Summer vacations hold a special appeal to me, harking back to the excitement heralded by the final bell on the last day of the school year, so many years ago. But now that I’m grown up and have to do the leg-work to plan the trip, I’m often exhausted before I get out the door. The wealth of online resources dedicated to travel planning can make it hard for me to make a decision. How do I know when I’ve found the best use of my vacation dollars?
Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore some great online resources to simplify your travel planning (no, really!), as well as tips for how to make sure you get the best price and fewest headaches when booking travel online.
Before you dedicate a week to checking every travel deal site on the net, these consolidators scour the web for the best deals so that you don’t have to.
When you don’t have a specific location or travel date set, using the Internet to find a good deal or a great resort can be particularly overwhelming. One way to get inspired: keep an eye on Travelzoo’s Weekly Top 20 (www.travelzoo.com/top20/ ). It’s a collection of the best deals from airlines, hotels, cruise lines and travel consolidators like Travelocity, Cheap Caribbean, and many more. They sort through all the travel deals posted to the net each week and then present the “best of the best,” all in one place.
The drawback is that the best deals can sell out fast, so if you know you’ve found what you’re looking for don’t delay. You can sign up for the Weekly Top 20 to be emailed to you when it’s released if you want to be sure not to miss out.
If you already know where you want to go, Kayak (www.kayak.com) does a quick search across hundreds of airline and travel agent options for your specific trip needs. You’re then presented with a list of results tailored to your specific trip that Kayak has filtered to put the best deals first. If you want to be sure that you have done a thorough scouring of the net, Kayak offers a one-click simultaneous search across competitor travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Bookit and more, so you can compare the best offers all at once.
Planning to do Disney? Believe it or not, there are ways to save if you know the insider info. Check out Mousesavers (www.mousesavers.com) for a collection of the best deals on all things Disney. In addition to tips on how to get the best price on tickets, dining, and special Disney experiences, discover where to book to get the best rates on hotels, what you can expect on Disney cruises, even what’s planned for upcoming park, resort and ship improvements.
Current discounts and promotions are highlighted on the front page and updated regularly – from how to get the most out of a Disney Visa card discount program to coupon codes and special offers that would otherwise be tough to ferret out. You’ll find up-to-date info about shows, freebies, and tips to make the most of your trip, including how to spend less time in line and more time enjoying your trip.
Before you make plans to embark on a cruise, check out Cruise Critic (www.cruisecritic.com) for reviews of cruise lines (by editors and site users) and tips to help you decide the best cruise before you book. The “Deals” tab collects the top bargains by destination, cruise type or departure port. Explore the “How to Cruise” tab for detailed guides and expert advice on how to choose, book, and finalize your trip, including things you need to know before you go and how to make the most of shore excursions. Find the best deals, including the best seasons to book by destination, and tips to ensure you set sail on the cruise that best fits your needs and style.
Finally, before you book, submit specific details of the trip you’re considering to Cruise Compete (www.cruisecompete.com) to give travel agents the opportunity to find you a better deal. Simply create an account, submit a request for a quote, and travel agent’s offers will be submitted online with no obligation and without revealing your contact info.
About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer repair portland service for consumers and businesses. Andrea is the writer of two weekly columns, Computer Nerds On Call, a nationally syndicated column for Scripps-Howard News Service, and Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight.