These days, you can do anything online, so it's no surprise that travelers are increasingly turning to the best travel sites to find the best hotel, airline, and vacation rates. If you're among the one-third of Americans planning to take a trip this year, consider using a travel website to book your trip.
Some of the premier online travel sites function like search engines, matching you with hotels, car rental companies, cruises, and airlines. Look for a provider,Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz that tailors options to your desires and price range.
The Best Travel Sites: What to Consider
With so many travel options at your fingertips, it can sometimes be difficult to discern one company's offerings from another. To better aid in your search for the best deal, we've broken down our review based on these factors:
1. Travel Search Options
How customizable is the website's search options? The best travel websites will let you compare different trips, let you choose what add-ons (like rental cars) you need, and whether you want to purchase an all-in-one plan or go a-la-carte for a more customized experience.
2. Flexible Date Searches
This type of search will bring up results three days before or after your desired date. What's the purpose of doing this? Well, if you're planning a trip months ahead and are willing to depart a few days sooner or later to get the best possible rate, then this is a notable feature.
3. Cancellation Policy
At the bottom of any travel or reservation site, you'll find a slew of fine print. Since many people tend to overlook the fine print, we need to emphasize the importance of reading it carefully. It details information on the provider's cancellation policy, refunds, and more.
Choose a provider that explicitly states what fees they charge if, for whatever reason, you're forced to cancel your trip. In certain instances, hotels may have their own cancellation window apart from the travel sites'. In that case, inquire about the logistics and how the two policies coincide.
4. User-Friendly Platform
How easy is it for you to navigate the web page? Can you immediately enter your search criteria and pull up a result or are you redirected to ten different pages before getting any answers? Ease of use is a huge consideration. You shouldn't get stressed out while trying to book your vacation!
5. Additional Components
Aside from the basic features of the site, also look for bonuses like comprehensive travel insurance, a flight checker or mobile application, and the ability to earn miles through a rewards program.
How to Save Money On Your Vacation by Using the Best Travel Sites
With the average vacation costing more than $1,400, the price tag can be as much a deterrent from taking a vacation as finding the time off from work. Thankfully, you can use these tips with the best discount travel sites to keep your vacations fun and affordable.
Forego the Hotel Stay
Accommodations can be quite expensive. Hotels or even affordable motels are often over $100 a night. Consider staying in hostels that range from $20-$30/night. Many even have private rooms, where the only thing you'll share is the bathroom and kitchen.
If a hostel would make you feel uncomfortable, consider doing a housing swap with someone or renting a room on AirBnB. For the real adventurous, consider couch surfing, which allows you to stay for free with locals in the area.
Opt for Walking
A great way to explore the city you are in is by walking as much as you can. Instead of renting a car and paying for gas and insurance, opt for walking. Not only will you be able to see more, you'll also be able to stop and enjoy your surroundings at your own pace. Walking allows you to stumble upon things off the beaten path and explore local neighborhoods that might not be on a tourist map. Before you head out for a stroll, talk to locals or people at the hotel/hostel about what areas to avoid. Some neighborhoods should be avoided at night or maybe altogether. This may be the sort of thing that typically only locals know, so before you go exploring, figure out a general area that is safe to stroll at all hours.
Some neighborhoods should be avoided at night or maybe altogether. This may be the sort of thing that typically only locals know, so before you go exploring, figure out a general area that is safe to stroll at all hours.
Be Prudent with Food
On vacation, it can be easy to eat out three times a day and enjoy all the delicious restaurants in the area. This is also an easy way to spend a lot of money, money that could be used on attractions, or other worthwhile experiences. Many hostels or hotels have some sort of continental breakfast. Before your trip, look for a place to stay that has breakfast. If you have access to a kitchen, trying cooking a meal using ingredients from the grocery store. Even if you don't have a kitchen you can pick up affordable snacks and sandwiches at a local shop or deli. Try limit restaurant visits to one per day or setting a daily food budget to limit your expenses.
If you have access to a kitchen, trying cooking a meal using ingredients from the grocery store. Even if you don't have a kitchen you can pick up affordable snacks and sandwiches at a local shop or deli. Try limit restaurant visits to one per day or setting a daily food budget to limit your expenses.
Before you travel, create a packing list with everything you will need on vacation. In addition, plan for problems that can happen like getting sick, having a headache, or losing your luggage. Buying medicine or replacement clothing on a trip can be expensive and frustrating, making preparation essential to a good vacation.
Skip the Guided Tour
When you are on vacation, it's tempting to go on a tour where everything is set up for you and you don't have to think about or plan anything. However, tours are often rigid in their schedule and can be quite pricey. What's more, not all tours are going to fit all tastes. If you are interested in a tour, find out the locations they stop at, and plan your own adventure. By going on a "self-guided tour," you can go at your own pace and explore things on your own without other tourists, all for a fraction of the price. If you are interested in museums, or other local attractions, see if they have any deals during off-hours or off-seasons. Ask about
By going on a "self-guided tour," you can go at your own pace and explore things on your own without other tourists, all for a fraction of the price. If you are interested in museums, or other local attractions, see if they have any deals during off-hours or off-seasons. Ask about student or senior discounts. If you are staying at a hotel, ask if they have coupons.
The Best Travel Sites
- Best price guarantee
- Advanced search options
- Travel bundles, airfare, car rental, cruise
- Email and telephone support
- Travel insurance
- Cancellation fees apply after window elapses
Exhibiting a dynamic online presence, Expedia has certainly made a name for itself throughout the travel industry. This global leader is a go-to source for booking vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, hotels, and nearly everything travel related.
First impressions are generally misleading but that's nowhere near the case with Expedia. On their homepage, they clearly lay out tabs to help you quickly identify your area of interest whether that's vacation packages, hotels, cars, flights, cruises, things to do, deals, or rewards.
Underneath the ribbon of tabs, you'll see a search gateway where you can type in specific information regarding your travel inquiries. For example, if you wanted to place a search for flights departing from Miami and arriving in Los Angeles, you'd just type in your city/airport then select the departure and return dates. Further, you can select advanced search options like your preferred airline and class.
Expedia is so confident that they offer the most competitive price that they even boast a Best Price Guarantee. If you find a cheaper rental car, hotel, flight or vacation package within 24 hours of making your reservation, Expedia will award you a refund of the difference plus a $50 travel coupon. The My Scratchpad tool is another impressive feature. This allows you to keep a close eye on the rise or fall of prices so that that you can book it at the optimal time.
As a whole, Expedia delivers on their promise to get you the most competitive rate without compromising on quality. Their customer service department can be reached by phone or email for any last minute questions. One drawback you may experience is a cancellation fee if you miss out on the 24 hour cancellation window. After that time, a nominal fee may apply.
- Frequent promotions
- Advanced search options
- User-friendly layout
- Mobile application
- Travel insurance
- No live chat
- Unable to specify hotel chains
"You'll never roam alone" thanks to Travelocity's vast array of travel-planning resources. As the sixth largest travel service in the country, Travelocity has a reputable brand name and range of services to stand behind. Much like Expedia's main page layout, Travelocity also allows you to efficiently zero in on the desired deal whether that's a flight + hotel, car rental, cruise, or combination of everything.
Finicky travelers will be pleased to learn that Travelocity has advanced search options to further your search criteria plus a mobile application to stay up-to-date on fluctuating rates. What's more, when perusing the different accommodations available you can see what other guests thought of the facilities.
This provider partners with over 140,000 hotels across the country plus 130+ different airline carriers to ensure you get to your destination on time and with change to spare. Your options aren't just limited to hotels though. You can also scour for deals on apartments, resorts, and bed and breakfasts.
Unlike some other travel comparison sites Travelocity has a rewards program coupled with American Express which allows you to earn bonus points applicable towards future bookings. To add to their bonus offerings they also have daily top deals!
Travelocity provides a range of booking options, perks and promotions that are guaranteed to make travelers happy. If you happen to stumble upon a cheaper rate for any of their travel offerings (rental car, hotel, flight, package) they honor the same guarantee as Expedia by refunding the difference plus adding a $50 travel coupon. The few shortcomings with Travelocity are minor. They don't have a live chat function and you can't search specifically for hotel chains.
- Additional discounts on multiple package purchases
- Advanced filter options (price, location, amenities)
- Orbucks loyalty rewards program
- Mobile application
- Calendar style date selection
- High cancellation /itinerary change fees
- No email or chat support
Created at the turn of the century, Orbitz has leveraged innovation and technology to cater to the ever-changing needs of customers worldwide. As a result, their portfolio offers a diverse array of products and services including vacation packages, hotel accommodations, airline flights, car rentals, and cruises. Further, they've expanded their family of brands to include other big name companies like CheapTickets, HotelClub, and ebookers.
Orbitz has all the selection you'd want from an online travel site. Choose from hotels, cars, cruises, activities, or a combination of all of the above. With the advanced filter options you can quickly narrow down the exact itinerary you want at an affordable rate. What's more you'll earn Orbucks (loyalty rewards points) for using the service. The breakdown is as follows: up to 5% on hotels, 2% on flights, and 1% on packages.
As a courtesy to travelers, Orbitz sends you a confirmation email when you book a reservation plus travel alerts in case any changes arise as a result of the weather.
It's true that Orbitz excels in many areas but that's not to say they don't have their share of drawbacks. Contact to the customer service department is limited to telephone since they don't have an email or chat function available. Also, you'll be paying some high cancellation and itinerary change fees. Some have been reported as high as $30.
- Mobile app
- Travel insurance
- Advanced search options
- Calendar style search
- Price drop alerts
- No cruises
- No flexible dates search
- Can't sort by hotel chain
Hotwire's mission is to offer unbeatably low prices on hotels, airlines, car rentals and vacation packages. While this is great news for most travelers, those hoping to set sail on the high seas (via cruise) will be quite disappointed. Hotwire does not offer any deals in the realm of sea travel but they're still a viable contender in the top five.
Their platform allows you to seamlessly filter your search in terms of destination, date, and accommodations. As an added bonus you can also see what previous guests thought of the hotel accommodations. Be aware, however, that you cannot sort your search by hotel chain which is inconvenient in some respects. You also don't have the ability to set a flexible search for the lowest rate.
After subscribing to Hotwire, they'll send you price drop alerts and other relevant promotions. Overall, Hotwire has some good offerings, assuming you plan to travel by plane and stay in a hotel (since they don't offer cruises). They do offer a low price guarantee which agrees to pay you the difference if you find a lower rate within 48 hours but unlike Expedia and Travelocity you won't receive an additional $50 travel voucher.
- Mobile app
- Extensive details on accommodations
- Contact via phone or email
- Positive customer reviews
- Helpful information on site
- Long reported hold times
- Limited contact hours
- Variable cancellation fees
Consumer reviews are generally positive and many travelers remarked their satisfaction with the rates they received. One patron on a review site remarked that he was able to save close to $400 by using Bookit.com to secure a 4-star hotel in New Orleans.
You can score a similar deal by staying up-to-date with their mobile app and by checking their promotions frequently. Currently, the site advertises $15-$50 off when you sign up for their free membership program.
If you're ready to book your next vacation and want a hassle-free experience seriously consider this provider. They offer some great incentives plus offer a flexible book now, pay later option which basically permits you to spread the payments out over time.
How to Use the Best Travel Sites to be Your Own Travel Agent
Once you've used our guide to choose the best travel site to book with, you get to experience the fun but sometimes, stressful process of choosing where to vacation to. In order to reduce the stress, you should keep a few questions in mind when planning your escape.
What's Your Vacation Goal?
Do you want to experience a new culture, have an outdoor adventure, volunteer in a different part of the world, or simply take a timeout from real life and take it easy in a beautiful place?
Figuring out what you want to accomplish or how you want to feel while you're on vacation is the first step towards planning your next amazing trip.
What is Your Ideal Travel Day?
Is it relaxing on a tropical beach, pampering yourself at a spa, exploring a new city, going snorkeling or scuba diving, visiting a world class museum, or climbing a mountain? Chances are you can likely do several of these things in the same location but it is unlikely you'll be able to do all of them.
That's why it's important for you to prioritize. What's essential for your vacation? What do you really want to do? What would be fun, but is ultimately expendable? Plan the rest of the trip around that.
Is There Anywhere You've Always Wanted To See?
It's Bucket List Time. If you've always wanted to go on a safari, visit Machu Picchu, zipline through the Central American jungles, eat pasta and pizza in Italy, or any number of other once in a lifetime activities, perhaps now is the time if it's within your budget of time and money.
Vacations are your chance to do something you'd never be able to do normally, so make the most of them while you can.
How Long do You Want to Spend Traveling?
While it is fun to dream about taking a trip around the world or sailing away to Tahiti, that's not always practical for most people, both in regard to budget and the ability to get time off of work. Think about the distance and the time it takes to get there via plane, train, or automobile, and weigh that against the time you'll actually be able to enjoy your vacation. If you only have a week off, spending thirteen hours on a plane to travel one way really cuts into that time.
How Do You Want To Feel When You Return Home?
Do you want to come home refreshed and relaxed? Invigorated and ready to conquer the world? Educated about a new place and culture? Feeling like you've contributed something positive to the world by volunteering? Granted, nothing about any given trip is a guarantee, but you can and should figure out what you're aiming before you embark on any journey. When you're planning your next trip, remember that you can definitely be your own travel agent - it just takes a little foresight and research!
Booking a vacation can be a fun, but tiring experience. Follow our tips and use one of the top travel websites listed, and you'll be sure to have the easiest booking process possible.
Once you've booked your vacation, check out our review of the best travel insurance companies.