The Best Travel Sites For Finding and Booking Great Airfare and Hotel Deals
A Google search for travel will return nearly 8 millions results. But how can you know which travel sites will truly assist you in your trip planning, and how can you figure out which ones you should visit first?
If you know where you want to go, your first step is probably finding out how much it will cost.
Airfare comparison travel sites have come a long way in the past few years. With fares from virtually all domestic carriers, Kayak.com is one of the best. A flexible-date feature makes it easy to see how much you could save by shifting your dates. And once you find a fare you like, clicking on it takes you to the airline's website to make reservations.
Sidestep scans more than 600 sites for fare information. It's another good place to look for cheap domestic flights.
European airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir offer really cheap airfares that aren't available in the United States. You have to be careful about all the hidden charges, but with fares of $2 one way from London to Rome or Paris, they're hard to resist.
The best place to find these fares is on Dohop.com. If you can, don't take any luggage to speak of. And read the fine print carefully. These low-price carriers are notorious for bait-and-switch tactics.
British Airways and several other international carriers recently started charging for advance seat assignments. If you're going to pay for an aisle or exit-row seat, you'd better make sure that it's worth the extra cost. Seatexpert.com or Seatguru.com can help you find the best seats on your flight.
Once you know how much your flights will cost, you can start looking for places to stay.
A lot of people start their search at Tripadvisor.com. With more than 25 million user-generated reviews, it's one of the most popular travel sites. But take it all with a grain of salt. The travelers who give a hotel rave reviews may have lower standards than you do.
We'd be careful about booking a hotel based exclusively on user-generated reviews. Fodors.com and Frommers.com both provide objective reviews from travel professionals. Check them out before you make a commitment.
For European hotels, Venere.com is an excellent travel site that includes lots of smaller properties you won't find listed on Travelocity or Expedia.
Oyster.com is a terrific new site with videos, photos and in-depth reviews by journalists who travel anonymously. But so far, they only cover a few destination.
Once you've settled on a hotel, don't waste a lot of time comparing prices. Since most of the hotel booking sites are owned by the same two or three parent companies, there's not much difference in price. If you find a rate that's a lot better than another, make sure it's for the same room type.
If the best price requires you to pay in advance, contact the hotel directly to see if they will match it without prepayment. If you do prepay to get the best rate, read the terms and conditions carefully. Most of the time, these rates are nonrefundable and once you book, you can't make any changes.
Hotels with low occupancy rates are often willing to negotiate, so if you're traveling at the last minute, call the property. And if you know occupancy is way down, consider showing up without reservations. A hotel with few guests will make you a very good deal if you appear on their doorstep.