10 Best Travel Sites – Most Useful Sites for Smarter Travel

by James Andrew Scott

Ranking of the 10 Best Travel Sites

Below, TripBadger ranks the 10 best travel sites for travel planning, including finding good deals on flights and hotels.

1.  Hipmunk

Hipmunk is a search engine for flights and hotels and is similar to Kayak.  What makes Hipmunk so great is its simplicity and playful appeal.  We also like how the flights can be organized by their “degree of agony” which takes into account such things as number of stops, layover time, etc.  Read Brian’s full review here.

2.  Kayak.

Kayak is another great search aggregator.  It’s easy to use, and has options to automatically search other airfare aggregators so you don’t have to.  Use the “My Dates are Flexible” feature, and particularly the Flex Month option, to plan vacations and other flexible travel.  This feature allows you to easily search an entire month for the best price available.  But also see, ITA Matrix below.  Kayak will e-mail price alerts also.

ITA Matrix Flight Software - a 10 Best Travel Site of 2012

3. ITA Matrix.

The best flight software you’ve probably never heard of. Founded by MIT graduates, ITA software is primarily in the business of selling travel software to the travel industry. They also operate a great fare aggregrator website similar to Kayak–ITA Matrix.  When searching with flexible dates (for instance, searching an entire month), ITA Matrix will sometimes returns better results than Kayak.  I’ve haven’t figured out why this occurs. My guess is that ITA Matrix is just a bit more sophisticated and less glitchy.

I recommend using this site when you have flexible dates. In my latest search, ITA Matrix returned a $754 flight from Washington (IAD) to London on Icelandair.  Depite the Icelandair ads all over the place, Kayak did not list  this flight in its “Flex Month” results.  One disadvantage of ITA Matrix is that you can’t simply click through to buy.  You have to exit the site and buy through the airline directly.   It’s usually worth the effort.

4.  Bing Price Predictor.

Running a quick search of the Bing’s price predictor engine can be incredibly valuable when you’re unsure if it’s a good time to buy.  Bing’s Price Predictor has a good track record with me.  Bing saved me over 300 dollars on a flight from Washington DC (DCA) to Bozeman, Montana (BZN) this summer.

5. Hotwire.com.

When it comes to hotel stays, I prefer saving money over earning loyalty points.  When rooms are booked “partially blind” on Hotwire.com (you know the general location and number of stars but not the hotel name), the savings are often incredible and much lower than rates you can get anywhere else.  I’ve never been disappointed in a hotel stay booked through Hotwire.  I would advise that you book a hotel at least 1/2 to 1 full star higher than your normally would.  There tends to be a little “star” creep on Hotwire.com and some 3 stars might not live up to your standards.  I usually book 4 star and higher only.  This is a great site for last minute travel.  Hotwire usually has great rates on rental cars too.  Read our Hotwire tips here.

BiddingTraveler - A Best 10 Travel Site in 20126. Bidding Traveler and Betterbidding.com

The Bidding Traveler and Betterbidding.com are both great for helping you with Priceline and Hotwire bids.  Betterbidding.com contains lists of hotels that participate in Hotwire and Priceline.  Essentially, with Betterbidding,com, you can attempt to cross-reference the hotel’s features to discover the identity of a hotel when booking blind.  See our strategy explained in detail here.

The Bidding Traveler will provide you with a  recommended Priceline bidding strategy.  You simply provide the hotel quality (number of stars), location, and your desired low and high bid prices (the site will provide you with recommendations).  Then, Bidding Traveler walk you through the bidding on Priceline, with step-by-step instructions.  Easy and brilliant.

7. AirfareWatchdog.com.

This site simply finds good deals on airfare that you might miss with Kayak.  Click on “Fares from a City” to find great deals on flights from your home airport.  You can also sign up for periodic emails listing the best fares from a particular city, including last-minute weekend fares–a very valuable list if you’re looking for a last-minute vacation or need to make a mileage run to maintain your elite status.

8. FlightFox - a 10 Best Travel Site of 2012Flightfox

Feeling lazy?  Tired of the hassle of finding a good price on a flight?  Try Flightfox.  By forking over a finder’s fee ($24 minimum), various flight-finding “experts” will compete to earn your commission by finding you the best flight.  You simply provide information on your travel dates, destination, whether you will accept multiple stops, class of service, etc.  Then, you sit around and wait for the results to come in over a period of 3 days. You are the sole judge which flight is best.  One you select the best flight, the expert who found it will earn the commission.  You are not committed to actually buying the flight, but unless you seek a refund, you are committed to paying the finder’s fee.   However, if you are not satisfied with the service for any reason, you can seek return of your finder’s fee as well.

9.  Today in the Sky (USA Today Blog)

Ben Mutzabugh’s blog for the USA today has breaking news about airlines, airports, and air travel.  This is a great site to learn about the latest happenings in the airline industry.  I also particularly like the airplane and travel photos, courtesy of USA Today photographers.

10. SeatGuru

SeatGuru has seat maps for nearly every flight and airline– an incredibly helpful tool for choosing the best seat.  The SeatGuru app for iPhone and Android is also worth downloading.  It has the same helpful seat maps but also has a flight status feature–allowing you to check the flight status for nearly any airline on-the-go.