DIY travel has become a way of life for today’s savvy vacationers. Travel deals websites are invaluable tools to help businessmen and vacationers find cheap airfares, budget hotel rooms and discount rental cars, but there are new travel websites popping up daily. Check out this list of nearly 30 websites that can help you score cheap travel deals.
Heavily advertised with amusing scenarios, Kayak.com is THE place to find the best airline ticket prices and cheap airfares. Unlike many other sites that are tied to airlines, Kayak searches and fetches airfares from hundreds of online sources. Kayak offers a couple of little extras that put it out in front of other travel deals websites. Notably, you can search for flights in a 3-day window on either side of your ideal travel dates, making it easier to be flexible. In addition, you can use the Buzz tool to search for hot destinations by region or within a stated time period. Best of all, it always takes you straight to the booking page where you can book your airline tickets without having to repeat your search.
Bing Travel (http://www.bing.com/travel)
Bing Travel is definitely up and coming on the smart-travel-money list. While Kayak.com usually brings in the cheapest flights, Bing Travel does sometimes find cheap airfares that Kayak misses. You do have the option to include nearby airports when searching for flights, and a little flexibility with dates, but the real draw from Bing Travel is the Price Predictor, which analyzes airline price trends and lets you know if prices are likely to rise or fall between now and your travel date. It’s a great way to figure out whether to buy now or wait for cheaper flights.
Airfare Watchdog (http://www.airfarewatchdog.com)
Book the best last-minute deals on Airfare Watchdog, which scours dozens of websites to find cheap airfares and discount airline tickets. The company’s employees sign up for rewards programs and lurk on airline websites to grab the latest news on fare sales and discount offers. You can sign up for air fare alerts to be notified when there are cheap airline tickets available that meet you criteria – or any criteria. Even better, Airfare Watchdog includes cheap airfares from smaller, discount and regional airlines that bigger websites, like Kayak and Bing, may not show.
Cheap Hotel Rooms
Where else would you expect to find the best prices for hotel rooms than at a website called hotels.com? The Hotels.com website is best for those who are looking for last-minute cheap hotel rooms, but there’s far more to the site than last minute deals. You’ll also find low rates on Hotels.com’s “Red Hot Deals” and “Deals of the Week” and the “WelcomeRewards” program offers a free night’s stay worth up to $400 for frequent travelers who stay at least 10 nights at any combination of Hotels.com properties. You’ll also find real hotel reviews from people just like you.
Priceline Negotiator is famous for letting you “name your price” for your hotel rooms. Thanks to the Priceline Negotiator ads, everyone associates cheap hotel rooms with William Shatner, but the ads don’t make it clear exactly how Priceline works. There’s no doubt that you’ll get great hotel room bargains for luxury hotel rooms, but you’re taking a gamble because you’re booking blind. You select the minimum number of stars for your hotel, how long you’ll be staying and your preferred neighborhood, then enter the price you’re willing to pay. Bids of less than $100 a night often win their booking, even on luxury hotel rooms – but you won’t know the exact hotel you’re booking a room at until you pay for your room. It’s a gamble, especially if you don’t know the area, but it can also add to the sense of adventure for your trip.
Looking for cheap prices on hotel rooms at the last minute? Laterooms.com offers cheap prices on luxury hotel rooms in the international market. You can get a little extra security on Laterooms.com by using the hotel telephone number you’ll find on the booking page, along with a reference code to make sure you get the cheap hotel room rate. You’ll also find special offers listed on Laterooms.com, including “secret room” deals that get you deep discounts on four- and five-star hotel rooms – but you won’t know the hotel until after you pay.
TripAdvisor isn’t actually a hotel booking site, but it’s a great place to find hotel reviews for just about anywhere you’d like to stay. Once you find a hotel that looks promising, you can “check rates” at other TripAdvisor partner sites, like Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.com.
Lots of people would rather skip the big, fancy hotels. If you’re one of them, there are a couple of websites that will help you find smaller inns, B&Bs and even vacation rentals for prices lower than hotel room rates. Bedandbreakfast.com offers details on inns and B&Bs and lets you search for lodging based on your desired location, preferred amenities – want a hot tub or a deck with a barbecue? – as well as whether the facility accepts pets.
Villas International (http://www.villasintl.com)
If the impersonality of a hotel room isn’t for you, and B&Bs are a bit too romantic, vacation rental cottages may be the perfect alternative. Cottages and condos are the ideal lodging for families and groups. They offer more space and better amenities, usually for prices close to or less than hotel rates. You’ll find nearly 200,000 rental lodgings listed at HomeAway.com around the world. If you’re looking specifically for lodgings abroad, check the listings at Villas International, which rents cottages and condos for as little as $25 per person per night.
Doing Europe on a budget? Youth hostels aren’t just for youth – and aren’t just in Europe. You’ll find nearly 40,000 hostel listings in more than 8,000 cities at Hostelz.com. And if you’re looking for an even cheaper option, you can sign up with HomeExchange.com for $9.95 a month and travel around the world – including many U.S. cities – staying in private homes that you swap with others.
Discount Car Rentals
Scour the best rates on rental cars from seven rental car agencies world-wide, including Budget, Enterprise and EuropCar, and book your car rental online. You can also score “hot deals” by renting your car blind from a car rental agency you won’t know until after you pay. It’s far less risky than booking a hotel room blind, though, since a minivan is a minivan, and it really doesn’t matter which company is providing it to you.
Vacation Package Deals
Among the best-known of all online travel agencies, Expedia.com nearly always turns up the best bargains in bundled vacations that include flight, hotel reservations and car rentals. In many cases, you can add entertainment packages and tour packages when you book – but always double-check prices on those. You’ll often get a better deal when you gook those separately.
Luxury is the name of the game at LuxuryLink, which offers discount packages for high-end travel. You’ll find packages that include hotel nights, gourmet meals, sports activities and spay stays, but you’ll usually have to book your flights separately. You can save up to 65% on many packages, but you’ll be bidding against others, and you’ll have to pay up within 24 hours if you win the deal.
Let travel agents compete for your business at CruiseCompete. You specify the dates, ports and ships you want to book, and up to 300 travel agents will provide you with their best offers for the deal you want.