***This post was updated in March 2019.***
How to find cheap transportation and accommodation
It’s been a while since I shared my favorite travel resources with you, and after just planning and booking trips to Europe and Central America, I thought it was time to share an updated edition of my favorite travel resources with you, so that you can also find great deals for your next trip. I categorized them by accommodation and transportation.
How to find cheap accommodation
Hotel booking websites:
If you are looking for hotels, there are plenty of booking websites out there these days that offer special discount hotel rates, such as Booking.com or Hotels.com. Particularly noteworthy here are Hotwire with its Mystery Hotel option, which only tells you the approximate location of a hotel and the number of stars it has, but offers a rate of up to 60% less than the usual rate, and Priceline with its Name-Your-Own-Price concept.
Apartment rentals are often cheaper than hotels and also have the advantage that they have a kitchen so that you can make your own meals, which will save you money on eating out. AirBnb is the most popular apartment rental company, but there are several other ones worth exploring – check out VRBO, Homeaway, Flipkey and Wimdu and compare their prices to Airbnb. You may find a cheaper deal.
I am a huge fan of housesits – like I said, I’ve done four housesits in the past three months – and told you why I think everyone who loves traveling should housesit, but if you’re thinking about signing up with one of the many housesitting websites, I recommend reading these articles on my dedicated housesitting website:
- Is housesitting right for you?
- How to set up the perfect housesitting profile
- How to get a great housesit
- Housesitting101: How to be chosen for a housesit
My favorite housesitting websites are still MindMyHouse, Housecarers, and TrustedHousesitters, but I have also started using Nomador recently, a French-based housesitting websites with an impressive number of housesits (especially for Francophiles, but also international housesits), considering they haven’t been around for that long.
How to find cheap transportation
My most important tip for booking transportation: Don’t wait too long. It doesn’t matter if you travel by plane, bus or train, in almost every country of the world the rule is: the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket. Here are some of the best websites to use to plan my travels and book flight, train and bus tickets:
If you don’t know yet how to get from your current location to your next destination, Rome2Rio is the perfect place to start your research. The website shows you all the different options you have to get from nearly any city in the world to another. Planes, buses, ferries, trains – and not only does Rome2Rio tell you how you can get to your destination, but also how much it’ll cost you and how long it will take you. If you decide to go ahead and book a train or plane ticket, it sends you straight to the booking website it found the best deal on.
Omio is very similar to Rome2Rio, except that it focuses on traveling in Europe. The website shows you all available train, plane, bus and even car share options for your selected date, and if you book through Omio, you often get cheaper tickets than the ones offered by train and bus companies on their respective sites. I now use Omio exclusively when I travel around Europe, I don’t even check any other websites anymore.
If you know you’ll be traveling by bus within Europe, check out Busradar.com. The number of bus companies traversing Europe these days is huge, and it is hard to keep track of them all, and their prices. Busradar compares all available bus providers for the journey of your choice for you, and also shows you the amenities of each one, for example if there’s wi-fi on board and how many pieces of luggage you can take with you. Busradar also has a free app for iOS and Android.
If you’re flying within Europe, you’re in luck – there are at least a dozen budget airlines that get you to any European city for less than €50. To find out which airline offers the cheapest airfare for the route of your choice, use Whichbudget – this website lists which low-cost airlines connect two cities, and which one offers the best price for your selected date. Whichbudget is also a good website to use if you’re looking to fly from the U.S. to Europe. Tickets to the big hubs like London or Frankfurt are often cheaper, and if you don’t mind having to take a connecting flight, you can easily save hundreds of dollars by flying one of the main trans-Atlantic routes and then use a budget airline in Europe (the same goes for Asia, by the way). To find the cheapest international airfare, I recommend using Google Flights, Skyscanner and Bookingbuddy. Cross-checking all three is time-intense, but it is usually worth it.
It is also worth signing up for fare alerts as soon as you know your travel dates. This feature is offered by Skyscanner and GoogleFlights for example, and it’ll send you daily email updates with the latest fare for the flight of your choice. Once the price drops to a number you’re comfortable with, you can go ahead and book the flight.
I am aware that budget airlines don’t have the best reputation – delays and canceled flights are common, which makes a bit risky to book a flight / flights for your long awaited vacation on a low-cost carrier. But then you see a $15 flight from London to Budapest and how can you resist, right? Luckily, the European Union passed a law that entitles passengers to up to €600 (£536 / US$670) in compensation when their flight lands at their destination more than three hours late. Should you experience flight delays during your trip, use a service like SkyRefund to get the best possible help with your compensation.
Sometimes it makes the most sense to rent a car instead of relying on public transportation, and some housesits even require the sitters to have a car. Once again, booking comparison websites are often cheaper than the websites of each individual rental car company, and Bookingbuddy.com has a great feature that shows the prices of all available rental companies on one page. Priceline has, similar to its hotel booking tool, a Name-Your-Own-Price concept that is worth trying, and Carrentals.com (owned by Expedia) also has great rates – in Mexico as low as $5 per day, for example.
More recently, I’ve used Autoslash, even though this is a website that requires a bit more work because you are asked to put in all the details for your desired rental location and period, plus all your credit card and miles rewards program memberships. Then their search engine scans all this information while looking for the best deal, because there might just be a better rate thanks to one of your memberships.
They then send you an email with all available rentals, and on my last rental, their rate was $20 PER DAY lower than any of the other rental companies. So yes, adding all the info is an extra step, but it pays off. You can read my full Autoslash review here.