You want to travel more, and you want to do it for less. You’re not unique in this desire (I’m right there with you!)… but I have to admit that I don’t have any superpowers to help you make it happen.
What I do have is a carefully curated list of travel tools that I use each and every time I plan and book a trip. These tools help me get the best trip possible for the least amount of money.
Try them all, pick a few favorites, and don’t forget to mix it up every now and then to see what new features (and hopefully, great deals) the competition has come up with.
You might be surprised to find that sometimes Agoda has better deals than Booking (especially when it comes to “flash” deals), and “private rooms” on Airbnb can sometimes be more like hotel rooms (for a tiny fraction of the price).
Get Incredible Accommodation for Less
I had a really bad experience with Airbnb and gave it up for a while, but I’m back on the wagon because their customer service has gotten exponentially better and – let’s be honest – the deals are too good to pass up.
Never tried Airbnb before? Now’s the perfect time to start (you can even get up to $51 off your first stay with this link)
I know everybody loves Booking, but I find the platform really ugly and unappealing. The customer service is also less than awesome.
Agoda, on the other hand, is less well-known (but apparently owned by the same company as Booking?) with incredible service and amazing deals. They’re especially strong in Asia, but if you can find it on Booking, chances are it’s on Agoda too (plus, you accumulate points for free stays, woohoo!).
Everybody loves Booking, except for me. Yeah, they’ve got that free cancellation thing going on, but otherwise – meh. Still, sometimes I find my best hotel deal on here versus Agoda, so then I go with it. It’s just never my first choice option.
Get Gear and Clothing
Amazon just makes everything so much easier! Aside from purchasing travel gear and clothes and pretty much everything else, Amazon also makes watching TV and movies abroad so much easier. Amazon Prime Video facilitated my recent GOT binge (I’d never seen an episode until a few weeks ago!) and for select series and movies you can even download content onto your devices, so you can watch without wifi (perfect for long plane trips and bus rides).
In my recent efforts to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle, I’ve realized that clothing plays a ridiculously big role in the overflowing of our landfills and degradation of ecosystems. Aside from buying from sustainable and ethical companies (like Prana), I’m trying to buy more secondhand, which I truly believe is the most ecological and responsible way to shop. Thredup makes secondhand shopping easy and fun, and I’m pretty obsessed. You can also sell your old clothes via Thredup: just request a bag, fill it with your old stuff, and send it back with the premade shipping label!
Get Around Town for Less
When it comes to ride share apps, I’m an Uber girl all the way. This is partly because Uber is more prevalent in Mexico (we don’t have Lyft in Puerto Vallarta, for example), and partly just because I’ve been using it for longer. If you’ve never tried Uber, you can use this link for a discount on your first few rides!
My sister introduced me to Lyft on our recent trip to San Diego. We used it mainly so we could get the discount (which you can also score if you’re a first-time Lyft user). It’s pretty much the same as Uber; sometimes slightly cheaper, sometimes slightly more expensive.
Sometimes buying bus tickets abroad can be a pain, or downright impossible if you don’t have a local credit card (this is true in Mexico!). Busbud solves that. You can book online without a local credit card!
Get deals on dining
Sometimes, you just don’t feel like going out while you’re traveling. Maybe you’re exhausted from a full day of exploring, maybe you’re dealing with a stomach bug, maybe you’re on vacation and feeling lazy AF. Whatever your reason, Ubereats is my most recommended app for food delivery, in almost any city where they’ve also go Uber. (use the code eats-stephaniek1381 for a discount on your first order!)
My new favorite app is Opentable, which is a restaurant reservation site. Even more important than reservations, though, is that many of the restaurants list their menu on the app. This is absolutely priceless for vegetarians or other people with restricted diets, to avoid showing up to a restaurant and not having anything to eat.
Score cheap flights
Kiwi is my current favorite flight search engine. They win because they match up multiple providers (including local low-costs) and because every departure comes with the following guarantee (yes, even between multiple airlines):
The Kiwi.com Guarantee protects you from cancellations, delays and rescheduling. We’ll get you to your final destination or refund the affected part of your journey.
This is a big deal, which you’ll know if you ever put together your own Frankenstein of an itinerary and bet on the wrong local low-cost and faced an international flight-missing delay: there’s no refunds there.
They’ve also got a radius feature and if you can be flexible on dates and layover locations, I promise you can save a boatload of money. I did (to the tune of $800 on one trip).
Kayak used to be my favorite flight finder, before Kiwi. Simple to use with a lot of search features, I’ve saved a lot of money with this tried and true tool. Even with my current Kiwi preference, I’ll still do a check on Kayak, just in case.
I like Skyscanner because they pick up on local low-cost flights that Kayak sometimes doesn’t, and they seem to have occasionally great deals that even Kiwi doesn’t offer.
Use travel credit cards
The United Explorer Card via Chase is perfect for anyone who travels on United a lot (or just wants to take advantage of the introductory offer, get the miles, and then cancel the flights – I did too, no judgment).
You get 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. The card has a $0 fee for the first year, and then $95 every year after. You get a free checked bag on any United-operated flight (as does any companion), priority boarding, 2 United Club passes each year, Global Entry/TSA fee credit, and 2 points per every $1 spent on United, restaurant, and hotel purchases.