Best Free Websites For Saving Money On Travel

Craigslist: get any travel supplies you need cheaply; search for a place to crash at your destination

Your local library's website: before you buy any travel guidebooks, see if your local library has an edition that's recent enough to be helpful. Take lots of notes, then return the books. You'll have all the information you need for free, and you won't have to cram and bulky books into your luggage.

Flyertalk: Bulletin boards loaded with money-saving tips from fellow thrifty travelers.

Priceline: In my opinion, Priceline is not worth it for saving money on flights because there are too many variables in what you'll end up with. For rental cars, it's almost a sure thing, though: you'll get a car in the class that you choose from the airport you fly into at the price you're willing to pay (if your offer is accepted, of course). The risks of booking a hotel through Priceline fall somewhere in between: some hotels take great leeway in assigning their class or star rating, and you can't know ahead of time what kind of neighborhood you'll end up in, nor will you have much control over how nice your room is. Priceline does work, though.

Kayak: One of the easiest-to-use travel search engines because it makes it easy to adjust your current search. You don't have to keep conducting new searches. This feature saves a ton of time and lets you easily see the financial impact of minor adjustments to your travel plans.

Sidestep: Basically the same as Kayak. The interfaces are slightly different, so try them both and see which you prefer. There is no need to use both, though.

Yapta: This is a fare tracking software that allows you to track individual flights so you can purchase them when/if the price drops to a level you're happy with. It also tracks flights you've already purchased so that if the price drops significantly, you can get a refund. In the nine months or so since I started using Yapta, I daresay I've saved close to $1,000 on airfare (most recently, $157). I've also made a couple of interesting observations: the closer it got to Christmas, the more bargain flights there were (I could have saved $200 by procrastinating!) and I could have purchased my plane ticket to Europe just weeks before my trip for the exact same price I paid booking it six months in advance.

Hostelling International: Do you really need the amenities of a hotel, or do you just want a place to crash? Hosteling can save you a ton of money. If dorm-style sleeping doesn't appeal to you, many hostels have private rooms. The private rooms cost more than the dorm-style rooms, of course, but less than most hotels. True, noise is an issue in some hostels, but it's also an issue in some hotels. It really just depends on who's staying there that night.

Hostel World: There are hostels other than those run by Hostelling International, and while HI does try to hold its establishments to a certain high standard, this doesn't mean that non-HI hostels are necessarily sub-par (I've stayed in more non-HI hostels than HI hostels and haven't noticed any difference). Hostel World allows you to find hostels all over the world, compare prices, and read reviews.

National Park Service park search: If you really want to go low-budget on your next trip, camping is the way to go. Campsites do have an entry fee that varies by campsite, but last time I went on a road trip, most campsites were only $5-$10 a night. Of course, if you'll need to buy a bunch of camping gear in order to go camping, that will eat into your savings, so try to borrow it or get it from a garage sale.

Couch Surfing: Not for the unadventurous, Couch Surfing allows you to track down strangers in foreign cities who are willing to let you stay with them for free. You couldn't pay me to take a chance like that, but it seems to work fabulously for hitchhiking types, and it can give you the opportunity to make friendships and experience local culture in a way that's impossible from the sterility of a nice, safe(ish) hotel room. The service does have a way to rate other members, but I never completely trust any anonymous review on the internet.

Home Exchange: This website allows you to trade homes with people. This arrangement not only gives you free lodging, it can also give you nicer lodging than what you could normally afford. This is a service that you have to join and it costs $100 a year, but that's the cost of one night in a hotel. You'll recoup your expenses very quickly. You don't have to be a homeowner to take advantage of this service, either.

Walkscore: This website is designed to help people find walkable places to live, but it's also great for planning trips if you don't want to rent a car. Type in the address of the place you're planning to stay and find out what's in walking distance. What Walkscore can't tell you, though, is whether you'll feel safe walking around an area or not, so keep that in mind.

Yelp: Ditch the hackneyed guidebook dining recommendations and use this popular review website to find cheap restaurants that the locals like at your destination.

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2 comments:

Rachel said...

Thanks for this information - so useful with many people now booking their summer holidays.

Anonymous said...

One great free website I discovered a few months ago which I think would be great listed here for travelers is Out Of The Dark (OOTD) free online budgeting. If you have access to the internet while traveling, managing your budget and cash could not get sweeter than with this little free website.

URL is at:
http://www.myexp.org/OOTD_gate.php