Summer is in full swing, and millions of Americans are raring to take a trip. But where should they go, and how much should they budget?
I’ve been an avid traveler since I was a kid when I would hop on planes with my father, who worked for the airlines. Dad was particularly skilled at finding bargains, but for the 21st Century traveler, it has never been easier to book a ticket online. Gone are the days of dusty travel agencies and dog-eared brochures.
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At the same time, doing everything yourself can be stressful. What airline should fly? Where should you stay? How will you find the best deal? For that matter, where do you even start, with so many online companies vying for your credit card?
Each service has its pros and cons, but these are the brands that I most fervently recommend. They are comprehensive, easy to use, and cater to a variety of needs and interests. And while most customers will be searching for flights, hotels, and rental cars, remember that many of these services can book cruises and activities as well.
Here are my personal top five:
Travelocity is one of the largest travel sites in the world, and although it has a lot of similarities to other sites (like Priceline and Expedia), I am consistently impressed with its travel packages. Instead of just booking a flight and room, you can combine airfare, hotels, rental cars and more.
I’m often surprised by how many people book these elements separately, or just wait until they arrive at their destination to figure out the details. If you’re not using rewards points to fly, Travelocity is one of the best services for saving money on the overall cost of your trip. According to the company, people who combine even just their flight and hotel save $525 on average. That’s a lot of cocktail money.
Like a lot of great travel sites, Travelocity has a free app for the Apple and Android user. Its primary service is called Farewatcher, which monitors deals on desired locations. Once you inform the app that you want to travel to Cancun, for example, you will receive notifications as prices drop.
Some travelers are more spontaneous than others. For people who like to hop on planes on a whim, Airfarewatchdog will quickly become your best friend. This service sets itself apart by monitoring airline sites for sales and discounts.
The best part? Airfarewatchdog employs flesh-and-blood people, who spend their days seeking out the best fares. It’s kind of like having a personal travel shopper. Airfarewatchdog does the research for you, and all you have to do is sit back and wait for the deals to rush in.
The company specializes in last-minute fares, particularly the “blooper” and “mea culpa” fares that result when an airline messes up. Unlike a lot of companies, these folks incorporate smaller airlines as well, such as Southwest and Allegiant, which are known for great prices but are often skipped over. If you’re not tied to a particular brand, this is a great way to save money.