A quick note on travel planning websites

I get a lot of questions from friends & others about what websites we use to plan our trips and how we're able to save money doing so. 

I thought before moving on to the next blog in this series, I'd let you know a few tips and planning resources we heavily use to plan our vacations in an economical way. I hope you've been thinking about how to make your next vacation happen, because I'm confident you can!

If you've never used Priceline before, DO IT. Using Priceline to name our own prices on cars and hotels has saved us hundreds of dollars and allowed us to stay in some pretty amazing places for really cheap. The most we've ever paid for a sedan rental car using Priceline was $11 a day, compared to rates of $30+ they were advertising on the rental car website. 

Priceline has a few caveats, mainly being that you cannot choose the hotel you want to stay at or the airline or rental company you reserve with. You get to put in your minimum requirements, like say, a 4-star hotel. You also select the specific area you want to stay in. 

Let's say we were planning a trip to downtown Portland for a weekend staycation using Priceline. If I wanted to book a 4-star hotel, I would select that rating when I click "Name your own price," and then a bunch of different areas will pop up: Downtown Portland, Waterfront, Airport, Beaverton, NE Portland, etc. Since I want to stay downtown, I would select "downtown Portland." Then Priceline will give me an average rate of a current 4-star hotel in downtown Portland. Typically 4-star hotels are around $200. I would type in the price that I would be willing to pay-- usually around $80-- and then fill in my reservation details. 

(Just a few of the hotels we have scored on Priceline for around $80...)

Riverplace Hotel, Portland, OR

Hotel Deluxe, Portland, OR

Hotel Monaco, Portland, OR

Once I confirm that my details are correct, that the star rating, location and price are correct, I will click on "find my room now." This can be a bit nerve-wracking considering you cannot, under any circumstances, receive a refund if you don't like the hotel they've booked for you. However, you get a preview ahead of time of what some of the 4-star hotels are in that area so you know what you're up against. Having done Priceline over 30 times, I have only had one hotel I was not happy with. 

Sometimes, your offer will be accepted, and sometimes it will not. I would strongly recommend not booking more than a week in advance, because at that point hotels are more likely to compromise on price in order to fill their rooms. 

If your offer is accepted, you'll receive an email confirming all of the booking details and where you'll be staying. If it's not accepted, it will tell you why and your credit card will not be charged. You can try again in 24 hours. 

I love Priceline because I love a good deal, and they are pretty solid in delivering what they promise when you set your standards high. 

Costco Travel has some AMAZING details on vacation packages, including all-inclusive, discounts on airfare, free rental cars, etc. We discovered Costco when we booked our first cruise three years ago and received a free upgrade to a balcony, $350 in on board credit and free transfers to our cruise when booking with them-- and the rate was cheaper than was advertised online! 

We have also had friends who have used Costco to book vacations to Hawaii and Mexico and received major savings on their packages as well. You have to be a Costco member to book and present your Costco card number to view some of those deals, but Costco Travel is definitely worth looking into when planning your next trip. 

I have been using TripAdvisor for almost ten years, and I'm so glad it's becoming a big thing now. It has seriously been a lifesaver when it comes to finding hotels and things to do in new places, because people's opinions matter big time. What's also helpful when typing in a city you've never been to for vacation planning is that TripAdvisor shows the prices AND the rankings. 

People aren't really going to lie about their stays, so the reviews on hotels are really authentic. We have found so many places to stay on TripAdvisor, and what I like to do is find the cheapest hotel in the top ten list, because it's like a win-win: Affordable AND recommended by many people. We have also found tour companies this way, discovered new favorite restaurants and have been able to save a lot of money along the way by what different guests said in their reviews. 

TripAdvisor is also helpful because you can see photos that guests have uploaded about the location they visited, rather than just looking at the hotel or restaurant's marketing photos that are meant to make them look good. I have never had a disappointing experience with what I booked from reading TripAdvisor reviews. If anything, I knew what to expect (you get what you pay for sometimes), and other times I was left pleasantly surprised. 

I LOVE Tripit. It is the vacation planner and budget travelers dream website. Tripit takes all of your reservations and planning details from all over (Think: No more printing off email confirmations yourself and putting them on an excel spreadsheet!) and consolidates them into one place. 


When I'm actually in the city I'm visiting, I also like to look on Yelp for what's close by me with only one $ sign that people recommend. I've found across all platforms that people's recommendations tend to be legitimate. If I'm new to NYC and staying in Brooklyn, I'm going to Yelp a restaurant that's cheap, nearby and that a bunch of people recommend so I know I can have a good meal at a low price. It saves me time from stumbling around and helps me avoid restaurants that are over-priced tourists traps. 


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