Caitlin and I recently took a week off a week to head to the mountains. We flew in to Denver, spent some time with friends there, and then headed to Breckenridge to ski for a few days. It certainly wasn’t a cheap trip, but I did manage to save a decent amount of money using a few of my favorite online travel tools.
Everyone knows to use an online site to book travel, but I thought I’d outline my process.
I first search using Kayak, which aggregates from all other sites and airlines. Kayak provides the ability to input flexible dates of +/- 3 days.
It then provides a nice, clean grid layout showing your cheapest options within the range. It’s one of the better user interfaces I’ve seen.
But, Kayak is only my first stop. The other most useful comparison site I know of, is one that not many people seem to use. Surprisingly it’s Google. Google Flight is the absolute best site there if your dates or location are open to moves.
Using it’s “lowest fare for a “X” day trip you can very quickly scroll week by week (and day by day) and get an almost instantaneous view of the cheapest time to head to your city of choice. This is an incredibly powerful tool and I’m sure there is a lot going on in the background to provide it.
I also like using the map to anywhere, though more for entertainment than actual travel booking. You can put in your home city and get an instant idea of the cost to go almost anywhere for a specific set of dates. If you click and look at the bigger image you can see each major city has a dollar amount. Zoom in on any part of the world and you’ll get prices for smaller cities as well.
I usually compare Kayak and Google flights and that gives me a clear idea of when and where to choose for our flights.
Again, nothing revolutionary, but I think I have a better process than what I see most friends use. I comparison shop across 3 places.
I like to start with Kayak. It has an easy list option with aggregation from a variety of sites, just like it does for flights. However, I’m a fan of the map search, which lets you zoom
Once I’ve checked the listings for prices and looked through the map for specific locations, I then compare that to Airbnb. People tend to assume Airbnb is cheaper, but that’s really not always the case. In our most recent trip to Denver, we ended up in an Airbnb once and a hotel once, because of rates.
I think Airbnb is great. I love the interface and the simple ability to see the location, the descriptions and the ratings/reviews people leave. It’s the best system I’ve come across by far and it gives people so many more options. If you’re on a student budget, you can share a room for hostel prices. A more moderate budget lets you have a private room and bathroom, and if your feeling generous you can easily get entire apartments and houses. While in Denver, Caitlin and I snagged a downstairs basement in the heart of downtown that had been turned in to a guest suite for the price of crappy hotel room near the airport. The space had a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom that were all brand new and exceptionally nice. The owner’s were incredibly nice (as they’ve been in every Airbnb I’ve stayed), provided restaurant and bar recommendations, and were all around great.
I highly recommend checking out Airbnb when seeing other cities. It will often give you a view of the city you can’t get from a hotel.
The last place I check is Hotels Tonight. HT is phone only (no desktop) but it has a a super easy and intuitive interface. Hotels Tonight works with hotels to take their last minute, unused inventory and sell it to last minute travelers. If you are traveling last minute, or don’t mind the minor worry of last minute booking, it can be a great way to get a discount.
On our Denver vacation, I used this the last day of our stay (on a weekend) and managed to score a very nice room in a prime boutique hotel for over 50% off (about $85). It’s super easy and a very smart way to find a discount.
I very rarely rent a car, but I came across my new favorite travel tool when booking one to head to the mountains.
Autoslash in a super simple tool to book or track your rental car booking. It’s major selling point is simple. Input your car rental details and if Autoslash finds a cheaper option it will automatically make the change and book for you. I booked our car in Denver only 2 days ahead of time and managed to reduce my booking twice in that brief timeperiod. Autoslash brought my price down from $200 to $150 and it cost me nothing in terms of eithe money or time. This is an amazing money saving tool.
Of course if you don’t need a car, like everyone else I love Uber. If you use my link we’ll both get $30 toward a free ride.
I hope that my travel process was helpful to you. If you have favorite travel site, tip or trick, please put it down in the comments.
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