In a prior life, I traveled about 40 times per year for business, booking the vast majority of the travel myself, with my money, as I owned the little company flipping the bill. Consequently, I became quite familiar with online travel resources. Here are my favorites, and why.
This is a relative newcomer for me, as I only became familiar with its existence a few months ago, around the end of 2005. At first, it seemed like a copy of Mobissimo.com, a site I like as well, but which I thought had made a horrible name choice as many travelers are simply not familiar with “issimo” type words. Both Kayak and Mobissimo are aggregation sites, which pull information from other sites, with links back to those sites.
However, Kayak made changes along the way, or I just did not notice features initially, and now is a super cool, very useful travel site. For example, when you do a search for airfare, the site returns results from a wide variety of sources, including travel sites and airline corporate sites. This latter type of link can come in handy when you wish to book directly with an airline in order to receive bonus frequent flier mileage.
I watch my pennies. Does it show?
Once the results are displayed, you can then check or uncheck boxes, removing all flights except non-stops, removing all flights with more than one stop, adding or removing close by airports, etc., then Kayak will change the results on the fly. Wow. This is what makes it so useful, and why it is my number one travel site recommendation.
I have saved so much money over the years that I almost listed this as number one out of shear reverence for my pocketbook. Originally known for its “bid for airfare” capability, Priceline has, in my opinion, developed a much better competency within its “bid for” car rental and hotel room functions.
The last 20 times I rented a car with Priceline I would first find the lowest level at Orbitz, which used to be my favorite travel site, or some other travel site, then bid 35% less or so at Priceline. I do not recall a time that this did not work for me. If you’re like me, a car from Alamo is the same as a car from Hertz. I just want the lowest price. With Priceline’s bid for car rental function, you’ll save a bundle.
Similarly for hotels, I have consistently saved 30-50% on hotel rooms. It is quite pleasant to stay in a Sheraton for $70 per night when the budget hotel down the street charges the same using more traditional booking methods, which was my most recent experience, and is consistent with my experience over time. Bidding for hotels is a bit more complicated, however, as you’ll need to browse hotel prices in the area to get a feel for normal pricing. Once you think you have a feel for a normal price, bid about 40% less and you’ll quite likely get a room.
Note with Priceline that they now have their site designed such that you have to check out traditionally styled travel booking options before you get an option to bid for travel. To save big money, make sure you get to the bidding process. Further note that you are stuck with your purchase when you bid for travel, a notable disadvantage. Comes with the territory, which I like to call “Saving A Bundle Land”.
Last but not least is the aforementioned Orbitz. This site’s strength is that it displays matching fares in a grid pattern, with columns and rows for airlines, stops, etc., in the case of airfaire, which can then be easily manipulated to show a narrower set of choices. I used to use this site almost exclusively, and still use it regularly. I would strongly suggest you use this site as well as Kayak for general travel. Once you have familiarity, you’ll know which you want to use and when.
If you read all of the above, you’ll realize that these sites are all almost equally recommended, and that one is not exclusive of any other. Thus, it might be best to think of these as the three travel sites you can’t do without, or even the only three travel sites you need.
#1, 2, & 3, Plus More Feynd Travel Links
This is more of a favorite travel planning starting point instead of a favorite travel site, as it is a page that I have used for years as a quick gateway to Kayak, Priceline, Orbitz, and other travel sites. From this page at Feynd.com, which I would suggest you bookmark, you can use search tools to perform searches at Kayak and Orbitz. Also, all on this one page, you will find links to every airline, car rental company, hotel chain, and travel booking site, you can think of. In short, it is a great place to start your travel planning, and makes it the only travel site you need.
How’s that for a simple solution?