel insurance policies offer coverage for more than 150 activities, emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
World Nomads is a good place to start your research, because their quote process is super quick.
- Simple and flexible
- Buy or extend your policy while traveling
- Very quick to get a quote = Easy way to start your insurance research
- Doesn't directly insure travelers over 70
- Only one provider option
Evacuation & Extra Protection
MedJet is a membership, not insurance. It includes private travel security (think: a SWAT team if you get kidnapped), crisis response teams, and air medical transport. (Travel insurance will just evacuate you the closest "adequate" hospital. MedJet will actually get you home, to the hospital of your choice.)
No deductibles. No claims forms. Basically, you call them, and they start taking care of you.
I always recommend people stash their roller bags whenever they have a few spare hours in a city! Dragging them around gets old fast – especially in any place with cobblestones.
I’ve used LuggageHero a few times in cities around the world, and it’s always worked smoothly. You use it to pre-book storage online, and leave your bags at a local business (from hotels to hairdressers – you pick the location). You pay by the hour or day for each piece of luggage.
You can often find other options (such as the hotel you’re checking into or out of, for example), but LuggageHero is great for long layovers or a few hours between trains.
More Luggage Storage Options
Bounce and Stasher are two alternatives to LuggageHero. I haven’t personally used them, but the concept is the same. The choice is just a matter of which one has the most convenient location for your plans.
Language Learning Before Your Trip (Free Resource!)
Pimsleur is a premium language learning program and app that teaches by repetition. (Instead of trying to spell and write, you'll learn to listen and speak – the skills you'll actually need for travel. It's much more useful than apps like DuoLingo, which basically just make you try to memorize written vocab.)
I've used Pimsleur for multiple languages so trust me – it's the best way to get started, short of just moving to a foreign country! Trying it free for 7 days is enough to pick up a few words, and recognize a bit of what people are saying when you land.
VPNs & Tech for Travel
Usually you don’t actually need a VPN to get online securely when you travel – or any other time (as I learned when I interviewed a cyber security expert for the linked post). Using a password manager is much more important – it makes your passwords unique and uncrackable (and you don’t have to remember them).
If you want to keep things simple and use the same company for everything, TunnelBear makes a password manager called RememBear. I haven’t used it, but it’s well rated and I think highly of the company.