The number one question I receive on my personal travel blog is, “Nicole, what are the best travel apps and websites for booking travel?” I’ve come to realize by now this typically loosely translates to, “Nicole, what website will give me the lowest airfare and deepest hotel discount?” But every so often, a true travelista like myself will be interested in not only all of the above, but genuinely interested in finding out the best online tools to plan a fabulous getaway.
Beyond Expedia, Travelocity and Yelp!
I would love to list my whole arsenal, and one day maybe I will, but for now let’s settle on the Cliff Notes version. I picked out my favorite travel apps and websites to get you started and they will make a great cheat sheet for when you are ready to book travel for oh, I don’t know…perhaps, Costa Rica? Hint. Hint.
Where to get the best travel deals?
Knowing which travel sites have trusted reviews, discounted travel and most importantly, current information is crucial. Next? Knowing when to make your purchase. I’ve been doing this a long time both personally, professionally and as a blogger to know that the best time to purchase airfare is Tuesday night midnight EST/9pm PST. The next window is Wednesday night, same time. Travel sites and airlines also announce their most lucrative deals online every Tuesday so make sure you follow them on Facebook.
Flying the friendly skies
Sometimes purchasing tickets for personal air travel can be just as stressful as purchasing a car. Did you know that most airlines offer refunds or travel credits for price drops? Don’t worry, not many travelers do. Airlines like Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue actually offer refunds on ANY price drop. Yep. I knew that would get your attention. Virgin America will extend a refund if the price you booked your flight dips $75 or more, Hawaiian Airlines $100 or more, and American Airlines, Delta, United and US Airways has your back when the price drops $200 or more. Sure, like anything each airline has restrictions, but they aren’t always as strict as you may think they would be.
Familiar with Yapta? Well get ready to be. Yapta.com should be your travel planning BFF because all you have to do is visit the site, add your flight details and Yapta will notify you with an alert if the fair drops and you qualify for a refund.
Home is where the mini-bar is
I recommend visiting Room 77 the next time you book a hotel stay. It will not only give you the low-down of combined reviews, but will give you the 411 on specific room numbers, which areas of the hotel are most quiet, the best floors to be on, what you can expect your view to be — as well as a listing of competitive pricing from across the web. Room 77 provides you with a great baseline across the board as to what you can expect to pay for your stay.
STOP! Don’t book just yet…
After you’ve scouted out your digs, consult Tingo. Like B-I-N-G-O, only with a T. You really can’t go wrong with Tingo. Book your hotel room on Tingo (A TripAdvisor Company) and if the price drops, they automatically refund the credit card you used with the difference of the cost. If you find a lower price for your room after you’ve booked with Tingo.com, Tingo will not only match the price, but give you the difference. And Tingo doesn’t stop there. They also scout upgrades on your behalf. If a better room becomes available after you book, Tingo will notify you if the price changes on another room in your hotel (think ocean view or club level,) and allow you to upgrade at no charge.
Wheels down. Now what?
So you’ve landed, arrived at your hotel, unpacked and are about to battle the evil jet lag monster. There are some fantastic apps and sites to keep on hand to give you ideas regarding where to go, what to see and restaurants you simply cannot miss.
Stray Boots app uses scavenger hunt-like tours and clues to explore cities on foot. Challenges are sent right to your cell phone that take you to super cool spots throughout the neighborhood. Solve the riddle, send in the answer and earn points while learning fun facts about the area. Your group sets the pace for the tour which usually runs about 2 to 3 hours. The nice part is you’re free to spot, sightsee or grab something to eat and then resume when you are ready.
On the corner of Swank and Ooh-La-La
Departures Ultimate City Guide is the quintessential luxe travel app for the bon vivant in all of us. It includes the Top 10 Perfect Places to Stay, Places to Dine, Chic Places to Entertain, Special Places to Visit, VIP Insider experiences and Unique Places to Consider for Treasure Seeking from tiny boutiques to by-appointment-only store visits.
OK, so now that brings us to the muy importante stuff-o…y’all-o. I’m sure you’ve heard about #ROAR2014 by now, right? Well be sure you’ve downloaded and bookmarked these babies before finalizing your itinerary. Because this resident Savvy Sassy Travelista yours truly will be utilizing these tools to plan getting there — and I cannot wait to see you in Costa Rica next September!
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