Once upon a time, in a land long ago, booking travel was a process involving you and one other person; travel sites were as foreign an idea as electric cars. You would think of where you wanted to go, pick up the phone to the airline or travel agent, and POOF! You were on your way.
I can remember as a child anxiously waiting for the mail to arrive when I knew we had requested information to be sent to our home from a hotel we were thinking of using. That’s right millennials; you had to call the hotel and ask them to send you a brochure.
But it is not 1989 anymore, and things have changed. Nowadays it can be a tad overwhelming to book your next trip. You might find yourself spending more time agonizing over which website to “trust” than you spend on the details of your actual trip. Sites like Tripadvisor and Orbitz are beginning to be outpaced by their competition to complicate things further.
At the end of the day figuring out which site is “THE best” comes down to what it is that you want. Hotels? Rental cars? Last minute deals? The list goes on and on. Don’t worry; I’ve spent countless hours diving into this topic so I can save you time, confusion, and (hopefully) some money.
♦ BEST FOR → Traveler looking for a new search experience
♦ BEST FEATURE→ Airbnb options included in your hotel search
A newer kid on the traveling block, Hipmuck offers you a lot of the same features as Kayay does, including alerts. Anyone who has ever traveled before knows you need to keep your sense of humor with you at all times, and this site does. It rates flights in terms of agony; a combination of price, number of stops, and total travel time. If Amtrak is a viable option for your travel, it will search that as well as Airbnb options for you when you’re looking for hotels. You can also email them for advice on where to go and how to get there.
♦ BEST FOR→ Families seeking vacation packages
♦ BEST FEATURE→ Price matching cheaper fares within 24 hours of booking
Travelocity (owned by Expedia) does a few things well; vacation packages, credits, and refunds. Travelocity is so committed to finding you the best price on whatever you are booking they will offer you a $50.00 credit and refund of the difference if you can find a lower price on a flight, rental car, or cruise within 24 hours of booking. Travel packages, as mentioned above, is something they also do well. According to the company, they save the average traveler $525.00 on their trips when they book everything together (flight + rental car + hotel). Don’t skip over their ‘Get Inspired’ section where you can find a ton of useful travel articles.
♦ BEST FOR→ Spur of the moment travelers
♦ BEST FEATURE→ Smaller airlines included in airline options
If you are someone who is ok with last minute travel deals, this site needs to become your best friend. Hands down the best thing about this site is that is employs living, breathing human beings (!) who spend their days finding you the best travel deals. So what’s their specialty? Last minute, inexpensive fares that are a result of the ‘mea culpa’s’ of the airline industry. Bonus: they also incorporate smaller airlines like Southwest and Allegiant when presenting you with flight options, which other search sites leave out.
♦ BEST FOR→ The all-inclusive vacation planner
♦ BEST FEATURE→International travel deals
27,000,000. That is how many members there are in the Travelzoo world. Travelzoo has partnered with over 2,000 companies which have allowed them to offer you some insane deals. This company has been awarded many accolades for their site, but international travel is their bread and butter. Backpacking through Europe on your bucket list? Not picky about where you start? Awesome. You can search for deals based on the continent. Aside from booking the basics (flights + lodging), you can also book restaurant reservations, spa treatments, and excursions through this site.
♦ BEST FOR→ Open-ended travelers.
♦ BEST FEATURE → Price Predictor
Kayak (owned by Priceline) is more of a search engine than a travel agent. In most cases, Kayak will connect you directly to the service provider. Let’s say you wanted to stay at a Hyatt Hotel. Kayak will encourage you to book through Priceline, but it will also send you directly to Hyatt’s site. Kayak’s price predictor tool is one of the best features on this or any other travel site for that matter. Essentially it lets you know if the price quoted today is as reasonable as it will get or will you be punished for waiting with crazy high prices.
♦ BEST FOR→Travelers seeking the best deals
♦ BEST FEATURE→ Monthly forecasting of airfare prices
Let me preface this section by saying if you have never been to this site before DO NOT have a panic attack! It is a lot more user-friendly (and helpful) then you may think. The reason that Google Flights will rock your travel world is that it can tell the difference between a cheap flight and a good flight. We’ve all been there. You find the “amazing” price on a flight only to see that you’re in a cramped seat, riddled with hidden baggage fees, food only for purchase, and a 3 am departure time. Now some people don’t care about any of that if it saves them money. Rock on if that is you! Google flights will let you pick your poison. It is also vacation planning on steroids. If you know you want to fly to Europe in December, Google Flights will show you the average cost of airfare for the entire month. You can also search based off of a map of the world containing airports and the cost to fly to them.
♦ BEST FOR→Travelers seeking non-traditional travel experiences
♦ BEST FEATURE→’Friendsourced’ info to aid in trip planning
This site is a horse of a different color, but I had to put it on my list. As you guys know, I’m all for the cultural experience when you travel. Trippy helps you plan that experience, wherever your destination is. Trippy allows other globetrotters, like yourself, plan your vacation for you by linking with other sites like Facebook. Once you’re linked, you can see which of your friends has been to, checked in, lived worked, or studied in your destination. You can then chat with them about recommendations! Trippy believes that tapping into travel advice from people you trust (your friends) rather than strangers makes you want to use the information they give you.