I’ve been planning vacations for years and along the way have picked up tips for saving time and money – and having great experiences. In this post, I’ll describe each tip. Maybe one or more can help you!
Before I start – full disclosure: I am not an expert with using all of the tips. And, things change so what may be helpful in the past may not be helpful in the future. Lastly, I am not paid for recommending these services. Basically, the information here includes my opinions only and when you use these services, you accept all risks.
Before I describe my tips, I need to tell you about searching in INCOGNITO MODE. This is a way to browse online in private so that your website history is not saved. I’ve read it prevents airline, rental car, etc. prices from increasing once your history is “learned”. And I think it’s true – I’ve seen an increase in price occur when not browsing in incognito mode vs. browsing incognito. So, before you do any searching for travel-related costs that can fluctuate, first create a new incognito window:
For Windows: Press CTRL + SHIFT + N
For Mac: Press COMMAND + SHIFT + N
Here’s how it looks on a Windows computer:
From here you can search for anything and the website history is not recorded.
WHERE TO GO?
- Lonely Planet books – Get travel ideas from these books. I would bet most libraries have these (mine does and I buy the older copies at book sales). Lodging, restaurants, nightlife, attractions, history, and more are provided. They also include itineraries depending on how much time you have and what you’d like to do.
- Blogs – Free. They’re out there, so search for them. Like this one for Hawaii. Look for posts that provide tips on where to go or what to do in a city or country.
- TripAdvisor – Free. I mainly use this site to look for top-rated Things to Do and Restaurants. But there is also a Travel Forum where you can try to find answers to your questions, like what’s a good city to stay in that is a few hours train ride from Zurich.
- Thorntree forum – Free. Similar to TripAdvisor’s Travel Forum, but IMO Thorntree has more of an adventure/outdoor vibe.
- Rick Steves – Free. The website states he is the leading authority on European travel. It’s ALL here. He also has an audio Europe app that I use to learn more about certain countries and their cultures.
- Google flights – Free. Sign into your google account and once you’ve defined the search filters for airports, dates, etc. you can track the search and receive an email when the price changes. When it’s low, buy! The Price Graph, Flight Duration, and trip Times are especially helpful. Play around with the filters to get the results you want.
- Skyscanner – Free. This has a flight search engine and I’ve used it a handful of times. It can also be used for hotels and car rental.
- Momondo – Free. Yet another flight search engine. I like the visual of the price differences between dates as a bar graph. The results are listed by cheapest, quickest, and best. It can also be used for hotels and car rental.
- Airline carrier – When you’re ready to purchase airline tickets, take the extra step to check the airline’s website, because it may be the least expensive.
- Secret Flying – I subscribe to the free email that lists the cheapest fairs for the day. Like New York to Copenhagen for $294 RT. Go to the FAQ page to find the link for the daily email. For a monthly fee, you can become a member and unlock personalized results. I have not yet booked a flight deal found through SF.
- Scott’s Cheap Flights – I subscribe to the free email that is sent when cheap international flights occur. The best flight deals are emailed to premium users who pay a yearly fee. I have not yet booked a flight deal found through SCF but someday I will because the prices are so tempting!
- GoEuro – Free. This site compares prices for travel via flights, trains, and buses in Europe. I’ve used it a few times and it’s convenient.
- Expert Flyer – Free. Create a new Seat Alert to determine the seats that are occupied for a flight. It’s very handy if you’re particular about where you want to sit. Or maybe you are thinking about buying tickets but this site reveals there are many open seats so you may want to wait to see if the price goes down. There is a limit to how many free Seat Alerts you create per day. A Pro subscription is available for a fee.
- Seat Guru – Free. I use this site to learn the layout of the seats on the flight I’m interested in. For example, Aer Lingus has planes with two (vs. three) seats on each side, convenient for a couple. Or if you don’t like to fly on the huge planes, this site will help point them out and you can avoid them.
- Airbnb – Free. Find a home or a room to rent – and more. This is my preferred lodging choice because I like to stay with the locals in a neighborhood in my own place with a kitchen. If you join Airbnb this coupon will give your $40 off your first trip of $75+.
- TripAdvisor – Free. This site can also help you find a top hotel/motel/inn/B&B in your price range.
- Sabbatical Homes – A fee is charged for home rental, exchange, sitting, and sharing. I would like to try this someday, perhaps an exchange with a home in Europe.
- Trusted Housesitters – You can stay for free at someone’s home if you take care of their pet(s). They could be donkeys or guinea pigs or something else (but are mostly dogs and cats). A fee is charged. I have not used this service but would like to.
- MindmyHouse – For house/pet sitters. A fee is charged. I have not used this service but am intrigued.
- Couchsurfing – Stay with hosts from all over the world for free. Get to know them and their culture. You don’t always have to sleep on a couch! I’ve done this a few times in New Hampshire and Canada.
CAR RENTAL (HIRE)
- AutoSlash – Free. Provide a few pieces of information such as where you want to pick up and drop off the rental car, dates and times, and car size and AutoSlash does the searching for you to find the lowest Pay Now and Pay Later prices. And with free cancellation, you can reserve, cancel, and reserve at a better price (what I did 3x when I rented a car in Phoenix).
- Hotwire – Free. For many years this was my go-to site for renting a car. (Hotels and flights are also available.) Now it looks like most rentals do not have free cancellation.
- Turo car rental – Free. Everyday people rent their car to you. It seems worth a try.
- Uber / Lyft – Free. Everyday people drive you where you want to go for a fee. I’ve used Uber to get to the airport or get picked up at the airport. It’s fast and easy.
- Taxi – In some cities/countries this may be the only service available; e.g. in Paris, I used a taxi from the stand at the airport and a G7 taxi within the city.
- Sixt car rental – Free. Vehicles are available in over 100 countries. I’ve used this site several times. Oftentimes free cancellation rates are available.
TRAIN & FERRY
- Seat61 – Free. THE site for learning about worldwide train and ferry travel. I’ve used this site multiple times when researching train travel in Europe.
- Google Maps – Free. Use the app to download one or more offline maps for the locations where you’ll be – and accessing those maps during travel does not require internet service. I do this every time I travel.
- Citymapper – Free. Use the app to travel via different modes. There are over 30 worldwide cities included and counting. I used this when visiting NYC to provide instructions for getting from one point to the other via subway.
- Waze – Free. Use the app when driving anywhere in the world. Other users (wazers) warn of traffic, accidents, etc. I’ve used this and once took an alternate route to avoid a traffic problem in Indiana.
- Currency Converter – Free. Get the app to convert any two currencies.
- Global ATM locators – Free. Here’s one for Mastercard and one for Visa.
- Google Translate – Free. The app translates text in different languages in multiple ways. One way is to use the Camera functionality to view printed material such as a restaurant menu or a sign; it will be converted before your eyes.
- Duolingo – Free. Learn a language. I’ve tried using this to learn Swedish and thought it was too slow-going but you may have better luck.
Please enter a comment if you have experience with one or more of these tips – and/or have additional tips!