The Top 10 Travel Search Websites

IMG_0296_3I travel a lot for my work and for recreation with my family.  I love the thrill of searching for and finding great travel deals – whether it be a flight, hotel stay, car rental, cruise, or some other fun getaway.

Here at my 10 favorite sites for searching for and finding the best deals on travel:

  1. Google Flights

    This is my newest web fascination.  Google has done it again: found a user-friendly way to organize information that will blow your mind.  Just put in your airports and your dates and it will find the best deal before you can blink.  Then try clicking on the graph-looking button on the right and prepare to be amazed.  You can put in the number of days you want your trip to be and Google will graph out any set of dates with that range and graph out the prices depending on what day you leave.

  2. Kayak.com

    I have always been a big fan of Kayak, despite the recent competition with Google’s Flight search.  My favorite feature on Kayak is the “explore” option (www.kayak.com/explore) where you simply put in your start city and your months available for travel and then it shows you a map of the world with pins to different cities around the world indicating how much it costs to fly there.  You can see all your options at once!  This is great for fun getaways where you know you want to get away but it doesn’t matter where.  You’ll be surprised at the deals you’ll find to continents you once thought untouchable.

  3. Priceline.com

    There are ups and downs to Priceline.  The old saying is true, “you get what you pay for.”  Yes, you can get some real steals on travel (particularly on hotels).  I’ve gotten upwards of 60% off room rates (as they claim).  But there is a downside: you don’t know exactly what you’re getting.  Now, you can set parameters like the part of town or the quality of hotel, which is great.  And none of the hotels are going to be roach dumps.  But you are still taking a risk by not knowing everything about the hotel up front.  Furthermore, by being a Priceline customer, you are often unfortunately placed at the bottom of the pecking order for room preferences.  You might get the rooms by the noisiest parts of the hotel or the handicapped accessible rooms, which don’t have tubs.  You can also forget about collecting any travel rewards on your frequent traveler programs, because they won’t honor bookings made on discount travel sites.  If you want top notch customer attention, room preference, and travel rewards, book directly with the hotel.  If you don’t care and want a killer deal on a hotel, go with Priceline.

  4. Hotwire.com

    Hotwire has long been an alternative to Priceline (and Expedia and Travelocity for that matter).  The nice thing about Hotwire is that you can get great deals on hotels.  But like Priceline, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting.  The difference between Priceline and Hotwire is that you don’t bid on Hotwire.  You see a discounted price up front, but not the hotel name.  You just know the quality level and the neighborhood of the hotel.  If you do some good research on other sites, like google and tripadvisor, you can sleuth your way around and come up with a 99% guess on the exact hotel Hotwire is talking about (especially in smaller cities/towns with fewer hotel options).  So if you want a good deal without the stress of bidding, go for Hotwire.  If you want to spend a little more time and energy taking chances, you might save a little more by going with Priceline.

  5. Google Hotel Finder

    And Google does it again with the hotels.  I know this sounds cliche, but “all the other sites” don’t match up.  Google is in the business of collecting information and organizing it for productive use.  You put in the city and dates and they give you an instant map with prices and search organizing features.

  6. RetailMeNot.com

    While it sounds like it might be just for shoes and clothes, this site has everything in the world of discount codes and coupon codes.  It is a user-generated and user-reviewed site that organizes all the retail discount codes out there.  Often you need to sign up on a emailing list with a company to hear about their online deals.  But let others do that work for you and visit this site.  I just rented a car in Dallas and found what I think was the best deal I could have found on this site.  Just type in “car rentals” and it will show you all the current deals going on in various car rental companies.  They give you the discount code (for free, with no sign up required) and then you take that code, visit the retailers web site, put it in, and watch your online price go down.

  7. CruiseCritic.com

    If you’re into cruising or want to be into cruising, this is the site.  You can search for cruises and read tons (and I mean TONS) of user reviews on all the cruise lines and cruise ships in the world.  You can also visit your upcoming cruise’s “roll call” to meet other passengers that will be on your ship with you.  Take some time and explore all their features.  If you spend too long, you’ll be signing up for your next cruise.

  8. VRBO.com

    This acronym stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner.  This site is great if you’re into homey alternatives to the traditional hotel stay.  Not only can you save money, but you can find some very unique housing situations that you can’t find anywhere else.  The title says it all.  These are owners of homes, cottages, apartments, and cabins who rent out their units by the day or week.  Some have lots of amenities while others are more rustic, depending on what you’re looking for.  You can read user reviews so you know what you’re getting into.

  9. BedAndBreakfast.com

    This is THE bed and breakfast website.  My wife and I like to hit up a bed and breakfast at least once or twice a year.  The bed and breakfast scene is full of extremely friendly and hospitable people (that’s why they do it!) who make really good food.  It’s well worth the dive.  This site lets you search for and read reviews about B&B’s all over the world.

  10. TripAdvisor.com

    Whenever I’m in a new place and want to know the best restaurants, I go to TripAdvisor.  You can search for the most popular things to do, places to stay, and spots to eat in a particular city.  Like most other sites, this is user-review driven.  Lots of people use it, so that makes it more accurate than if otherwise fewer people used it.

What are your favorite travel websites?

Published by

Jesse

Jesse Joyner travels nationwide performing a comedy juggling act for family and kids events. He is also working towards his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Kezzie.

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