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Traveling doesn’t have to break the bank (in fact, you can travel for free), and there are plenty of places that’ll help you find the best vacation for your budget. Get discounts and the insider scoop with these great resources. Don’t forget to ask for free travel upgrades. (See also: 5 Essential Travel Tools)
Cheap Flights and Accommodations
Find the best rates for airlines and places to stay, no matter what type of traveler you are. Choose from hotels, hostels, hometels, or even just a couch. Interested in offering your place to a weary traveler? Get some tips on how to host a traveler in your home.
CouchSurfing – Bum a night’s sleep on somebody’s couch and save hundreds of dollars on hotel costs! CouchSurfing is a worldwide community of amazing hosts and adventurous travelers seeing the world on the cheap.
Farecast – Farecast gathers data from all over the web so you can find out if airfare for a trip is rising or dropping over the next 7 days, if a hotel rate is the best deal based on past rates, and if there’s a better travel offer on another site. Use their smart travel search to buy with confidence.
Home Exchange – The most comprehensive listing of home listings. You list your house on the site, find another house where you’d like to stay, and contact the member to see if they want to trade homes for a bit. This exchange system lets you live like a local in a comfortable house or apartment instead of a tiny and expensive hotel room.
Hostel Bookers – Easiest way to book hostels all over the world. You can find prices, amenities (including pictures), and customer reviews of each location so you know what you’re getting before you land. You can also book directly from the site.
Hotwire – Hotwire is a robust site that not only offers some of the best travel deals available, but includes planning tools and tips for a smooth trip. Hotwire’s partners offer unsold inventory at big savings and rest assured that Hotwire only works with partners you know and trust.
iStopOver – Connects people who want to rent out extra rooms in their homes to travelers who want to save on costly hotel bills. It has the added benefit of offering travelers a taste of “home” on the road; a cozy place to stay that is far from the sterile cubicle environment of a hotel or motel. iStopOver currently has listings in the United States, Canada, London, France, South Africa, and Brazil. But they are expanding as hosts from more countries are adding their listings each day.
Kayak – The only place you need to search for discounted airfare. Kayak searches over 140+ airlines and travel agencies (including Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Hotwire.com, and other big airfare search engines) to aggregate the best flight deals all in one place.
Last Minute – All last minute airfare, hotel, attractions, and packages in one database. If you want to book a vacation for this weekend or grab a flight for tomorrow, start your search here for the best prices on last minute deals.
Orbitz – With Orbitz Price Assurance, your guaranteed the lowest rate offered by Orbitz. If another customer books the same flight on Orbitz at a lower price, you’ll automatically be issued a refund for the difference. They also offer real time traveler updates to keep you apprised of your flight status.
Priceline – Priceline puts the power of pricing back in your hands by allowing you to name your own price for hotels and pay no booking fees for flights, cars, or vacation packages. The site also offers reviews by travelers to help you make the best travel decision.
Roomorama – Roomorama is a peer-to-peer short term rental marketplace. As a host, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your guest has paid in advance of the stay. As a guest, rest assured that Roomorama is keeping your money secure until you check-in and hand over the payment code.
SeatGuru – Database of airplane seat configurations by airline. You can get diagrams with notes on where the good (and bad) seats are on the plane. You can see a layout of where the galley is (get your food faster) and where the bathrooms are (stay far away). If you know what type of plane you’ll be flying on (ask the airline ticketing agent), and you get to pick your seat, make sure to check out SeatGuru first so you don’t pick the bad seat next to the toilets.
Travelocity – One look at the Travelocity Customer Bill of Rights is enough to know that this company cares about your travel needs. The Travelocity Guarantee is the most proactive and comprehensive in the industry. Have peace of mind when booking with Travelocity.
TripAdvisor – The biggest online community of travellers. This is the first (and often, last) stop for vacation planners. Not only can you book flights, hotels, car rentals, and get tickets for attractions here, but you also get a amazing breadth of reviews and tips from real travellers. The destination guides on TripAdvisor are often much better (more up-to-date and more detailed) than the expensive guide books in your bookstore.
Wegolo – Wegolo shows you the “all-in” fares, which includes the total cost for all passengers together as charged by the airlines, so you get no surprise taxes and fees tacked on at the last minute. Their search tool allows you to combine your out- and inbound flights with 2 different airlines and select the optimum departure/arriving schedules or airports.
Yapta – Yapta stands for Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant. Yapta notifies you when prices for flights drop. It can do it even after you purchase your tickets, giving you a chance to get a refund of the difference from the airline. If you prefer, Yapta will haggle with the airline on your behalf for a $15 fee. Their new killer feature is emailing you notifications when a seat that is redeemable for reward miles comes available.
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Destination Guides and Travel Communities
Get the lowdown on your locale with destination guides and reviews for what to see and do, how to get around, where to eat and sleep, and information about local customs and processes. Listen to the people who have actually been there and done that. Don’t forget to check out onsite resources for travelers.
The Backpacker – The community reviews local bars, restaurants, accommodations, attractions, and tours. All reviews are user-submitted, and many places have multiple reviews. They also have a travel wiki (destination guides) and you can post your vacation stories.
BootsnAll Travel – BootsnAll seeks to cultivate an organic community that encourages independent travel. It does this through thousands of travel stories & travel blogs written by travelers, travel guides to destinations all over the world, a membership of passionate travelers, and the ability to book all of your travel needs – air tickets, hostels, RTW tickets, adventure trips, and more – from one website. In this way, BootsnAll aims to be the ultimate resource for the independent traveler.
Frommer’s – Whether you’re venturing close to home or across the globe, whether your budget is limited or limitless, Frommer’s strive to live up to your discerning approach to travel by delivering the most candid and reliable information. Explore your travel destinations the way locals do.
IgoUgo – IgoUgo travel reviews and photos will spark your wanderlust and help you plan your next adventure. With more than 500,000 travelers on IgoUgo sharing trip stories and pictures, they’ve built a library of honest opinions, tips, and experiences that you won’t find in any guidebook. To date, their travel community has contributed hundreds of thousands of reviews and photos of everything from cheap eats to luxury hotels in 8,000 destinations worldwide.
Lonely Planet – Lonely Planet is renowned for its first-hand approach, up-to-date maps and commitment to providing the best information for travelers. Their authors are professional writers and journalists who nail down all the practical info about a destination then build on that with insider knowledge, thorough reviews, little-known facts and authoritative recommendations. Their aim is to get you accurate, practical information, impartial recommendations and best-value tips.
Timeout City Guides – Time Out is an international multimedia publisher of cultural experiences for urban adventurers. They provide up-to-date and accurate information to help readers remain at the cutting edge of culture. Around the world, their local teams of critics are connected to the very best that their city has to offer. Listings are generated in-house and reviews are completely independent.
UpTake – Aggregates information and travelers’ opinions from 5,000 websites some 20 million opinions — and boils them down to a single rating along with the most telling traveler comments. It’s like visiting TripAdvisor and every other travel review site in one fell swoop.
Viator – Once you land, you need to have things to do. Viator is the easiest way to plan your days in-country. You can book tours, plan daytrips, buy tickets, and discover other things to do and attractions to see.
Virtual Tourist – As the single largest source of user-generated travel content in the world, VirtualTourist is a great resource for travelers seeking an insider’s perspective. Get real travel tips, reviews and photos from real people who have actually been there and done that.
WikiTravel – Like Wikipedia.org for locales. Free, complete, and reliable worldwide travel guide written by actual travelers. Great resource for learning about your destination cities before you start planning a trip.
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Budget Traveler Magazines and Blogs
These are just some of the best reads on travel. Get travel tips, recommendations and ideas. Go to these when you’re looking for some inspiration or just want to live vicariously through a fellow adventurer. Bookmark the stories for your to-travel list and follow these travel junkies around the world. If you’re a fan of Globe Trekker, you’ll love these sites.
About.com Budget Travel – Mark Kahler, About.com Guide to Budget Travel, posts weekly deals, has tips on finding the cheapest vacation packages and airfare, and has a fantastic series of step-by-step articles on maximizing your travel budget.
The Art of Nonconformity – In the battle against conventional beliefs, Chris Guillebeau’s blog focuses on three areas: Life, Work, and Travel. He writes about travel hacking in general and his journeys to more than 25 countries every year. So far he has visited more than 100 countries, and over the next four years intends to visit every country in the world. He’s also an esteemed fellow member of LifeRemix.
Budget Travel – Web magazine by Frommers (the guide book publisher) focused on budget travel. Writers post stories on destinations, budget itineraries, tips for finding cheap flights or accommodations, and more. You can even post your own travel journal, photos or videos, and read others’ travel journals. There’s a paper magazine version that you can subscribe to ($20 for 20 issues), if you prefer to read your cheap vacation news in print.
Cool Travel Guide – Perpetual globetrotter and travel writer Lara Dunston has traveled to over 60 countries, authored and updated over 40 guidebooks, and has had scores of articles published by top travel mags and sites. This blog is about the things that are cool about travel, the things that inspire us to travel, and what’s inspiring about travel.
Frugal Traveler – Matt Gross seeks out high style on a low budget. Follow his journey as he uncovers affordable hotels, cheap eats and other budget tips.
Hobo Traveler – Andy is a homeless perpetual traveler who has visited over 79 countries over 10 years. He has no intention of returning home.
Perceptive Travel – Perceptive Travel is an online travel magazine filled with unique perspectives from around the globe, written by some of the best travel writers on the planet. Come here for authentic travel tales about interesting places, not for top-10 lists and tourism bureau advertorials.
The Professional Hobo – Nora Dunn sold her lucrative financial planning business, sold all her stuff, and embarked on a round-the-world vagabonding life. She shares her adventures on this fun site. (Nora is also a Senior Writer for Wise Bread and contributed lots of financial planning and budget travel articles to our money saving book.)
Song of the Open Road – Currently on year 9 of his global journey, Wade has ventured through over 30 countries on 5 continents, sometimes moving slow, sometimes moving fast. It’s obvious that travel is his passion.
Travelvice – In December 2005, Craig Heimburger sold most of his possessions and took off for an extended travel adventure around the world. Join the journey by reading his travelogue, exploring the topics inside the Compendium, or perusing the Snapshots gallery.
Trek Hound – a web site for independent travelers. Here you will find information on travel literature, movies, travel tips, budget saving ideas, chronicles of past trips, food and lodging reviews, information on pet travel and much more.
Viator Travel Blog – The staff at Viator are passionate travelers. When they’re not busy talking about their last trip, they’re busy planning their next adventure. On Viator, they share their passion and inspire all of us to make that next trip.
Wanderlust and Lipstick – Wanderlust and Lipstick provides both the nervous newbie and the well-seasoned Wanderluster with all the tools needed to set out on a dream journey, whether to Paris, Peoria or Prague! Find travel stories to whet your appetite for adventures around the globe, read travel tips from experienced globetrotters, learn about Wanderlust and Lipstick-recommended travel gear; and salivate over the glorious photos in the WanderGallery submitted by travelers the world over.
Working Your Way Around the World – Between telecommuting, work visas and networking, it’s perfectly possible to pick up and move to different parts of the world on a regular basis — and work along the way. We focus on jobs that you can be proud to put on your resume: from finding a job abroad to building a business of your own, we’ve got the resources you need.
Write Away! – Lauren Carter is an award-winning writer whose articles about trekking in Ecuador, searching out authentic tango in Buenos Aires, hiking the Matra Hills in Hungary, paddling Ontario’s French River and discovering Toronto’s West Queen West have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, the Toronto Star, and many more.
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