Planning a trip? The sites below will be your best friends and make planning 100 times easier — and more affordable!
Ever feel like going on a trip but not sure of where you’d want to go, or what fits your budget? Head over to AirfareWatchdog, type in your local airport, and it’ll show you a list of low priced flights departing from your backyard. If you know where you’re headed, but can be flexible with your departure dates or airport, you can type in a destination and view the cheapest ways to get there. They only list fares that are considered to be a steal, so keep in mind you might not see every flight that’s leaving your local airport.
Most people use Kayak, Expedia, SkyScanner, and such. when they’re booking a flight. While these options are the most popular, they may not provide the cheapest route. If you want to be sure you’re getting the best deal, especially for international flights, head over to FlightFox. For $10 they can double check and make sure you’re getting the best deal on a standard flight. If you have a longer flight, multiple destinations or specifics, you can create a contest where Flight Hackers will compete to find the lowest rate. The fee to create a contest is higher, but the amount you’ll save is often in the hundreds for international flights.
In addition to having an adorable mascot, Hipmunk does all it can to make the hunt for your next flight as easy as possible. Instead of throwing prices and flight numbers at you, their search results are laid out on a time table, so you can see just how long you’ll be traveling. Additionally, you can see which flights have WiFi, longer layovers and just how painful your trip will be if you’re willing to sacrifice time for a lower rate.
Student discounts aren’t just for movie theaters anymore now they apply to flights as well. In addition to offering discounted rates for students, the site also offers Youth Fares (25 and under) and Staff Rates for school employees. (Keep in mind that they will verify your student status, age, employer, etc.) Domestic flights are often close to standard rates, however, if you’re flying internationally you can save a pretty penny. I was able to shave $200 off a round-trip flight to Europe by booking through Student Universe, and it’s still my first stop when I have an international destination!
Putting a Roof Over Your Head
If you’re not already familiar with the Sharing Economy, now is a good time to learn. Airbnb connects travelers with homeowners and renters who are happy to share their space for less than the cost of a hotel room. You can book anything from a futon in someone’s living room to a beach-front villa in Costa Rica. The amount of money you save can be surprising and your host will generally be able to provide some great insight into the city. This is great for breaking away from Tourist Traps and “living like a local.”
The concept here is similar to Airbnb, except there’s no cost. You essentially can stay on someone’s couch for free. You’re bound to meet some interesting people along the way, while gaining some local insight. CouchSurfers tend to be younger, college-aged kids, so if you’re not into shared spaces, you may want to consider your other options.
Feeling young, wild and free? Check out HostelWorld for some great hostels around the globe. Not all hostels are created equal, and their clear ratings and reviews will help you ensure you’ve picked the right place to rest your head each night. Hostels are generally cheap because you’re sharing your space with other people. While this might sound like a drawback, it’s great for social interaction and making new friends. While other options like Airbnb and Couchsurfing will give you local insight, hostels will give you outside insight. (See what I did there?) Here, you’re more likely to meet fellow travelers from other countries who are just as eager to explore the city. However, if you ever make it to their neck of the woods, there’s a good chance you’ll have a friend waiting to show you around.
Most websites, in my opinion, are pretty similar when it comes to booking a hotel room. However, my favorite thing about Hotels.com, is the fact you get a free night after you book 10. These add up faster than you imagine, and the great part, is that the free night isn’t based off the lowest price you’ve paid, but rather the average. I’ve book everything from quick trips to Vegas, to week long stays in Boston. That one free night comes in handy, because truth be told, you tend to forget about it, and once you see the discount applied, you feel pretty damn good.
Getting Around Town
If you find yourself in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, you might see cars driving around with giant pink mustaches. No, this isn’t another hipster fad, it’s actually a great way to get around town, for 30% less than a taxi. Lyft allows every day people, who’ve pass background checks, to drive people from Point A to Point B for less than the cost of a cab. Instead of calling in a car, you simply open the app, request a car, and the entire transaction is handled through the app- so there’s never a need to carry cash.
Take away the bright pink mustache and here you have SideCar. They have the same concept as Lyft, however, their app allows you to type in your destination and gives you a fare estimate before you request a ride. No surprises with this one! However, since their cars are unmarked, I’ve made the mistake of almost getting into the wrong car. Be sure you call your driver you get into the wrong Prius, too!
If you’re feeling fancy, Uber is right up your alley. Instead of having a Plain Jane come pick you up in her Corolla, you’ll be met with a black town car and driver. This is great for channeling your inner Serena VanDerWoodsen. Keep in mind that you’ll be paying slightly more than a cab, but can you really put a price tag on an experience? Just like the last two options, the entire transaction is handled through the app, including a tip.