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Ignore the Travel Booking Sites: 5 Tips for Planning Your Trip

People go through travel booking sites in order to “save big” when planning a trip, but sometimes it’s just not worth it. In some cases, it can even ruin the excitement of going on a trip. When you want to really plan out a fun trip, look for some alternatives to booking your trip through Orbitz or Priceline. You’ll be surprised by an even lower price sometimes, and you’ll get more mileage out of your trip. Brianne Huntsman writes to us about her experience with her friend Flor and how she avoids travel booking sites altogether.

5 Tips for planning your trip
Flor and Brianne in Madrid, where they finally gave in and got a “Hop On Hop Off” bus.


5 tips for planning your trip
A necessary passport photo before boarding the plane at San Francisco International airport.

Travel booking sites don’t have to be your ticket to lower prices. In fact, sometimes they’re not going to pay off at all. Here’s why:

1. Airlines use cookies – no, I’m not talking about snacks.  Do you spend hours clicking around on travel sites, dreaming of far away lands?  Well, turns out airlines know you do this (by using “cookies” to track your visits) – and they change prices on you the more you come back.  When purchasing tickets, use Google Chrome’s incognito settings.


2.  Cheap Airplane Tickets:  Speaking of booking airfare, the cheapest airlines generally aren’t on travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity.  My favorite for traveling stateside is Southwest Airlines – your carryon first checked bag are free.  They also don’t charge you for changing your flight dates/destinations, which is super helpful if you decide to stay an extra day (most airlines charge around $200 to change a flight).  Another cheap option is Frontier Airlines, but they charge for bags (including carry ons) and snacks.  But, if you can pack light, they may be worth it!

When it comes to flying internationally, I prefer Aer Lingus for long flights overseas.  Once in Europe, you can save a ton of money by flying Ryan Air in between countries.  It’s kind of like the Frontier Airlines for Europe – don’t expect star treatment onboard.

5 tips for planning your trip

Finding my friend, Flor, in London Heathrow Airport after a 10 hour flight.

3. Accommodations: One of the most expensive parts about travel is having a safe place to dump your stuff and rest your head.  After a bed bug incident at a hostel in Buenos Aires, I refuse to stay in hostels (even though they’re cheap).   BUT.  You can save a lot of money by simply posting to Facebook and asking friends if they have friends in a country you can stay with.  You can also try sites like Couch Surfer or AirBnb.  TripAdvisor is a great place to vet hotels, restaurants and various attractions.


4. Travel in the off season.  My friends recently had a luxurious trip in the Alps – during summer, because all of the ski lodges had vastly reduced rates.  Research when “tourist season” is, and avoid traveling in those months.  Also, August is is often the hottest month of the year in Europe – I’d avoid traveling then if you can.


5.  Leave texting behind. I’ll be honest, I may as well have an umbilical cord connected from me to my phone.  But whenever I’ve traveled I’ve relied on being able to find cafes with wifi (and I make sure my hotel has wifi) to use apps like WhatsApp to text and keep in touch with friends.  If you’re going to be away for more than a month, I recommend getting a cheap phone (a la 2002) that only texts so you can stay in contact with your travel buddies.



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