How many travel websites do you visit before you book a vacation? It may surprise you to find out the average according to a 2013 study by Expedia is 38. The average person will visit 38 travel websites in preparing for a vacation. What?!?! At that rate, people might spend more time planning their trip than actually experiencing their trip. That’s gotta change. A few months ago, we wrote what has become one of our most popular blog posts: The Best Travel Apps for your phone.
Want to find some of the most helpful travel websites you probably don’t know about? Skip right past TripAdvisor (please, so overrated) and throw away whatever outdated Rick Steves guide you have (if you actually read Rick Steves and read this blog- we need to talk) and let us reveal our 10 travel websites you need to know about in order to might make planning your next trip easier, more affordable, and hopefully, more fun!
In no particular order, our ten favorite travel sites are…
Wait, everyone knows about Kayak! So why the hell is it number one of our top 10 travel sites? I’m willing to bet you don’t use all it’s tools to the fullest. First things first, get off their website and download their app! It’s got a host of tools that almost none of my travel friends are even aware of!
It’s not just handy to search for flights on your mobile phone. We use the Kayak app to build custom packing lists because they have an easy to use packing list integrated in. Work with their suggested list, or create your own. As you pack, click the item and Kayak strikes a line through it. Always forgetting something when you travel? Not anymore! We also love Kayak for it’s currency conversion (also in their mobile app), the Airport Information (what food is available in what terminal), as well as their handy listing of 1-800 numbers for almost every airline imaginable.
Laura and I, aviation nerds no doubt about it, also have a soft spot for travel by land. When you take a bus, you have a greater chance of meeting locals and interesting travelers alike. You also get to see the changing landscape of a city (when on public transportation) and a country (when traveling between cities). But finding reliable bus information, especially in the developing world, can be hard. Enter Busbud, serving 10,463 routes in 89 countries as of publication.
Hopefully by now, we’ve sold you on the whole idea that miles and points matter. If our cheap journeys around the world in business class and hotels we have no business being in haven’t done it for you, I don’t know what to say. But if we’re successful, many of you have a growing number of loyalty programs to manage. And you may already know that miles and points can often expire if there is no activity in your account for a certain period of time. There are easy ways around this, such as buying a single song from iTunes through the shopping portal connected to your loyalty account. But there’s also a website that helps you keep track of all these points and miles balances, as well as when they expire. Check out AwardWallet. The free version will suffice for novice miles and points folks, and the advanced version I find to be worth the nominal fee (a few dollars every six months) to save all my valuable points and miles.
4. The Flight Deal (Tied with MightyTravel)
How the heck are you flying to Europe AND Asia for less than $400 a ticket? No doubt our escapades with miles are the best, but from time to time we also come across really good deals for both domestic and international travel that are just too good to pass up. We were just minutes late to booking a roundtrip from LAX to Johannesburg with a stop in the United Arab Emirates thanks to a posting by The Flight Deal and MightyTravels. If you’re looking for deals, give both sites a look. I find The Flight Deal easier to navigate and full of more useful information, but I also get my email alerts from MightyTravels to be safe!
Ladies, feel free to take a break or skip over this one. Men, I need you to listen up. I had lunch with a friend and reader of this website named John recently, and he was telling me about how crazy we are if we don’t hop onto Pinterest. Laura uses it for recipes and she used it for our wedding (she doesn’t like to admit that), but we’ve never thought of it for travel. As of a 2014 article I discovered, 70% of Pinterest users were women. But there’s something else: Women often use it to fuel creativity, men use it like a “get it done checklist” of sorts. Pinterest has some great travel content, and since we joined it, we’ve had fun creating boards on everything from some of our favorite travel memories, where we’re going next, and quotes and more that inspire us. Ladies, if you’re not already there, get there. Guys, stats are in my favor to presume you’re not on Pinterest: Get on board- pun intended!
6. Seat 61
Did we mention we like traveling by land (and sea) when possible? In many places from Thailand to South Africa, there are interesting and often unexplored opportunities to travel by rail. Mark Smith has a very useful website that allowed us to plan everything from our epic train journey through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to a train and ferry combo that made travel from The Netherlands to the United Kingdom and absolute blast! Don’t miss Seat 61, Mark has made travel by land so easy to accomplish!
7. Go Beyond Orbitz and Expedia: Picking the Right Flight Search Engine for the Right Moment
We’re cheating, and stuffing a few websites into one. But this means more tools for you, so something tells me you’re gravy with that. Want to get out and travel and don’t know where. Or maybe you know what you can afford, but not where it can take you. Google Explore is an absolute must to visit. Simply enter where you’re flying from and the general area you want to go. Toggle the amount of time you want your trip to last, and Google gathers various options to take the hassle out of picking. If you’re a visual person, Kayak has a similar explore option where you enter where you’re going from, the month you want to travel, and then check out the world map for various airfare options!
If you’re trying to book a complex international itinerary, turn to Vayama– the flight booking website that specializes in international travel. And if you want to spice it up and put Kayak on the bench for a bit, HipMunk is a favorite travel booking website we often utilize.
Bonus Tip: When searching for airfare, do two things when possible. 1. Search incognito. You don’t want airlines tracking your cookies, seeing how many times you’ve done a search hoping for prices to fly. They know they have you, and they can keep the prices high. 2. Don’t search on a Mac when possible. Reports in 2012 indicated Orbitz (and probably others) were trying to charge Mac users more.
Maybe money isn’t the issue, information is. You know you want a beach. You want the beach to be close to an urban area. And you love kids, but not for this trip. TripTuner asks you to click a few preferences and before you know it, provides a variety of suggestions. Try it the next time you know you want to travel, but just don’t know what locations offer what you want!
I don’t trust TripAdvisor, and yet I use it all the time. Sound familiar? I am certainly guilty of it. When I go through TripAdvisor reviews, I’m part curious traveler, part detective. This person only has 2 reviews? I don’t trust it. This person focuses lavishes so much praise on the owner of the little inn, clearly they must be related. I think we all have our struggles with TripAdvisor because there’s no way to verify the authenticity of the reviews. I usually look for people with a ton of posts and I put more weight in their reviews, but even that isn’t full proof. Enter TripExpert, a website that draws on hotel reviews from trusted experts for a variety of publications and combines those to make one simple score for each place you’re reviewing. Still far from perfect, but I find myself more at ease with these reviews than those on TripAdvisor.
Ever wondered if there’s another way to get to where you need to get? Or perhaps you’re just curious all the various routes and prices to get from A to B. Rome2Rio has grabbed our attention, but we don’t think it’s ready for primetime just yet. Simply plug in where you’re coming from and where you want to go, and the website aggregates a variety of options. But on a simple test of LAX to Cape Town, Rome2Rio brought back all our connection options in Europe, but left out published routes through the United Arab Emirates. So it’s a good website, working on being great and in the meantime, is a lot of fun to explore!
Those are our 10 best travel websites worth bookmarking right now. What would you add to the list?
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