One of the biggest expenses with traveling is transportation, especially if you have to fly at any point. There are a few tips you can regularly follow to save money in this regard, but you can also save yourself a lot of cash by using some of the websites we’ve found below.
Before you look at the websites, there are ways to save some money before you purchase tickets for your next trip. It’s helpful to travel in the off-season, like going to a tropical location when it’s colder there (and therefore less popular), and to shop for flights on Tuesdays.
Discounts typically go into effect Monday nights for most airlines, and now they’re matching each other’s prices to stay competitive. You can follow airlines to get their deals and use credit cards with good travel benefits.
To save even more money, check out some of the websites below, which allow you to compare prices, find deals on airfare and cruise lines, and find cheap places to stay to save money on that part of your trip as well. Once you save money getting to your destination, and a little bit on staying there, you can do more on your trip, or start saving for the next one.
Search hundreds of travel sites at once
If you want to hunt around for the cheapest flight, hotel, rental car, and cruises you can find, try Kayak.com. Collecting data from airlines and travel sites, Kayak displays the cheapest tickets and rentals and lets you know if it’s a good time to purchase based on past prices. It lets you know which flights are fastest and recommends a “best” flight for you based on price, time spent in the air, and layovers or lack thereof.
Kayak’s website has a lot of content because it has an active blog and a lot of price comparisons. But if you’re looking for cheap flights first and foremost, the flight search bar is right on the homepage, and the search bar always ends up at the top of each section you’re looking at. So on your computer, or on mobile, just try to keep from scrolling down until you’ve started your search; you’ll keep yourself from being confused, and you’ll find the best deals faster.
Let Google find cheap travel packages
Google Flights works much like Kayak — it collects data from airlines, hotels, and travel sites, and shows you options for locations you specifically look for, as well as popular locations that are searched a lot. Also like Kayak, Google Flights can help you track price trends, helping you decide when to buy your tickets, as well as filter your searches by airline, prince, and the number of stops.
Unlike Kayak, Google Flights doesn’t let you search for rental cars, but it has a layout that’s a lot easier to understand and scroll through, plus a lot more suggestions of where to travel than Kayak does. Because it’s connected to the Google search engine, when you look up a location in Google Flights, you can learn about cool things to do there and the best places to go and stay.
Compare pricing across several travel sites
For those road-trippers and train aficionados looking for affordable hotels on your next vacation, try goSeek on for size. GoSeek can find hotels in or near almost any area you can think of, based on location, the dates you’ll be staying, and how many people you have in your party (and how many rooms you need). From this search, you’ll see the rates normally given for that hotel, through sites like Expedia and Hotels.com, and how much you save by using goSeek.
GoSeek will help you find cheap hotel rooms — possibly the cheapest you’ll find in your searches, and it combines this with star ratings so you know what sort of experience you’ll be getting. One thing to keep in mind: goSeek brings up a number of pop-up ads, and if you don’t deselect the “Compare vs goSeek” check marks at the bottom of the search area, you’ll open a second, very confusing window showing you other sites and their deals. For the savings you get, which is 20% or more on any hotel room, goSeek is worth the slight headache of its interface. Just be warned things get a little harder to read than the simple homepage will tell you.
Browse travel deals, name your own price
If you’re traveling on a budget, and you know exactly what that budget is, try using Priceline and its Name Your Own Price service to get a deal you can really afford. When searching for a hotel, click the “Name Your Own Price” link on the left side of the page if it turns up, and select the area you want to stay in, as well as the star level you’d like the hotel to have. Then, submit your bid for an amount you’re willing to pay for a hotel room in that area (Priceline will tell you the median price available, so you’ll have an idea if your budget can match where you’re looking). Priceline will then ask the nearby hotels if they’ll take your price, and if they do, that’s all you’ll pay! If hotel reject your price, you’ll just have to change your area selection, your dates, and maybe your star-rating to get the price you can afford.
Sadly, the Name Your Own Price feature only applies to Priceline’s hotel searches, and not their flight, cars, or cruises. Still, to seriously save on accommodations, Priceline is a good site to try out, as being able to name a price can save you a ton of cash. Just be prepared to have every link you click on Priceline bring you to a new window. You won’t get pop up ads, but if you’re comparing a few vacation options, just know you’ll have quite a few windows to look through on your desktop for a little while, and it may be mildly annoying.
Rent more space for less money
Maybe you prefer the comforts of home to a hotel, but you still want to get away for a little while. To rent a vacation home for your trip check out Vrbo, a site that connects homeowners and renters with travelers so travelers can stay in cabins, condos, mansions, or whatever else their heart desires for the duration of a trip.
The pricing at VRBO can be a little steep — you might find some hotels less expensive — but staying in a vacation home can ultimately save you money, especially if you travel in a group. A group can split the cost of staying in a VRBO house, and by being in a house, there’s actually room for everyone to have their own bed and their own space on the trip. With the option to cook meals in the house, you could save a ton on your vacation and really get to enjoy quality time with the friends and family you travel with.
Our fantastic leader Kim Komando actually rents out her condo in Maui on VRBO, so if you’re a big Kim fan, or if you just want a comfortable Hawaiian vacation right on the beach, you can follow the link to check out the listing. Check out the rest of VRBO too for other wonderful vacation homes for your next trip.
When you don’t know where you want to go
Sometimes you want to get away, but you don’t know where you want to go. Travelzoo can help with that and find you great deals in the process.
You can use Travelzoo to book hotels and cruises and take advantage of deals on vacation activities. The best use of the site may be its weekly Top 20 list of amazing vacation packages. Use this to get inspiration for your next trip, as well as discounts and deals. Most of Travelzoo’s deals and packages are great, usually giving you places to stay, means of transport, and often, special tours and activities. To really look into deals, you have to sign up as a Travelzoo user, but it’s free, and the deals are worth it. Next time you feel the itch to travel but you don’t know where to go, try the easy-to-navigate Travelzoo, and soon you’ll have more vacation ideas than you’ll be able to pick from.
Get alerts about airfare deals
If you have a dream vacation in mind, a place you’ve been hoping to go to for as long as you can remember, use Airfarewatchdog to find the cheapest flights immediately when they go on sale. Input a starting destination into the Airfarewatchdog homepage and click “Find Fares.”
From there, Airfarewatchdog will let you know if there are flights available and if they are “good” rates or below the average cost for that flight. If the rates look good, you can click “Find Deal” next to the price and be redirected to a booking website to purchase them. Airfarewatchdog finds cheap flights, but does not perform any transactions — you’ll be redirected to bookingbuddy.com for that, a site that will help you find the travel sites with these prices. It’s a bit convoluted, but you do find the prices Airfarewatchdog tells you about, especially if you move quickly.
If things are looking a little pricey, you can click the “Track this route” link beside the alarm clock icon, and you’ll be directed to input your email address. Once you do, you’ll be notified the moment the route you’re looking for gets cheap tickets via email. You’ll have to move fast, as Airfarewatchdog can only let you know when prices are down, and things can go fast. But the tracking can give you an edge that might just make that dream vacation a reality. So use Airfarewatchdog to stay on top of pricing when it’s relevant to you to do so.
Check cheap flights on your smartphone
Occasionally, you might have to (or want to) buy plane tickets while away from your desktop. The JustFly.com app is great for that, letting you compare flight, hotel, rental car, and cruise prices all from your smartphone.
JustFly.com exists as a web platform as well, but the app is one of the simplest flight comparison apps you’ll find, and it finds some great bargains. Prices can change quickly on the app and the web platform, and some users have reported issues with customer service staff in reviews. But on the whole, JustFly.com seems to be a solid app for getting travel price comparisons and getting them on the go. Get Justfly on iTunes and on Google Play for Android.
Get deals on cruises
All this talk of flying is well and good, but what if you and your family and friends prefer cruise ships? Many of the sites we listed above can help you find cruises and some cheap pricing for them, but CruiseSheet is entirely dedicated to finding you the best deals in the ocean.
CruiseSheet can help you find cruises to particular locations or from ports near you for almost any length of time you can imagine, as well as for ships that set sail as far out as a year and a half from now (so you can book a vacation well in advance, and get a really great deal). CruiseSheet can also help you find great last-minute deals on cruises — deals that have just been put online and ones where prices have dropped. You can sign up for their email list to make sure you’re informed once they’re on the site. You can set up price alerts for yourself on particular cruise routes if you want to be informed when those cabins and trips are especially cheap.
With price listings that can let you know when something is especially cheap and good to go for, CruiseSheet is the best site to find good cruising deals, and it’s easy to navigate. For those of us that prefer life and sea to cramped quarters in the air, cruises are a great way to go, and CruiseSheet is the way to book them.
Travel like a college kid and get a friend for life
If you love to travel, but have trouble finding companions to go with you try Get A Friend For Life, or GAFFL, to meet fellow travelers online, and set up trips where you can all split costs and make travel cheaper. GAFFL lets you advertise or respond to trip ideas, coordinate travel in chats, and even provides a place to divide up costs and pay each other. If you want to go on an ambitious hiking trip that would be safer with a travel companion, or if you want to split the cost of a hotel room to better afford a trip, GAFFL can help you find the people that will allow you to do that.
You want to be somewhat careful on GAFFL, as you’re meeting and coordinating with strangers. We have some tips on how to use GAFFL safely, along with some guidance on how to use the site. The main downside to GAFFL is it costs $6.99 a month. It’s not a renewing amount, so you don’t have to worry about being overcharged, but you can’t start planning a trip until you pay that $6.99 (or more for longer memberships). Still, for those who love to travel with other people and want to reduce expenses on a trip, GAFFL could be a great place to find fellow wanderers and plan some great adventures for a little less money.