9 Best Websites and Apps to Help You Plan Affordable Vacations

My husband and I love traveling, and we can normally afford to do a long weekend trip about every other month, with one or two “big” vacations a year, which are usually either music festivals or traveling abroad.

If we paid full price for these vacations, you could slash in half the amount of trips we could afford to go on.  I don’t believe there is any reason to pay full-price for a vacation, ever.  You can’t always get deals on everything, but you can always save money on something.

Here is a compilation of my favorite apps and websites, which I use to plan our vacations without breaking our budget.

Flights:

SkyScanner – This is my number one favorite app to search for cheap flights!  The search tool is so easy to use.  Most websites require you to enter your travel dates before comparing flight prices, but Skyscanner lets you search for the cheapest flight by month, which is incredibly helpful when you have flexible travel dates!  When entering your dates, select “Whole Month” instead of entering a specific date.  You can choose to plan your vacation for the dates that have the cheapest flights, which is a massive cost saver.  If you don’t have a specific destination in mind and you just want to get away for cheap, you can go to the “explore” page on the app and search “top deals everywhere”.  It is so convenient and I’m totally obsessed with this company.  I highly recommend both the website and the app.

Accomodations:

AirBnb – I am currently a huge advocate of using Airbnb instead of booking a hotel.  I have found that you get a better value for your money with Airbnb, you still get many of the perks of a hotel, and you can often find homes in prime locations for significantly less money than the hotels in the same prime locations.  I just booked an Airbnb in Charlotte, NC yesterday and I found that hotels Uptown for my travel dates started at $135/night for a 4-star, but I found some gorgeous apartments that started at only $85/night.  That is a huge cost savings.  We ended up booking a place for around $100/night that is really adorable and in the perfect location for us, right in the middle of Uptown, within walking distance of most of our events, which will save us money on Uber or Lyft rides.  Another cool thing about Airbnb is the selection.  Even “cool” hotels are still basically the same, they are all so similar.  Some people have absolutely incredible, intricate, gorgeous homes.  If you’re interested in staying in unique and gorgeous homes, I think Airbnb is a winner all around.  You can browse their most popular homes here. So much gorg.

Booking  – I like using Booking because I find that they have one of the best search tools, and some of the lowest prices.  They supply travel guides online for your destination, which can be a very helpful planning tool if you’re unsure of where to stay or what to do once you get there.  If you sign up and book 5 trips with them you gain access to special deals, which are just highly discounted hotels for active members.  When I book a hotel, I almost always use booking.  It’s super convenient and they have one of the best-functioning websites that I’ve seen.

Food & Beverage:

Groupon – Yeah, you knew it was coming.  Groupon is obviously a huge asset for vacation planning.  I would always scan Groupon for deals on food and drink in your destination before selecting a place to eat and imbibe.  They often hold deals where you can get $40 of food for $25 if you just buy the groupon (which is just like a coupon) ahead of time.  Huge cost saver.  Sometimes Groupon also has good hotel and/or entertainment deals, so keep an eye out for those as well.  My only frustration with Groupon is that I find the search tools to be fairly innefective, however, I still manage to find good deals often, even with that inconvenience.

Restaurant.com – It’s a simple website and doesn’t have the most curb-appeal but it’s highly effective.  Simply enter the city’s name or zip code into the search bar, and Restaurant.com will show immense savings.  Though amounts differ you can find offers such as “$10.00 certificate for $4.00” or “$50.00 certificate for $20.00”.  That’s pretty wildly awesome.

Entertainment:

EventBrite – Although this is not a discount website, it is an effective tool to use to find more events in your vacation area, so that can effectively value-compare and choose the best entertainment for you at the best price.  They have a lot of inexpensive event options that I would never have found otherwise, and I always check in with them when creating my itinerary for our trips.

LiveNation – This is my go-to spot to find concerts, always.  It’s easy to use, it seems to have all of the best concerts listed and I can normally find cheap seats to even big name concerts for as low as $25/ticket if you’re okay with being in the nosebleeds.  You can also upgrate to $30 or $50 tickets, which I think is a great value.  You can search by event date, event area, or specific bands and artists.

Pre-made Travel Deals:

CheapCarribean – If you’re looking for an easy, inexpensive vacation to a warm destination, this is THE place to look.  I recommend checking the “deals” page everytime.  They have a large selection of resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other smaller islands.  They offer many air-inclusive deals at all-incluive resorts and I’ve seen deals that pan out to $100/day including air and all food and beverages.  That can’t be beat.  If you decide to book a vacation with them, sign up for their newsletter before you do it.  They will send you a $100 voucher to use within 5 days.  Don’t sign up for it before you’re ready to book because it will probably expire.  You’re super welcome!

CheapTickets – My husband and I booked our honeymoon with Cheap Tickets.  It was our first time using it and I was definitely a little nervous, but it was an absolutely amazing experience, extremely convenient and we saved a ton of money by bundling our airfare with our resort.  We did 12 days in Koh Samui, Thailand for under $3500 including airfare.  The resort was amazing (shout out to Mimosa Resort & Spa, who catered to all of our needs every single day, they have the best staff I’ve ever seen and a gorgeous resort, from the rooms to the beach).  Anyways, I would begin your search by checking out the “Deals” and “Vacation Packages” pages.  They have a lot of short-term sales which are a great cost-saver, and they also offer vacation insurance with the packages, which I highly recommend purchasing, always.

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