Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I'd rather be...

Do you know those, "I'd rather be...fill in the blank" t-shirts and bumper stickers? You know, "I'd rather be fishing" or "I'd rather be skiing" or "I'd rather not be wearing this shirt". They always make me giggle. I can never imagine wearing one because mine would either have to say, "I'd rather be eating" and I would have to be stick-thin, I mean downright wafer-thin, to be able to pull that off without looking like a pig, OR, my shirt would say, "I'd rather be traveling", and that's not cute, witty or interesting...it is, however, the truth.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Thank goodness my husband indulges me when it comes to travel. Thank you Nick. I would be impossible to live with if I wasn't constantly planning some sort of trip. I've been this way for as long as I can remember and I don't see that changing any time soon. The planning part can be almost as fun as the actual travel itself. I used to plan corporate travel and I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. The hubby and I are headed to Aruba in a week or so for a spur-of-the-moment type trip and I had so much fun booking it that I thought I would share some of my favorite travel websites with you too! Like I said, planning can be fun, and planning a trip for a steal can be downright thrilling. **p.s. all the pics on this post are of tropical places (and don't correlate with, well, anything I'm writing) because I thought everyone dealing with this crappy east coast weather right now would enjoy it**

Looking for a cheap hotel room and only a cheap hotel room? Priceline is THE ONLY site you need. On our trip to California last year I booked ALL of our hotels through Priceline and paid an average of $65/night for 4 star hotels that normally go for close to $200/night (did you see the American Idol audition a few weeks ago when they were in LA?? We stayed at that lovely hotel for $69). Priceline is a godsend for frugal travelers. I wrote a tutorial for using it in a recent blog. If you're a first time Priceline user I recommend reading it. **note: I only use Priceline for hotels and I only use the "name your own price" bidding option...I have to admit...even I am scared to bid for a flight without knowing too much about it**
Looking for a cheap rental car? Go here: Rental Car Momma
This site offers discount codes for all of the major car rental agencies. It takes a bit longer than using, say, Orbitz, but their prices can't be beat. I us it religiously.

You can also use Hotwire for cheap and easy rental car rates. They're not quite as inexpensive as rental car momma, but you can get a decent deal in under a minute.

As for the flights. Ahhhh, the flights. They can make or break a good vacation. I ALWAYS start here at Kayak. I have been using it to start ALL of my flight searches for at least the past 4 years. It's the mother of all travel search engines. It basically SEARCHES the search engines. To this day I have yet to find a site that is this thorough or offers lower rates. **tip...there is a lot of info on the Kayak result page...I like to click the "show matrix" link...it shows a table of the cheapest and most direct routes in a format that's easier on the brain**

Looking for a package deal? If you're looking for a package deal, say a cruise or an all-inclusive resort w/airfare, I highly recommend Cheap Caribbean or BookIt. Both places specialize in putting together the whole vacation package for you (flight, hotel, transportation and even activities) all in one handy dandy place and for one handy dandy price. Oh, and they've almost always got some amazing deals. If you're looking to go to the Carribean or basically anywhere in Mexico you'll want to give them a shot. They will put together the entire package for you...no muss, no fuss. They almost always throw in a free airport to hotel transfer or a $100 spa credit for free. I've used BookIt no less than a half dozen times over the past two or three years and I just used Cheap Caribbean to plan this Aruba trip. I searched every travel site I knew and used every trick in the book and in the end realized that the first place I checked, Cheap Caribbean, offered the best deal. Figures right?

Once you've decided where you want to go and have narrowed your options down to a few resorts or hotels, I recommend heading over to Trip Advisor to give your place one last look before you buy. Now I warn you, this site is a big bulletin board for happy and disgruntled travelers alike. Some people write horrible things about pretty decent resorts and it could scare the living hell out of you. That's why I just skim, or even skip the reviews and head right to the section where travelers post their personal pictures. If a picture is really worth a thousand words than a picture is all I need. I always just give the pics a quick overview before booking. Joe Shmoe from Cincinnati most likely didn't use some super wide angle lens when shooting the hotel room, but the professional photographer that the resort hired probably did. I just think that if the place looks good even through the lens of amateur photographers who are jacked up on one two many daiquiris, then it's a pretty good bet the place is up to snuff.

This list of sites is only the tip of the iceberg. These are the sites I use most often and most loyally, but I have a TON more to share. If YOU'RE looking for some tips, recommendations, booking help or just want to chat about prospective travel destinations, PLEASE (!!!!!!) send me an email or leave a comment. I'm always happy to help.

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