One of the questions that I always get is, “How do you plan everything, and what websites do you use?” Whether you are planning a weekend getaway or a month-long adventure around Asia, there are websites and tools specially created to take some of the pain out of planning. Below I’ve listed my current favorite websites and apps that have helped me not only save money, but keeps me from losing my mind while I try to plan out longer trips.
Kayak is my go-to website for flights. There are other websites out there that are sometimes cheaper, but Kayak is consistent. The site is easy to maneuver even for the less technologically savvy. It’s so easy that even grandma and grandpa can find their flights with it. There are also other features on Kayak besides flights such as hotels, cars, cruises, and package deals. I only use it for flights, but I know plenty of people who have used it for the others mentioned.
Booking.com has become a lifesaver for me. If anyone has read my blog post about finding myself in the middle of the slums in India thanks to my friend’s Airbnb choice, then you know that I ended up finding a place to stay on my phone after we decided to opt-out of the Airbnb. (Inserts shameless plug to my post, https://janelhaswings.com/2019/08/26/when-what-should-be-the-worst-day-of-the-trip-turns-into-the-highlight-of-the-trip/)
Once we decided that the Airbnb wasn’t going to work for us, I opened the Booking.com app on my phone and found a place and booked it within 5 minutes. It is that simple. The website and app are user-friendly, and it is essential in an “I’m standing in the middle of the world’s largest slum” moment.
I tend only to use Airbnb when I am traveling in a group. It’s not that Airbnb isn’t good for solo travelers, but I feel as though I get more bang for my buck on Airbnb when I’m traveling with at least four people. If you have never heard of Airbnb, it is a website that people rent out their apartments, houses or extra rooms to anyone who is looking to stay in another city or country but still wants the “at home” feel while they are away. Those traveling on a budget love the fact that they have a full kitchen to cook and reduce expenses. It’s also nice because of ample space, cleanliness and the option of never having to see the owners unless you need to. I always look at Airbnb and compare their choices with Booking because there are some hidden gems on Airbnb. I found a Treehouse in Puerto Rico that has the beach and chill vibes that I want. Some people swear by Airbnb others swear by Booking. Just like everything else with travel, it’s what works best for you. Take a look at both and decide what suits your needs the best.
Hostelworld is a great place for young backpackers who are yearning to see the world, but they don’t have the same budget as Beyonce. (Let’s be honest, the majority of us don’t.) Hostelworld is what helped me travel Europe while I was in college and still be able to afford to eat while I was traveling from one destination to another. The website is one of the most go-to sites for young backpackers, and I still use it when I’m going somewhere by myself even though I’m no longer in my twenties. (Shh!) Hostels are typically shared dormitories that allow you to meet other travelers, have a place to sleep, and most of the time, a kitchen to cook a meal. Hostels have various sleeping options that range from private rooms to a mixed room with six bunk beds. Hostels also have the single-sex option so for female travelers like myself, and it makes you feel a bit safer knowing that you will only be sharing the room and bathroom with other females. I always suggest hostels to younger travelers and especially those who are traveling alone because it is a great way to meet new people, find out the best sites to see, the things that aren’t worth your time and the top food and bars in the area. If you are an introvert and enjoy your alone time, then I suggest going with a private room or a smaller dormitory so that you get that peace and chill time. Extroverts, like me, this is your time to shine. Go to the common areas and strike up conversations and see where the rest of the night takes you. Some of my best memories are from meeting new people at the hostel and then spending the rest of the day with them.
Skyscanner is an app that allows you to search for specific dates and destinations and sends you an alert when the price for the flights drop or if they project that the price will increase. The majority of seasoned travelers that I know use it and trust it. It is user-friendly and helps save you money and time. It is no secret that flights tend to be cheaper on certain days of the week, but who has an entire Tuesday to sit at their computer and hit refresh? Not most. I appreciate Skyscanner because it does the leg work for me. If the light that I am eyeing is about to go up in price, then I get an alert, and it allows me to lock it in before it does. It’s a helpful tool for any kind of traveler.
Vueling is a budget airline that has cheap flights all around Europe. Most travelers will tell you to use the rail (train) to travel across Europe, but what I have found is that the rail is more expensive than flying.* I have found flights as cheap as $75 while using Vueling. Seeing that it is a budget airline, there are limits on luggage, and there are fees if you go over the weight allowance so make sure that you can pay for more weight before your flight or pack light because there is nothing worse than paying for extra weight. It will burn through your savings, so avoid making a huge mistake. You will thank me later, I promise! For my fellow travelers from the U.S., everything around the rest of the world is measured in kilos, so 7 kilos are roughly 15 pounds. (1 kilo=2.2 pounds. Memorize this formula because it will save you more than you can imagine.)
7. Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights is an app that sends price alerts straight to your email. The great thing about Scott’s is that they give you a heads up on price drops to destinations all around the world, so it takes the hassle out of searching for great deals. The only disadvantage that I have found to Scott’s Cheap Flights is that not everyone has a flexible schedule or budget that allows them to book a holiday on such short notice. Once you receive the alert, you have a limited amount of time to book the deal before the flights go back up. I still recommend Scott’s Cheap Flights because you get killer deals and it doesn’t cost anything to sign up. They have a premium option that I do not have, but it may be worth looking into for those who are continually looking for great deals.
I’m not above admitting that I have booked through a travel agency. Gate1 Travel takes the hassle out of planning. One of the things that people tell me is their worst nightmare and keeps them from traveling abroad is the planning that goes into everything. I typically do plan my own travel, but there are times where I want a getaway that I have to put no effort into it. What can I say? I’m human. I can admit that planning everything can be exhausting and that’s when I’ve used Gate1 Travel. They have packages for destinations all over the world. The great thing is that they have everything lined up from the moment you arrive until the moment that you leave. The downside to this is that you are on a schedule and sometimes you just want to do your own thing. Gate1 allows downtime for those who wish to explore on their own, which is what I enjoy about it. I don’t suggest booking trips like this often, but if someone I know is looking for a site that will take the headache out of the planning, then this is the one that I always provide.
Whether you are a seasoned traveler or a beginner, all of these sites and apps are helpful. I have at least three opened in my browser at any given time. I know beginner travelers have a difficult time navigating through the immense amount of sites that offer great deals and trust me, there are a lot, but I find all of these sites and apps to be the most trustworthy. I’m not sponsored nor am I partners with any of them, but I have used all of them and can vouch for their usefulness. Now that I have given you the tools that you need to plan your next adventure, the next question is, where next?