Traveling can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be – sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to look and which app to use. Here are some of my fave apps that both me and my wallet have come to love and rely on over the years. From wanderlust worthy savings to just plain whacky, these apps are here to save you when planning your next getaway.
Rethink How You Stay
Do you have an extra-long layover? Rather than nestling in a not-so-cozy airport corner, check out Dayuse. Check into a room from morning until night and spend the day at the spa, get some work done, or plop down in that bed that is way comfier than those rigid metallic airport chairs. You can save up to 75 percent of what a hotel might charge for the night and don’t need a credit card to book. Available on iOS and Android.
What I like about this app is that it’s kind of like a fusion of your favorite designer store and your favorite bargain outlet chain. You can find regularly — yet competitively — priced hotels, cars, and flights, as well what Hotwire calls “Hot Rate” hotels. With this feature, you can expect a massive discount from what hotel rates are on other travel sites. The only catch is that you won’t know the actual name of the hotel until after you book. But not to worry, you’re able to select the neighborhood of the area you’re visiting, confirm the number of stars the hotel has, and view examples of the hotel that you might be assigned. Worth a shot if you’re up for both an adventure and a bargain. Available on iOS and Android.
Don’t be scared off by the name! Yes, you do have the option to book a bunkbed in a room with 11 roommates if you’re really on a budget. No, you don’t have to worry about the kind of frightening encounters in the movie, Hostel. Hostelworld has expanded to include lots of shared living accommodations including private rooms and lodging at budget hotels with tons of peer reviews. Available on iOS and Android.
Find the Right Price for Your Flight
For the more adventurous traveler who doesn’t mind what others might think of as an “inconvenient” layover, Skiplagged is for you. This app will search for unlikely airport combinations in the most obscure of destinations and find layovers that I like to call creative. I find it most handy for when I’m planning those excursions very far from home. If I’m going to be heading to Thailand, I could always use some inspiration for a place to stopover for a day or two on the way! Available on iOS and Android.
Like Skiplagged, Hopper also offers out of the box ways to get to your destination of choice at a huge cost savings. They have lots of options for flexible date searches and low price alerts for your destination of choice. With a little planning, these apps will keep more dollars in your pocket so you don’t have to be on as tight of a budget while away on vacay. Available on iOS and Android.
The name says it all, actually. I thought that I was the master of cost savings in the air and on the road until I came across this app. Basically, Airmule will give you $150 to sell your luggage space—yes, you heard that correctly. All shipments are verified for international and domestic regulations, the site is 100 percent legal, and also reviewed by Condé Nast. A great way to make some extra cash if you’re willing to travel light. So if only I can figure out a way to cut down from eight pairs of shoes to two on that next weekend trip. While the app was recently discontinued, the mobile web version works just as seamlessly.
You’ll definitely want to become acquainted with this app if you’re planning any trips outside of the US. Skyscanner is much more adept at searching low-cost and budget airlines outside of U.S. markets. It will point you to lesser known, though highly reliable, local airlines that will get you safely to your destination even though they don’t have the name recognition of the larger carriers. Available on iOS and Android.
On to the Fun Stuff! Dining, Touring, and Trekking
Sometimes we get so caught up in planning where to go and how to get there, that we forget to plan what we actually want to do once we arrive. Waiting until you get to your destination to sign up for an outing with the hotel concierge can result in an unpredictable and expensive experience. Travelzoo will help you find great deals not only on hotels and flights, but also on shows, all-inclusive resorts, nature outings, and cultural immersion programs. Available on iOS and Android.
In those seemingly prehistoric pre-iPhone days, I relied heavily on Lonely Planet guidebooks—mostly for where to stay and where I could find the tastiest yet cheapest restaurants. While I have come to prefer the convenience and compact size of my iPhone over an 800 page clunky guidebook, I was glad to see that Lonely Planet now has digital versions of their guidebooks for many locations! You can download lots of the maps and guides free, which comes in handy at times when you can’t find cell service or wifi. And regardless, the Lonely Planet suggestions for the best eats usually can’t stand up to a google search. (Think: vegan soul food in Madrid, for example). Available on iOS and Android.
Not sure how to get from the bus station to downtown when in Bogota? Or are you wondering whether it’s cheaper or quicker to fly between cities in Italy compared to taking the bus? Rome2Rio provides step-by-step instructions of bus, train, plane, boat, and driving routes along with estimated travel times. Think of it as GoogleMaps on steroids. You can save a lot of money when compared to arranging private transportation and save the hassle of having to sort through a foreign country’s public transit website, which often won’t even have an English language version available. Available on iOS and Android.
This site connects you with the best of the best tour operators in all corners of the globe. You may save a few dollars if you wait to book a tour on your trip and barter with some local tour guide companies, but with Viator you know that you will be getting a premium tour at a fair price. I’ve usually noticed that Viator’s prices are lower than those at the concierge desk, and Viator’s variety of verified tours will let you choose an experience tailored to your exact desires. When I was searching for a wine tour in Bordeaux, Viator came to my rescue, offering the only wine tour below $100 at only $35 per person. From helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon, to these off the beaten path vineyard explorations, Viator has got you covered. Available on iOS and Android.