When I got bitten by the travel bug many years ago, I started signing up for basically any deal website you can imagine. Over time, I’ve found what works best for me. I like being able to see the cost differences from the more popular budget websites (Expedia, Priceline, etc.) and I especially like having options when it comes to tours. Here are my top travel sites that I use, that many people don’t know about (and should!)
Whether I’m looking at fun activities to do locally or for flight deals, Travelzoo is always my first stop. Because of Travelzoo, I was able to find a flight to San Diego a few years ago for 230$ round trip due to Alaskan Airlines launching a new route. I’m constantly scouring their Top 20 deals section and looking to see where I can go next. If you don’t have the funds for a full fledged trip, check out the “Nearby” section which has great local deals to try. Some of the deals are NOT on Groupon, so it’s definitely worth a look.
Like many of you, I don’t have all the time in the world to look up flights to my Bucket list destinations; this is where Airfare Watchdog comes in. Set up flight price alerts to be emailed directly to your inbox so you’re always in the know. You can set up as many alerts as you’d like and they don’t all have to be departing from the same airport. For example, I set up alerts for airfare leaving from local cities so that if one airport is significantly cheaper I will know. Airfare Watchdog also has a link where you can compare airline baggage fees on one page so you’re not navigating through multiple airline websites comparing additional costs and wasting precious time. What’s great about the airfare alerts is that they give you all the information you need to know prior to booking. Below you’ll see how far in advance you need to purchase the tickets to get the fare, the dates you would need to travel as well as what airline it is on.
When it comes to researching hotel prices, this is my go to website. Trivago searches all the budget travel websites and then tells you which one is cheapest. You can expand the results so you’re able to view all websites that were found for each hotel along with their prices. In the example below, I was looking for Hotels in New York City. Soho Grand Hotel showed the most price differential between the websites and told me that I should choose the Trip Advisor booking because it was the cheapest. If you prefer to spend less per night, prefer a certain star hotel or would like certain added features their filter section on the left hand side lets you easily find a hotel that’s best suited for you.
Kayak allows you to look up flight, hotel, car and train deals all in one place. Like Airfare Watchdog, you can create alerts to be sent directly to your inbox. An added bonus? Kayak allows you to compare competitor prices all on ONE page (No Popups!) Don’t have set days or destinations to travel? ‘Explore’ fare prices around the world and see where your budget can take you.
Even with Trivago, sometimes the hotels are not in my desired budget. For example, in 2015 when I was looking up hotels in New Orleans for 4th of July weekend…accommodation was around 500-600 dollars! For a 3 day weekend? NOT WORTH IT! Airbnb is an accommodation service where everyday people rent out their homes to visitors. I was able to secure an Airbnb for that same weekend for 150 dollars, which was much more cost effective and allowed me to spend more money on souvenirs while I was there. With Airbnb, you can opt to rent a shared living space, single room or the entire home/apartment. I have stayed in Airbnbs that offer the single room and entire home options and have yet to have an issue.
When I booked accommodation on my last trip to Europe, I decided that I wanted to stay in hostels since I wasn’t planning on spending much time in the room anyway. This is where Hostelworld.com came in. With their filter results, I was able to find a hostel room that was just what I was looking for (4 person room where my friend and I were sharing with 2 people). Not comfortable staying in a mixed dorm? The filter allows you to choose your accommodation based on what you’re most comfortable with. Prefer a hostel with wifi? Look under the facilities tab and you’ll be able to find them. Sharing a room with strangers isn’t bad at all, every person that shared the room with us were incredibly considerate so it was a great experience overall.
I prefer to research and book all tours and activities prior to traveling. It’s also smart to do with many popular tourist destinations such as the Eiffel Tower (if you don’t get a skip the line ticket in advance you might be waiting for a while…especially in Summer months). Viator allows you to research fun activities to do in the city you’re in and the reviews are extremely helpful. If you sign up for their email list they send discount codes periodically that you can purchase your tours with. If you’re not interested in scrolling through multiple pages, the filters allow you to look at the kind of activity you’re interested in (such as Day Trips and Food Tours).