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Travel Resources
The Best Sites for Your Next Trip
Flight Search
Hipmunk
Hipmunk

Hipmunk returns the best results for flight/hotel or both. They have a fun interface with a cute way of explaining how rough your chosen travel choice will be based on their Agony setting which will identify pain points like stops, layovers, and total duration. Plus, their name is Hipmunk.

Skyscanner
Skyscanner

Skyscanner is consistently on everyone's ``Best Pick`` list, and for good reason. Many seasoned travelers will attest that if they only had one search engine option they would choose this one hands down. Reason being, this site is easy to use, reliably presents the best prices, and is not annoying with ads or pop-up windows like some of the other aggregators. You can also make use of their easy to use multi-city options as well as quick and dynamic filters which will help you customize your trip.

One Travel
One Travel

Easy to use interface which will show you the prices per day of travel on the monthly calendar so you can opt for a cheaper timeframe if it works with your schedule.

CheapAir
CheapAir

Easy to navigate and very high scoring reviews. Finding what you are looking for is easy and support is helpful and knowledgeable. An interesting aspect is that they allow you to pay using Bitcoin and other CryptoCurrencies, and you pay directly through their site - not a redirection.

Hotel Search
Hotels Combined
Hotels Combined

Hotels Combined is amazing because it will search every hotel site you've heard of and many you haven't to find the largest selection of hotels available - at all price points. It's basically your one-stop shop for finding a hotel.

Priceline.com
Priceline.com

The best feature of this site is the ``Name Your Own Price`` or their ``Express Deals``, which don't let you pick the hotel but you give them criteria and they pick the closest match for a bargain rate. You won't see the name of where you will stay until you book.

Vacation Rentals
airbnb
airbnb

Our own personal experiences with airbnb (including reviews from many friends and family members) have been overwhelmingly positive, but based on all the negative experiences reported we concluded it is very hit or miss. Make sure you read the fine print, reviews on that specific rental, and refund policies carefully to avoid misunderstandings and to thoroughly understand what you should and shouldn't expect.

TurnkeyVR
TurnkeyVR

Turnkey VR is a vacation rental company similar to airbnb and VRBO with one major difference - Turnkey VR actually manages the complete transaction, so there is no chance for miscommunication with the actual owners. TurnkeyVR only lists properties across the US. Their review scores tend to run higher than the competition.

VBRO
VBRO

These letters are the abbreviation for Vacation Rentals By Owner, and this site operates very similarly to Airbnb. One main difference is that they do not list rentals for rooms, only entire residences, which makes their selection smaller but also more appealing for those who don't want to share a house with strangers. Their filtering of selection criteria is arguably better and more robust than AirBnB's.

Hostels
Hostelz
Hostelz

If you are okay with sharing your sleeping and other quarters with strangers, hostels provide the most economical way to travel and can usually be found in every major international city. Hostelz.com is a search engine/aggregator which includes most of your main hostel sites and their availability. This site has been praised and awarded by reputable travel companies such as Frommer's for their accuracy and convenience.

Excursion Search
TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor

Along with its Search Engine which includes Vacation Rentals and Flight/Hotel/Car finders, TripAdvisor is probably best known and trusted for it's crowd-sourced community. We use TripAdvisor to confirm good reviews for all of the travel sites we recommend here as the reviewers are scored on their expertise levels and verified purchases; a great way to ensure legitimate ratings. TripAdvisor is the best place we know of to find free and pay-for city-specific excursions and activities - check out the ``Things To Do`` area once you have entered the destination city you plan on traveling to.

Viator
Viator

Owned by TripAdvisor, Viator offers excursions at great prices and has a unique and extensive selection of different activities in most vacation destinations.

Veltra
Veltra

Based in Tokyo, Veltra provides a plenitude of unique city activities around the world and promises a lowest price guarantee.

Hop On Hop Off Bus
Hop On Hop Off Bus

One of the most economical ways to pack in a lot of what the city offers but at your own pace, hop-on-hop-off buses are a great way to explore what you want and get you around town. These usually last for 24 hours and have a routine pick up time so you will never be stranded in any one area of town too long.

CityPass
CityPass

CityPASS tickets give you admission to the best attractions and theme parks in a city for up to 50% off the combined cost and save you time by allowing you to skip many ticket lines. Most CityPASS tickets are valid 9 days beginning with the day of first use in most cities.

EatingEurope
EatingEurope

One of the highest rated excursion companies with almost strictly 5 star reviews, Eating Europe's goal is connecting visitors with the city’s personality, cuisine and culture in an unforgettable way - through the culinary arts.

Deal Packages
Travelzoo
Travelzoo

Travelzoo has extreme deals to random locations where you never know from week to week which locations will be on sale. I personally look forward to their weekly newsletter with the top 20 deals where you can find outrageous trip prices like a week stay including flights to China for only $600.00. Additionally, you can do specific location searches which will typically return good bargains. Their reputation is solid and the site prides itself on never offering a deal that the employees wouldn't or haven't gone on themselves. The way Travelzoo works is you find a deal and purchase it, there are no membership or recurring fees.

Cheap Flights
Cheap Flights

While their flight comparison tool leaves something to be desired, check out their deals pages if you are able to take a trip anywhere, at anytime, for some great bargain finds.

TripMasters
TripMasters

This site is especially good for a low-frills interface that is simple and easy enough for Grandma to use. The company goes out of its way to keep costs down so much so that they do very little marketing including no affiliate marketing. This site is best suited for those looking to create a multi-citi itinerary, and it can handle this task beautifully. You can easily add cities and days you will be in each location and it will allow you to customize your methods of transportation between each.

Last Minute Deals
Hotwire
Hotwire

Hotwire actually had a last minute deal cheaper than a recent trip I put together where I planned 3 months ahead of time. But it is a gamble to hold out, so if you can - check out their deals. The best deals are on unrevealed hotels, which aren't shown until you purchase.

TravelPirates
TravelPirates

Great deals if you can be flexible with location and dates. Deals sell out quick so you have to jump on them when you see them.

Unique Travel Options
STATravel
STATravel

STATravel is primarily intended to show Student Travel discounts, but shows travel price information for both Students and Non-Students.

Rental Cars
RentalCars.com
RentalCars.com

RentalCars.com will show you the best prices from all available rental car companies in the destination area you need to rent a car. It makes it easy to do a price comparison and book.

Parking
Airport Parking Reservations
Airport Parking Reservations

Compare prices and book parking reservations at parking lots near most major airports in the US and Canada. You can also find hotels near the airport which allow hotel parking so you can stay close to the hotel before or after your flight and leave your car at that hotel for the trip's duration. Discounts on parking are sometimes available through this site.

How to Use Travel Sites

Buying Guide and Advice

Online Travel Agencies

While enjoying your vacation should be fun, with so many options these days, the planning part has become increasingly stressful because the possibilities are so endless it’s hard to know where to start.

And then you find yourself asking, “did I get the best deals, see the right things, or miss out completely?”. It always feels like there could be a bigger and better option, creating FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Gone are the days where you just went to a travel agency and they said “here are your options, here is what I recommend” and then you book your trip and boom, your vacation is planned. Well, I suppose some people still use travel agents but with the advantages of online discounts/searches they have become less and less utilized for the most-part.

So that leaves us creating our own itinerary, piece-mealing together the transportation, hotels, excursions, etc. – or going with a company that does it all for you (sometimes the best choice) but you will certainly pay for all that expert decision making.

There are also some very unique, unconventional alternatives to traditional travel or traditional accommodations, which the internet has allowed us to find more readily.

After struggling with high costs or confusing sites, disappointing experiences with misleading hidden costs, we have tried to assemble what we believe are the best resources for your needs.

These will vary by individual, so pick accordingly.

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What To Look Out For Using OTAs

  • Hidden Fees
      • Hotels: I recently booked a trip out to Las Vegas. This is new since the last time I was there: all the hotels I looked at have a $30.00 or higher resort fee. This is not an optional fee, is is the cost of “staying” at the resort. Smells pretty rotten if you ask me. So now hotels can get away with misleading people into thinking the room costs $150.00 a night, which might seem like a fair price, but by the time you get to your check out page, after “resort fees” and taxes, you are up to $250.00 a night. Be careful to make sure this price is accounted for in your budget and that you know the total price of the room with all the fees. Also factor in that most hotels charge a room tax and a state tax, required by law.

     

    • Airlines: It’s crazy to me that things like sitting together with your family is now considered a luxury that you have to pay extra for with a lot of airlines. Make sure you know what comes included with your flight. Airfare typically does not include luggage of any kind, so you might have to pay for even being able to carry on your purse (depending on the airline’s policies). Extra legroom is always an upgrade fee anymore, and food/beverages will most likely cost extra as well.

 

  • Delays While traveling to Ireland we had a connecting flight with a 2 hour layover in Boston. The original flight was delayed by just over 2 hours, making it impossible for us to make the connection. The end result was a trip that should have taken 11 hours turned into 24hours of travel. Using a popular aggregator site for this flight, they were completely useless in helping us get transferred to another flight. After being on hold for a half hour the representative repeatedly told us that he showed our original flight was on time. Not only would they not make arrangements for us quickly so that we could potentially make the connection, they didn’t even have the information that the flight was delayed and didn’t believe us when we told them we were standing at the airport counter for that flight, which was delayed. From this experience I learned how important customer service is and that they can actually help in a situation like this. To avoid dealing with these issues you can book your flights directly through the airlines, or make sure you understand how the company is willing to help you in a situation such as a delay/cancellation.

 

  • Understand Your Destination’s Geography  This one is hard when you’ve never been to a place before, and one of the most confusing pieces for me going to a foreign land. You don’t understand how big the areas are, or where the best spots are (for you) that you’ll want to be close to or the worst spots that you want to avoid. You don’t know if you can walk somewhere or have to take transportation, or if transportation even exists or if it’s so remote there’s nothing around. Will you need a car, can you take a bus, train, etc.? Those are the things that if you could speak to someone they could advise you on the best areas, etc., but doing it online you will have to figure this out by reading blogs or reviews. A site like TripAdvisor can help here since they have a lot of recommendation articles on every destination out there, and a large community where you can ask questions and get quick answers from the public.

 

  • Cancellation Policies  Usually if you are booking directly through an airline or hotel site you can cancel up until a certain point (like a day or a few weeks before you travel). Using a third party company these options are sometimes more restrictive, if they are offered at all. Some places do not allow you to cancel any part of the trip, at any time. You can still use Travel Insurance in a situation like this, and if you pick one that reimburses for cancellation, as long as you meet the required criteria for what they will reimburse you for, you can still get a refund if you have to cancel your trip.

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Online Travel Agency (OTA) Options Explained

Travel Aggregators:

Travel aggregators search through numerous options which typically include both large and small travel companies, to find available options and allow you to sort them according to preference (price, ratings, etc.). Some of the main sites that claim to do aggregation actually own multiple aggregation sites. For instance, Expedia.com owns all of the following sites: Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, CarRentals.com, Trivago, Venere.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, and HomeAway. So although they mention that they are searching multiple sites, this is somewhat misleading, and recent low scores of such sites have kept them off of our list. However, Hipmunk, Skyscanner, and Google Flights have options to compare against other sites including these.

Discount Travel Sites:

Sites like these are where being vacation-flexible is going to be a game-changer when it comes to price. Not all of the bargains require purchasing “last-minute” deals, there are still plenty of options to purchase trips far in advance. However, the specifics are typically locked down with these deals (meaning excursions, hotels, flights), although they can sometimes be modified or upgraded for additional fees. If you are willing and interested in a destination that might be a bit of a gamble or deviation from when and where you thought you were originally going to go there are usually some spectacular deals available. Be aware that these sites are 3rd party, meaning they are not the actual company you are booking with so you will want to research the actual tours, hotels, etc., independently as well if you are considering one of their deals.

Vacation Rentals & Hostels:

 Vacation rental by owners allow people to rent out their residential or spare home at sometimes less than hotel prices. Despite mixed reviews and a lot of low ratings on every Vacation Rental By Owner site we checked into (which included all of the major ones), we still believe that vacation rentals can be a wonderful and economical way to find great, affordable lodging on a budget. To use a vacation rental search on the location you are looking for and find available rentals in the area you might be interested in. Amenities are listed on the description. Pay attention to things like elevators, this will matter if you have to haul luggage upstairs. Hostels are the most inexpensive of all the budget-travel methods but you will usually have to share facilities with others, dorm room style.

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Tips and Tricks for Traveling

✔️  Start searching early if you have a strict schedule and destination to adhere to, OR wait until the last minute (see our list above for the best sites for last minute deals) if you can be flexible with travel dates and destinations. Usually these last minute deals are not ideal for large families, but couples and solo adventurers can find excellent getaways if they are willing to choose from a random discounted destination.

✔️ Southwest often has very low flight prices, but they do not send their information to search engines so you will need to look them up separately as they don’t show up in travel aggregators’ lists.

✔️ Look into a credit card which offers miles for air travel. We pay a majority of our bills using a travel credit card and then pay it off immediately at the end of the month to avoid any interest charges. We get a lot of our flights throughout the year free of charge or for only a small tax/luggage fee.

✔️ Take advantage of great deals or what is known as “mistake pricing” by signing up for emails from Scott’s Cheap Flights. Their team of 25 people manually scour the internet daily for the best deals and accident pricing. Accident or mistake pricing is when airlines and travel agencies post deals at a mistakenly low rate but still have to honor the deal.

✔️ When traveling to another country, always purchase travel insurance. Many sites will offer this for less than your booking site, we recommend comparing various plans to make sure you are covering all the items you want. A site like Travel Insurance will return quotes from different companies.

✔️ Learn what and how to pack – read our article on How To Pack Like a Pro. This will save you from extra baggage fees which seem to get higher by the minute. Be strategic and careful with what you take so that you’re not stuck paying for and hauling more things than you need to bring.

✔️ Most travel engines have a hidden feature where you can type in “anywhere” or “everywhere” as the destination to return that websites’ top deals.

✔️ We recommend doing your searches using an incognito-mode browser window. If you are unsure how to open an incognito window, read this how-to. The reason to do this is that it is possible travel sites could change prices based on your location and cookies, so using “Incognito Mode” prevents targeted, dynamic, price inflation. Cookies in a normal browser save your search data in order to recommend the right advertising, know your location, and see how often you search for the same things. Some travel experts claim this can have adverse effects on flight/vacation prices.

✔️ Using the sites we listed or your other favorite travel websites, do some comparison shopping on best prices and try to figure out if there are certain times like off-peak seasons that may be much cheaper (if you can consider altering your dates). Being flexible with your flight days (weekdays are typically cheaper than weekends) can often pay off in a big way. Most travel sites have an alert system that you can configure so that you can ask to be notified when a specific set of criteria has a price-drop – allow them to contact you if this is something you can hold out for and you may end up with a much better rate than purchasing a spur of the moment ticket.

✔️ Most discount travel sites are just presenting other company’s information, so be sure to read reviews on the specific hotel/airline/excursions you are considering. Do not assume the company reviews (i.e., Travelzoo’s) are enough to verify the services purchased through them will be good. While the sites we have listed try to enforce high standards with their participating vendors, they are not always able to quickly react and drop vendors who have recently lowered their quality. We recommend doing your own research on each service included.

✔️ Understand all refund policies. If you have questions, contact the companies and get clarification before you travel or purchase. This is much easier to do before hand rather than after the fact, and should give you a sense of their customer service quality as well as judge their speed of communication if you try to reach them.

There are many great Travel Sites that can make planning your next trip fun, easy, and affordable. We have identified our favorites at the top.
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