15 Useful Travel Websites for People Who Love Traveling

August 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love to travel, and can’t get enough of the different travel websites that keep popping up, we’ve got a few new ones for you to check out.

A recent Lifehack article shows us 15 sites that are helpful for travelers. We’ve covered several of them in the past, but there’s always something new in the world of travel websites. And we found a few new ones we’d never heard of.

Of course you’ll find some of the expected travel websites, such as Yelp. But throw in some new ones we weren’t as familiar with, such as Skiplagged and Responsible Travel, and you catch our interest. They give tips on going places we might never have thought about.

Seat61.com, a website dedicated to train travel.

Seat61.com, a website dedicated to train travel.

One of the sites, The Man in Seat 61, is all about train travel, which is something we don’t discuss that much here. But after reading it, we may have to give it some more consideration.

The article gives us info on some niche and unexpected travel websites that most people don’t know about. We tend to use the run-of-the-mill sites ourselves and were pleased to learn more about these new sites.

Trip Tribe is a site that will allow you to enter information about yourself and then gives you tips on some activities you might enjoy.

Home Exchange allows users to trade housing with people in locales they want to visit. It’s like a barter version of AirBNB, where users can simply set up a home exchange, as the name implies, and trade houses with fellow travelers for a few days or weeks.

Another interesting site was AirHelp, which is a great resource for folks who have had unpleasant events while traveling via airplane. For those with lost luggage or extensive delays, Air Help is a great resource in letting you know what your rights are.

What are some of your favorite travel sites? Do you have any you recommend, or any new favorites? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Track Ticket Prices and New Airline Fees to Get the Best Deal

January 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The best way to keep track of ticket prices and airline fees? Check the travel sites every day, sometimes more than once, keep a spreadsheet of the results, and buy your tickets when you see the price hit its lowest.

Actually, that’s the worst way to do it. It wastes time and you can’t always be sure you’re finding the lowest fees. Plus, it’s difficult to keep track of alternate routes.

English: Photo of a mobile boarding pass (a 2D...

Photo of a mobile boarding pass on top of a paper boarding pass for a KLM flight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A September blog post on Peter Greenberg’s travel blog discussed two great sites for tracking ticket prices and fees. These are the best ways to track your fees, because you can use it to find the average and lowest ticket prices for your chosen destination, as well as find the cheapest time of year to fly.

Hopper.com will do all of that, plus give you information on alternate places to fly to and from. That feature is pretty standard these days, but Hopper’s detailed breakdown isn’t. It’s the best place to find out if you’re really getting a deal on a ticket and to give you a heads up on what you can reasonably expect to pay. It even lists the lowest recent price, just to make you jealous.

There’s also AirfareWatchdog.com, which has several useful sections, including a large list of airline fees, listed by carrier. For example, you can see how much it costs to bring a pet into the cabin, or reserve tickets by phone instead of online. Watch out for new fees, such as a $5 fee for printing out your boarding pass at the airport. Instead, use your home printer or the airline’s smartphone app instead.

How do you keep track of ticket prices and fees? Do you use any special tools, or do you have the spreadsheet technique down pat? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Avoid Booking a Bad Hotel

January 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s one of our worst nightmares. The only thing worse than being stranded or lost while traveling is being stuck in a bad hotel. But how can you be sure if the hotel you’re considering is a good one, and not just the result of a few faked reviews and a clever Photoshop job?

Your best bet in finding a good hotel is to do your research before you book a stay.

TripAdvisor — the app or the website — is a great resource for the traveler looking to avoid a night of pure misery at some flea bag motel next to a loud bar. Although TripAdvisor has received some criticism about its review system, it’s still a great resource because it lists so many reviews from different folks.

While it’s normal to see one or two bad reviews in a great hotel, and one or two great reviews at a bad hotel, these anomalies sometimes make people worry that something’s fishy on the review sites. When researching hotels on review sites, look for patterns. You may see one or two people who either have an axe to grind or they’re just jerks and like posting bad reviews. That’s almost normal these days, because people like to do that sort of thing. But if you see a pattern — 12 bad reviews, and one good one, or 12 positive reviews that all misspell the same word (which means they were probably planted by management) — then you can get a better picture of what that hotel is like.

A recent article in USA today mentions some other red flags. Visit the hotel’s website. If it’s outdated or doesn’t have a lot of information or photos, that could be a bad sign. If you can’t get someone on the phone when you call to ask questions, that’s also a bad sign.

An adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) with the ...

An adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) with the typical flattened oval shape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can also check out Google Street view to see what the place really looks like. Another great resource to find out if other, unwelcome guests will be staying in your room is the Bed Bug Registry.

Another way to improve the odds of finding a good hotel is simply to stick to the chain hotels. They have performance standards they have to meet in order to maintain that license. While many of us may prefer the local experiences when we visit new cities, sometimes you have to stay with the thing you know just to make sure you know what you’re getting. (Save the local experiences for the restaurants and sights.)

After you finally check into your nice hotel, you still have to stay on your toes. The desk clerk is probably a very nice person but often has a goal of filling the least desirable rooms first, which means you may be steered toward a room next to the elevator or with a view of the trash cans. Ask questions about placement, noise, and views right off the bat and you’re likely to settle into a more comfortable perch for the night. One trick we like to use is to ask for a room on one of the higher floors. At the very least, it’s a little more secure, and you’re less likely to get a terrible view. You can also ask about rooms at the end of the hall, away from the elevators.

How do you avoid booking a bad hotel? Tell us your tips. Leave a comment here on the blog or on our Facebook page.

10 Interesting and Helpful Travel Websites

December 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever needed help with travel planning, but have some specific needs that the giant travel sites can’t help you with, Nomadic Matt published a very useful blog post in September about some lesser-known travel sites that can be very helpful when planning trips.

One site on the list that we really enjoyed was Tripping, which aggregates information from a variety of apartment rental websites, including FlipKey, Housetrip, and Booking.com. One thing to note about Tripping is that it doesn’t pull information from Airbnb, so you need to do a separate search on that site if you want to compare.

English: Apartment in Pursilahdenranta, Helsinki.

Apartment in Pursilahdenranta, Helsinki. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We like the idea of apartment rental as an alternative to staying in a hotel because it can give you a more authentic travel experience. You get to live the way locals do, rather than tucked away in a hotel. You’re close to the shops, restaurants, bars, and coffee houses the locals use, and you get to experience the city the way they do.

Apartment rental can save you a lot of money, especially if traveling in a large group. It’s often cheaper to rent a house or apartment, plus there is usually a kitchen included so you can cook some of your meals “at home.” And you have more privacy and intimacy with your group.

Trover is another interesting site. It adds photography to short user reviews of restaurants, hotels, and landmarks. It gives a more realistic look at restaurants or hotels you’re considering. Some places Photoshop their photos, or are selective about what they post, to present a better image than the reality, so this lets you see what the place is really like. You can share your photos with fellow travelers, and add a review to the mix to help future visitors make an informed decision.

Finally, we were also impressed with Busbud, a site that offers extensive information about bus services in countries around the world. This can be an invaluable resource for international travelers because in some cases, this information is difficult to find anywhere else.

What about your favorite travel sites? Do you have any unusual or little-known sites you prefer? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Best Travel Planning Tools

January 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

As with most everything in this Information Age, there’s an endless amount of travel planning information available on the web. So what are some of the most helpful online travel resources?

Again, we turn to an expert, one of Travelpro’s must-read travel writers, Wendy Perrin. Wendy is Condé Nast Traveler’s Consumer News Editor and author of a monthly travel advice column that appears at www.concierge.com. Wendy shared some her favorite online travel planning tools in “The Perrin Report” posted in November, 2010, and we’ve selected a few of those.

Yapta.com screenshot

Yapta.com

AirfareWatchdog.com: These real life people find the low fares that the automated airfare sites may have missed. You get sales and promo-code fares that don’t turn up on the airline travel sites that scour the airlines. You can even sign up for your home airport or a particular city.

AwardWallet.com: Rather than keeping track of expiring miles and hotel points on the different sites, AwardWallet shows them all to you on a single page.

Bing.com/travel: Bing looks at saved pricing data about your ticket prices to predict if it’s going to rise or drop. It can tell you whether the hotel rate is comparable or higher than its historic rates for the same time period. This way you can figure out whether the price is a good one or if you should wait.

BookYourAward.com: You saved up all those travel miles and credit card points for first class or business class flights, especially for international flights, but you’re having a heck of a time getting the upgrades. BookYourAward can tell you the best way to get the upgrades for the fewest number of miles, and will even help you book your flight.

FareCompare.com: If you’re fare watching to figure out the best time to book your tickets, FareCompare has trip alerts that will tell you when the fares drop on your route. Request alerts for dates, cities, countries, and even airlines.

ITASoftware.com: If you’re planning a long flight with several stops, or a complicated route, or even a multi-destination trip, ITASoftware is an airfare search engine that gives a fairly comprehensive list of options. No airline preferences or concerns with commissions. Just find the route that gives you the best price, the best route, and convenient schedule.

Yapta.com: Another fare watcher, Yapta is great for planning a specific flight on a specific date more than four months in the future. When the price drops, Yapta sends you an email and lets you know when the time is right to buy.

Photo: Yapta.com screenshot