This year, I have visited 4 countries, 7 states, and 17 different cities, and it's only July (this information is easy to track with Traxo). Whether you travel as much as I do, or you take one trip per year, one thing is true – planning and trip logistics can take all the thrill out of a vacation.
After months and months of trial and error, here are the top sites and tools that allowed me spend more time enjoying my vacation, rather than planning it.
1. Gogobot– Social travel planning site that believes “planning your trip should be almost as fun as the trip itself”. This site is by far the best way to discover your travel destinations.
Good for: Planning activities and receiving recommendations. All you have to do is type your destination, and you will find a detailed description of the city, recommendations on things to do and see, places to stay, and places to eat. If you still don't have all the information you need, all you have to do is ask a question to the very engaged travel community. Within a day you will have an answer from other travelers who have visited your destination or locals who always know best.
Pros: Detailed information. Impressive design. Engaged travel audience. Creates virtual passport.
Cons: It is only web-based, which means once at your destination, you either have to print out the pages of your recommendations or go old school and write them down.
What would make it perfect: Mobile app, ability to email trip activities.
All in All: 9 out of 10 stars. I will never again plan a trip without recommendations from Gogobot.
2. Hipmunk: “A remarkable new travel search site that aims to take the agony out of travel planning”. It is the most efficient way to find flights that actually work for you. No irrelevant search results.
Good For: Searching for flights. Once you have decided where you going, Hipmunk is the best, most aesthetically pleasing metasearch engine. You can search using all the common parameters, such as price and flight duration. But you can also search by ‘agony', which is a combination of price, duration and number of stops.
Pros: Relevant search results. Focus on user experience. Ease of use. Striking user interface.
Cons: Speed – it can sometimes take a while to load. Like other metasearch engines, such as Kayak, you are re-directed to actually book your flight.
What would make it perfect: Booking on the site, faster load time.
All in All: 9.5 out of 10 stars. This site has become my one and only stop for flight search.
3. Tripit: The best way to organize your travel plans once you've made them. You will never again have to search your inbox (or purse for printouts) for your hotel confirmation, your flight information or other travel plans.
Good For: Keeping all your travel plans in one place. Crunchbase offers the best description of TripIt– “Travelers simply forward their purchase confirmation emails to TripIt and TripIt automatically creates master itineraries with travel plans and other critical information. With TripIt, it’s easy for travelers to print or access their trip plans from anywhere–and to share itineraries and travel calendars with friends in their TripIt network”.
Pros: Blackberry and iPad apps that cache all information, including maps, so that you can access your information even offline. Syncs with your calendar.
Cons: You have to upgrade to TripIt Pro to have all your frequent travel rewards in once place. But you can use Traxo, which does it for free.
What would make it perfect: It kind of already is!
All in All: 10 out of 10 stars. There is no better way than TripIt to keep your travel plans organized.
An honorable mention goes to my most recent discovery, Traxo. While the user interface and design are somewhat elementary, the site offers a great service– a single place to view all your travel accounts and mileage from various airlines. There is also no need to forward itineraries, as they gather them directly from your travel accounts. Once they launch a mobile app, they could give Tripit some competition.
I still have not found a ‘favorite' hotel site, though I do love Jetsetter and Tablet for great deals on luxury hotels. If you have a favorite, please share!
What travel sites do you love? Please leave suggestions in the comment area below!