Lifehacker tells us that the best time to book flight tickets is about 45 – 60 days before traveling.
So if you haven’t booked yourself a well-earned, year-end vacation yet — that means now.
To help you plan your trip, I curated a list of the 4 most useful travel websites I know of. They’ll help you travel safe, save time, save money — and best of all they’re free to use!
Here they are — the 4 essential travel websites for planning your next vacation:
1. General Travel Information:
Wikitravel is the first site I check out when I’m looking at a new travel destination. It provides a really great overview on the planned destination.
It’s like Wikipedia, from a traveler’s angle. All information on the site is submitted by fellow travelers like you and me — and moderated by the website team.
This takes away any biases that local authorities and business owners have when recommending you something. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather trust the collective opinions of ten thousand fellow travelers than a government tourism website.
Here’s some of the great information you’ll get from a Wikitravel page:
- Climate — so you know what to pack
- Culture — so you don’t offend anyone local
- How to get in and How to get out
- How to not get scammed by taxi touts at the airport
- Places to eat, drink and stay (sorted by budget, mid-range and splurge).
- Places of interest
- Safety guidance (including emergency contact numbers)
Best thing about it: The local “insider” information about each destination. So you won’t feel like you’re just another tourist fool paying for overpriced activities and things.
2. Cheap Airline Tickets and Schedules:
Tired of opening multiple tabs to search Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and Malindo Air for cheap flights?
What if one website could show you all the flight options in the world from your home to your destination? And tell you exactly how much each option will cost too.
I’ve found that certain flight comparison websites miss out on the smaller low cost carriers. For example, I just ran a search for flights from Kuala Lumpur to Alor Star. Expedia couldn’t tell me that Malindo Air flies there a few times a day. It only gave me options for Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and Firefly. But Skyscanner showed me everything.
It even has a site in Bahasa Malaysia, if that’s your language of choice.
Best thing about it: It doesn’t annoyingly create 3 new pop-up windows unlike some other airline search websites.
Honorable Mention: If money is of no concern and you’re just looking for flight schedules, Google may be sufficient. Just Google search “Flights from <departure city> to <destination city>”, and Google will automatically display the weekly flight schedules for major airlines.
3. Hotel and Restaurant Reviews:
Haven’t decided where to stay yet? Let Tripadvisor guide you based on reviews by millions of travelers.
It contains an extremely powerful database of hotels reviews. Which includes great filters to sort the data, like “Price”, “Hotel Class”, and my personal favorite: “Best Value”.
Being the world’s largest travel site, Tripadvisor is not just a hotel review database. It can also help you search for flights, suggest things to do at a location, and even hands out annual Travelers’ Awards for outstanding destinations.
But the only other thing I really use it for is restaurant reviews. Similar to the hotel reviews above, Tripadvisor contains millions of user reviews about what, where, and how much to pay to eat. It’s so good, I even use it to look for restaurants when I’m at home in KL.
Best thing about it: The sheer volume of people who post on Tripadvisor. That means a “fake” or “manipulated” review isn’t going to sway results much.
4. Best Value Hotel Bookings:
So now you’ve decided where to stay. Do you know how to get the lowest price?
Make sure you first check out the hotel’s website and call them directly to see the best rates you can get. Ask them for special rates for credit cards you may have. And if they have corporate rates for your organization.
Then head over to Hotel Club to see if you can get an even lower price.
You’ll need a Visa credit card to get an automatic 15% discount on rates. But almost everyone has a Visa credit card right?
Best thing about it: It immediately cuts your hotel costs by (reportedly) 15%. Who doesn’t like saving money?
Do you know any other great travel websites for vacation planning? Let us all know in the comments below!
Follow me at mr-stingy.com for more ideas on optimizing time, money and relationships.
Pic Credit: “Spring Lake, New Jersey Beach at Sunrise” by Nick Harris