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7 Top Travel Apps and Tools to Score Sales in 2017
Expert-endorsed tips for tapping into the best deals in just a few swipes on your smartphone.
Find the best deals with these resources.(Getty Images)
Whether you're planning a bucket-list trip or a quick weekend getaway, you have myriad ways to trim costs and optimize your vacation. But perhaps the top trick for snagging rock-bottom flights and hotel rooms is staying flexible, says Jeremy Tarr, editorial director at Fodors.com. "That may mean traveling in off-peak times or taking circuitous routes," he explains. Aside from traveling at less in-demand times and searching for alternate flights and lodging options, easy-to-use digital tools can help you tap into the best deals and up-to-the-minute price alerts.
Here's a primer on handy apps and tools to keep in your back pocket to cobble together better – and cheaper – trips in 2017.
Securing cheap tickets and hotel rooms often means browsing the web for several hours to compare pricing on airline and hotel websites alongside third-party online travel agencies and meta-search sites. But rather than putting in the legwork yourself, TravelPirates aims to pinpoint the best flight, hotel and travel package deals for you. "Every day they scour the internet and find amazingly cheap flights to incredible destinations," Tarr explains. Plus, users can track prices to destinations they're interested in with customized alerts and stay attuned to deals by subscribing to TravelPirates' newsletter. The only caveat: "These fares are snatched up quickly," Tarr cautions. "It's very much a shoot first, ask questions later approach to travel," he adds.
If you're a spur-of-the-moment type of jetsetter who tends to reserve rooms on the fly, it's hard to beat HotelTonight. The free app offers "deep discounts on upscale hotel rooms," explains Chris Christensen, the creator of the AmateurTraveler.com. HotelTonight allows you to search for rooms up to a week prior to your stay and enables you to clinch 50 percent off the standard rate. However, the easy-to-use app is best suited for spontaneous travelers rather than planners, Tarr cautions. "You'll need to be of the more adventurous mind and even be willing to arrive at your destinations without having a base camp if you want the best deals," he says. And thanks to brewing competition from other booking sites, many companies are offering deep discounts at high-end properties. "The Hotels.com app, for instance, will help you find deals across a wider variety of hotels," Christensen says. Tarr also points to Roomer, a similar discounted hotel-booking site that enables travelers to snatch up discounts for cancellations on nonrefundable reservations, as an ideal tool for reserving last-minute rooms.
The Flight Deal
When it comes to locking in enticing flash sales, the booking site TheFlightDeal.com is a great tool to add to your arsenal. "The Flight Deal sends a daily email with several options, usually with at least one route out of most major U.S. hubs to some far off place," Tarr says. While deeply discounted airfare promotions are short-lived, it's easy to snag a low-priced flight from your desired departure city. Just make sure to act quickly if you spot a good price to avoid missing out on a bargain, Tarr advises.
You won't have to fret about overpaying for your car rental with top outfitters (think Budget, Avis, Hertz and Enterprise) with AutoSlash.com. "I saved about $500 on a one-way rental from Dubrovnik to Venice last summer," Tarr explains. After you provide your reservation information, the site tracks pricing (for your selected car rental company and other competitors) and searches for car rental coupons to help ensure you snag the lowest rate. "AutoSlash constantly searches for deals on the dates and destinations of your travel, and even after you book, will continue to find better deals," Tarr says. If there's a price drop, you'll receive an email notification and be given the option to switch your reservation.
If you don't want to sign up for fare alerts or newsletters or stay attuned to promotions listed on message boards and social media, consider using ExitFares.com, which finds mistake fares, flash sales and promo codes, and enables you to book directly on the airline's website or a third-party aggregator. While the deal site doesn't have an app yet, "you can still get email updates on your phone," Christensen explains. After punching in your desired departure city, you'll receive one notification daily with relevant deals. Even better, the site lists when the deal was found, so you can determine not only where, but also when the discounted rate was uncovered. The only drawback: Currently, the new site only aggregates deals from 20 cities, so you may need to drive to a nearby hub if your home city isn't listed.
You can think of Hopper as your (free) one-stop shop for monitoring flight prices and booking the lowest fare. "The Hopper app will show you a calendar of when is the cheapest time to fly to a specific destination," Christensen explains. And thanks to the app's new filters, unveiled in September, you can tailor your search to specific dates and receive trip alerts at the best time to purchase tickets based on the itinerary you're most interested. Plus, you'll receive customized recommendations for trips based on your home airport and any trips you're monitoring. You can also eliminate lengthy layovers and basic fare options in your search with the app's enhanced filters. According to Hopper's data, you can slash 40 percent off your ticket price by booking your trip at the right time with the app.
Instead of devoting many hours to researching different flight route options to your desired destination, rely on Kayak's Price Alerts tool. While many travel search engines allow you to track flight pricing and receive alerts for price drops, including Airfarewatchdog.com, Skyscanner and Hopper, Kayak enables you to receive notifications based on your recent travel activity, and it features a fare predictor to help you better select when to book your flights to get the best rate. Aside from offering price alerts, Kayak added its Kayak Explore feature to its app, "which lets you look for things like the cheapest warm place to go in a specific month," Christensen explains.
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