A list of favorite websites that I frequent for anything from travel information for an upcoming trip to a favorite airline to any deals I might come across.
Kayak is a great website to look up hotels, flights, rental cars, and vacation packages for anywhere around the world. Kayak has its own search engine, but it also allows you to compare similar results using other websites’ search engines so that you can compare and choose what you want to book and who you want to book with. Kayak shows results from sites like Hotels.com, Priceline.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com so that you may want to book your flights with Orbitz, stay at a hotel from Hotels.com, and book a rental car through Carrentals.com if you wanted to.
I mainly use Kayak to look up flights, since compared to Orbitz and Travelocity, their fares are sometimes cheaper than if I had gone through the other two sites or booked via the airline directly. Whether that is the case or not, Kayak’s format of displaying flights from multiple airlines or of multiple itinerary choices is much cleaner and easier for me to browse through all of my options. Back in May, I used Kayak to score a round-trip coach fare on United during the middle of the week for $230 while everyone else wanted $260 or more for the same or similar flights.
Hotels.com, for me, is one of the better sites to check for hotel arrangements, again because of the flexibility of finding cheaper hotels and being able to compare prices and amenities of different hotels in the vicinity of each other. It allows me to see photographs of each establishment, lists all of the amenities available, allows me to see them clearly on a map, allows me to sort search results by price, rating, and even proximity to city centers or certain attractions. Driving directions are on point, and the maps usually show most transit access so getting there without a car or taking taxis is easy.
Hotels.com has a policy for most of its properties where you can book your room and pay at the same time with no cancellation fees or pay upon check-in with some properties, albeit at a higher price. They have advance-purchase deals all the time which allow you to save immensely on your stay, though you should prepare to pay at the time of booking. I used Hotels.com recently for my trip to London and Paris in September and spent only about USD$1000 between the two properties.
This website is a great tool for use when traveling within the European Union by train, giving you a world of options from the more popular high-speed trains, to the slower regional trains to special seasonal trains to destinations normally not open to the public year-round. Most train travel searches will be high-speed train searches, therefore a trip from Paris to Amsterdam will pull up mainly TGV Thalys schedules. Most of Europe’s high speed trains are showcased here, to whisk you all around the continent with service such as Fance’s TGV Lyria to Switzerland, the UK’s Eurostar from London to Paris and Brussels, Germany’s ICE train from Paris to Frankfurt, and many more. Links to those providers are also given so that you can book further travel through their websites.
The website also has an interactive trip planner that can help you with planning a trip involving one or more trains and one or more countries depending on how much time you want to spend on the train. For example, if you want to do some city-hopping in France and Germany, a quick interactive search might bring up the TGV-Est or TGV-Atlantique to take you to the French countryside and possibly afterwards suggest taking the Paris-Frankfurt ICE train to then hop on Deutsche Bahn regional service to other German cities. Not to worry, though, as there are also many Europe Rail passes to save money on train travel. The website sells passes for travel in one country or several countries depending on your itinerary. You still need to make reservations for each train you wish to travel on, though trips will be either heavily discounted or included, with the exception of Premier or First Class seats.
This is the Kayak of car renting. It allows you to book cheap car rentals from the major rental car companies as well as several smaller “no-name” companies anywhere across the country. You can choose from airport pick-up and drop-off locations or even those in town, from Ford Fusions to Mazda Miatas, from economy to full-size, from Enterprise and Alamo to Fox and Advantage. I booked a rental car from BWI airport in Baltimore for roughly $30 a day with Dollar Thrifty, unlimited miles, and a mid-sized as opposed to a compact. often, carrentals.com would mainly find prices from all of the providers exactly as listed on their websites, but carrentals.com allows you to compare all of them at once.
More to come later…