Thank you for the kind words on my blog recently! I’m having so much fun sharing my experiences and pictures with all of you. I’ve gotten a ton of questions on what I use for trip planning, so I wanted to put together a quick post on some of my favorite tools.
I’ve never worked with a travel agent, as I enjoy learning and researching about each place I visit. Depending on the type of trip I’m booking, my travel sites vary. Here are a few of my go-to's:
I’ve been using Orbitz for several years. I’ve found that they typically have some of the best rates for hotels and vacation packages. They also offer bookings for flights, cruises, and car rentals through their site.
If you sign up as an insider, you receive access to deals and coupons. A lot of the time Orbitz has lower rates than the actual hotel site. In addition to promos, as an insider, Orbitz provides quite a few perks, including cash back for each booking. They have three different levels of account status you can earn. Once you get to the top, you are eligible for free hotel upgrades and TSA Precheck.
Our family likes to travel to the Caribbean often, and Orbitz has become my first stop for booking trips to all-inclusive resorts. Their vacation package option bulks flight and hotel together, making the purchase much more cost effective than booking separately. You can also find some great coupons to use for the vacation packages!
Orbitz is easy to use; however, the customer service is pretty awful. The few experiences I’ve had with their customer service, they are not able to solve my problem. Their solution is to throw a $50 credit my way. Orbitz is part of Expedia, which also owns several other travel sites including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire, trivago, Travelocity, and HomeAway.
Kayak is another favorite site of mine. They also offer bookings for hotels, flights, cars, packages, and cruises. Unlike Orbitz, Kayak searches prices through several competitor sites. They display rates for hotels from several different resources. This makes it easy to do your research all through Kayak. When we were booking our trip to Iceland, the hotel we wanted to book was sold out on the main hotel website as well as Orbitz and a few other sites I checked; however, Kayak was able to find availability through one of their partners. We were able to get a great rate as well! The only downside is that Kayak does not have a rewards program as far as I am aware.
One of my primary tools for searching for airfare is Google Flights. They review flights from many different airlines while providing tips and recommendations for booking the best/most cost-effective option. Although a few airlines are not on here, like Southwest, it is overall my preferred site to use for flights. The search options are very flexible, allowing you to customize your travels. They also show you a price calendar of your trip details for every day of the month, with the cheapest option noted in green.
My favorite option with Google Flights is tracking flights. Google will automatically alert you if the flight you are tracking changes in price. You are also able to quickly view the tracked flight cost history. I’ve found that their site is the most user-friendly! When you are ready to book you will be linked directly back to the airline's website, as Google Flights isn’t a 3rd party booking site. I prefer to reserve flights directly with the airline for more flexibility with cancellations, changes and price adjustments.
Hopper is an app available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Hopper has a similar set up to Google Flights, but Hopper has a leg up with their impressive price prediction service. Once you input your route details, the app will help you decide if you should book your flight now, or wait. The only downside to this is that Hopper predicts the flight route, not your specific outbound and inbound flight, but it is still a beneficial resource. The app searches all major airlines and looks back at years of data to help identify price trends. I hope they get a fully functioning website soon.
Trip Advisor is a great site to use to read reviews, get travel ideas and book trips. I’ve mainly used it for reviews, but they have some great 'search and compare' booking capabilities. Before traveling to a new city or country, I will usually use Trip Advisor to search things like “top things to do” or “top hotels to stay at.” They will provide some sponsor ads along with the organic lists rated by their user base. I’ve found it helpful to read some of the reviews before I book a hotel, tour, or restaurants.
When I’m looking at booking tours and excursions, I always visit Viator. They have over 80,000 tours available across the world and are part of the Trip Advisor family! You can type in your specific destination, and they will provide a list of available tours and things to do in that area. I’ve found some cool activities on their site. You are also able to read reviews from others on their experiences. Eugene and I are big fans of cruise trips, but we find that the excursions offered by the cruise companies are incredibly overpriced. I’ve been able to find the same tours for a fraction of the cost through Viator! If you are planning a trip and not sure what you want to do when you get there, I highly recommend taking a peek at Viator.
Hope this helps some of you with your travel planning! Leave a comment below if you have come across any useful resources.