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Travel is high most people’s list of things they wish they could do more but many of us don’t because traveling can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. We found the 20 best travel deal apps.
Every year you tell yourself you’re going to travel more and travel is a wonderful goal. Travel has all kinds of benefits; it challenges you, changes your perspective on the world, other people, and yourself, gives you a well-deserved break from work and everyday life.
We could go on. You get it; travel is good for us. A lot of people don’t ever realize their travel dreams because they assume they can’t afford to.
And traveling can be expensive, but with the advent of things like discount airlines, Airbnb, and smartphones, we can travel for a lot cheaper than we might imagine.
By taking advantage of the best travel deal apps, you can make this the year you make your travel dreams come true.
Airfare is the starting point of any trip and usually the most expensive.
You can find cheap places to stay by using hostels or even couch surfing, but if you want to travel abroad, you’re probably going to have to buy an airline ticket which makes getting there and back often the most costly part of traveling.
It is possible to get really cheap flights though, especially if you can be flexible with your travel dates and even your travel destination. These apps will help you find a flight that fits your budget.
AirfareWatchdog does a few things, it shows the top fares from your city, lets you search fares to and from a city, show the cheapest month to fly to a particular destination, and even lets you compare travel rewards credit cards.
But I find their ability to give you fare alerts to be the most useful. Enter the cities you are flying from and to, and AirfareWatchdog will email you alerts when they see a good price for a flight between those destinations.
I got a flight from New York City to Paris for about $800 because of an AirfareWatchdog alert a few years ago. Airfare Watchdog also gives you prices for smaller airlines like Southwest and Allegiant that you often can’t find on other airfare sites.
2. Google Flights
Google Flights is excellent for those of us who have flexible schedules. You can enter your chosen destination and preferred dates and see flight prices, but you will also see how much money you can save by choosing similar dates, changing your departure by two days for example.
I looked at flights between New Orleans and New York City and saw that if I returned one day earlier, I could get a flight for $80 less.
If you are flexible on your destination, you know you want to get away but don’t have a particular place in mind, you can do even better. Google Flights lets you see a map of the world and the cost of flights to dozens of cities.
If cost is your primary concern, you can choose the destination with the cheapest flight and plan your trip from there.
Google Flights also allows you to set up alerts for flights to your preferred destination.
Skyscanner has long been the preserve of seasoned flyers, the kind of travelers who have Platinum Status with every single airline. You had to be dedicated to use Skyscanner though because the interface was terrible.
But good news for the rest of us, Skyscanner has upgraded the site, and it’s much easier to use. You can set up alerts and peruse the best days and months to fly using a color-coded calendar. You can also see “Top Deals” from your closest airport.
Skiplagged is somewhat controversial, but it can be a great way to get a cheap flight. Skiplagged uses what is called hidden city ticketing or beyond point ticketing.
Here’s how it works. You want to fly from New York City to Miami but see that it’s cheaper to fly to Denver with a stopover in Miami. So you buy the ticket to Denver but get off the plane in Miami.
You can’t check a bag, of course, your bag will be continuing on to Denver, and you don’t want to use your frequent flyer number when booking the flight.
Hidden city ticket is not illegal but airlines frown upon it for obvious reasons. United Airlines even sued Skiplagged, but they lost the case. This is why you don’t want to use your frequent flyer number. The airline may revoke your status as a punishment.
An airline can’t sell your seat from Miami to Denver even though that seat will be empty. But turnabout is fair play in my opinion. I have had an airline double sell the seat I have paid for so I really don’t have any qualms about saving what might be a few hundred dollars this way. You may feel differently.
Finding a place to stay is usually the second most significant travel expense but gone are the days when a tiny hotel room in a bad part of town was your only choice as a budget traveler. With these Apps, you can often get a luxury room for the cost of a standard hotel room. And we all deserve a little luxury in our travels.
Roomer might be my favorite thing on this list. One person’s misfortune is your stroke of good luck. Roomer is a place for people who have paid for a non-refundable hotel reservation but cannot use it, to sell it to other travelers.
At a discount, a big one! I randomly chose a room at the Maria Cristina Hotel in Toledo, Spain and saw a room that would normally cost $67 per night being sold on Roomer for just $38 per night. You can save between 30-80% on a hotel using Roomer.
If you’re the unfortunate person who has to cancel a non-refundable room, you can sell it on Roomer.
Don’t let the word “hostel” in the name put you off. While you can undoubtedly find old school hostel accommodations, a big room full of bunk beds and strangers with a shared bathroom down the hall, Hostelworld also has private rooms.
They are more expensive than the dorm type rooms but generally less expensive than a hotel. And hostels usually have money-saving amenities guests can use like kitchens and laundry facilities. Staying in a hostel is also a great way to make friends if you are traveling alone and getting tired of eating every meal solo!
If you only use Groupon for restaurant and spa deals, you’re missing out! Groupon offers travel deals, including hotel rooms too. A recent offer was a room at Harrah’s in Las Vegas starting at $35 a night, the normal cost starting at $77 per night.
Don’t forget to use Groupon on vacation the same way you use it at home, to get those good deals on things like restaurants, spas, and local activities.
Agoda shows you thousands of properties all over the world and not just hotel rooms but apartments, homes, and bed and breakfasts as well. The properties have lots of reviewers from Agoda users, and you can search properties that are on sale.
There was a hotel with a 49% off sale in Avignon, France when I searched that brought the cost of the room from $139 per night to just $71.
The same room was available on Booking.com for $97 per night, so Agoda is even cheaper than other discount booking sites.
Eating while on vacation is maybe the best part of being on vacation. It can be expensive if you stick to the tourist areas, and you aren’t getting a real sense of a place’s cuisine by doing so. To get real food, real cheap, you need to travel a little farther off the tourist track. These apps will help you do just that.
9. Roaming Hunger
Food trucks are a great way to get cheap, innovative food from local chefs. If you love food trucks, you will love Roaming Hunger. The App shows you food trucks in dozens of American cities and several countries.
You’ll be able to see where a food truck is located on a map, read about the kind of food the truck serves and get Roaming Hunger’s recommended dish. You can even search by hours, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night eats.
10. Local Eats
If you want a good, cheap meal while on vacation, ask a local. That’s what Local Eats does for you. The recommendations are taken from local magazine, newspaper, and restaurant review sites to curate a list of local restaurants that a traveler might ordinarily miss.
The only better way to find good, cheap places to eat than asking locals is to ask local chefs, servers, bartenders, butchers, and other food artisans. That’s what Find.Eat.Drink does. You can get recommendations from everything to a city’s best dive bar to its best food market.
12. Happy Hour Finder
Finding a good happy hour is the perfect way to eat and drink on vacation without spending a ton of money. The problem is, many bars and restaurants keep their happy hours on the down low so as a tourist, they can be hard to find. That’s where Happy Hour Finder comes in!
You can search by location and day of the week and get a full listing of happy hours nearby and each shows what the specials are.
It can be hard to stay on budget when traveling, especially if you travel abroad and have to deal with currency conversations. Are 2,500 forints for a coffee really cheap or crazy expensive? (It’s crazy expensive). These apps can help make sure you don’t make financial mistakes on your next trip.
13. XE Currency
XE Currency is a currency converter app. It’s continuously updated with live exchange rates for more than 100 currencies. You can even store rates so that you can still access them even if your phone is offline.
If you’re traveling for work, Expensify can help track your expenses and even create expense reports for you. You can scan receipts in with your phone’s camera, and the app will fill out the report information for you.
Once you return home, just email the report to your Human Resources department to be reimbursed.
A canceled or delayed flight can really ruin a vacation or at least throw a wrench into your plans. You can’t get the lost time back, but you may be entitled to compensation from the airline. The policies can be confusing though, and the airlines aren’t doing much to make them less so.
And some people just can’t be bothered doing the legwork required to get whatever compensation is owed to them. AirHelp will do the heavy lifting for you.
All you have to do is enter your flight ticket information into the App, and a compensation claim will be filed for you. If you are awarded compensation, AirHelp will transfer the money to your bank account.
If you are taking a trip that is part work and part vacation, it can be hard to keep work and personal expenses separate. Spent helps you do that. You can scan all of your receipts and then mark them as Business or Personal by swiping them right or left.
Spent is also a complete budgeting tool. Spent even gives you a little something extra. When you link your credit or debit cards and download transactions, you will get a cash back reward when those expenses are from participating stores and restaurants.
Unless your idea of the perfect vacation is just lounging on the beach, you’ll want to plan some activities for your trip. Not only will these Apps save you money on activities, but they will often lead you to fun, exciting things that you won’t find in guidebooks.
17. Field Trip
Field Trip is great to find both local, current events and regular tourist attractions. It gets up to date information on local activities from places like TimeOut and Thrillist. The App runs in the background, and while you’re out and about in a city, you’ll get notifications about events, landmarks, live music, and restaurants that are nearby.
Viator finds the best local tours and activities and not only gives you VIP access to certain events so you can skip the long lines full of your fellow tourists or get backstage access, but they also get you steep discounts on them too. I looked at some activities in my local area and did find some great deals.
Viator is offering transportation to and from and a guided tour of Oak Alley, one of the picturesque plantations near New Orleans for $49.65. The normal price is $65, so Viator really does have some good deals.
If you are a last minute, fly by the seat of your pants traveler, you’ll love Whym. Whym lets you buy last minute tickets to things like tours, activities, and events. Out and about and see a sign about something that looks fun? Whym lets you book it on the spot right through the App!
And because the events are last minute, you can often get deeply discounted tickets. The venues figure it’s better to sell them for less than to let them go unsold so your lack of planning ahead pays off with Whym!
Headout is another great find for those of us who like a little spontaneity on our vacations. Headout curates all kinds of events and activities from Turkish baths in Budapest to line free audio tours of the Paris Catacombs. (Book this one if you want to see the catacombs, the line is hours long otherwise).
You can even get cash back rewards when you buy certain tickets with Headout. A skip the line ticket to the top of the Eiffel Tower with a guide was not only discounted from 36 Euros to 33, but you get 10% cash back too.
Pack Your Bags
Because of the internet and smartphones, there are more ways than ever to make travel affordable. And more than that, to connect you with both local people and events that no dusty old guidebook will ever be able to do. No matter how up to date a guidebook, it will never be in “real time” the way these Apps can be.
I was especially excited to see some of these Apps offering cash back rewards. If you buy tickets through them with a cash back rewards credit card, you can save even more.
Do be sure to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fee when traveling outside the United States. A forex fee can be as much as 3% per transaction.
It’s still a great big world out there full of things to see, but there are clever fellow travel lovers coming up with new ways every day to make that world a little smaller, easier, and cheaper than ever to navigate. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags, get out there and see it.