There’s no doubt that part of the fun of a vacation is planning it, and in the Internet age, vacation planning means having access to comparison sites, traveler reviews, and helpful hints that can make your next trip the best you’ve ever had.
While you can surf the web-based versions of a lot of money-saving travel apps, having quick access to everything you need on your phone or tablet while you tour can be an amazing advantage. And best of all, many apps that can help you save money on your trip are 100% free.
Best Free Money-Saving Travel Apps
I’ve used the KAYAK website in the past and, honestly, I didn’t think it was all that special. After all, it compares prices for airfare and hotels just like many other sites.
However, when it comes to booking hotels, the KAYAK app is definitely the star of the show. It shows room prices through multiple booking sites (including KAYAK) and gives a snapshot of user reviews all from a single intuitive interface. Like other booking engines, it has features including a map view and a range of filters by which to sort results.
While I don’t recommend booking a hotel based on price alone, it definitely can give you a good idea of the lodging options in your price range. KAYAK also helps you find car rentals, alternative travel dates, and flight and airport information.
Triposo is an app that acts as a virtual guide for your vacation. Input where you’re going, your interests, and your overall budget, and the app helps you create an itinerary that also takes weather and attractions into consideration.
I especially loved using this app to find local entertainment. While staying in Kaanapali, I opened Triposo, selected “Nightlife,” and set the budget to less than $100. In no time, it used my location to find an awesome show nearby. In addition to shows, the app can find cultural outings, such as museums and art galleries, children’s entertainment options, and restaurants based on your preferences.
You can’t beat real reviews from real people when booking a vacation, and the TripAdvisor app is great for seeing what other travelers have said about activities, restaurants, services, and hotels virtually everywhere.
For example, while booking a room at a resort in Maui, I noticed that some rooms were deeply discounted. However, when I checked the reviews on TripAdvisor, I found a comment from a traveler who had been there just a week prior explaining that the discounted rooms were being remodeled, creating noise and inconvenience. That was not the luxury experience I wanted, so I skipped the discount and upgraded to a better room.
One important rule of thumb for using TripAdvisor: Look for average reviews – those that are too negative or too positive are often hard to trust.
While you can expect to pay a bit more for food while on vacation, check the Urbanspoon app before dining to save a few bucks. It organizes all of the restaurants in your location, provides menus, reviews, and a general price range for each.
It’s also helpful in planning meals. For example, if you want to splurge on an expensive restaurant, but reign it in the next morning for breakfast, Urbanspoon can help you find a luxury dining experience and a cheap bagel or donut shop to fuel up at in the morning.
At home, you probably know where to go to save money on gas, but when traveling, it can be difficult. The last thing you want to do after locating the best-priced car rental is blow your budget keeping it filled with gas.
There are plenty of apps to help you find the best gas prices, but I find GasBuddy to be the best to locate the cheapest fuel. You can even input your location prior to your trip and plan ahead by budgeting gas funds based on local prices.
Speaking of rental cars, I would have been lost – literally – without my Waze app. I don’t love the Google Maps GPS that comes stock on my phone. Luckily, Waze is like Google Maps on steroids. Not only does it allow you to navigate around unfamiliar territory, but it offers turn-by-turn assistance. This can save you a ton of gas money, as it prevents you from driving around aimlessly while lost. Waze also connects you to other users, who can notify you of time-wasters ahead, such as construction, accidents, and even police speed traps.
Just be careful when using the app – because Waze requires the use of location services, it can zap your battery pretty quickly. Use it only when you have a charger handy.
7. Wi-Fi Finder
If you’re traveling within the United States, you should be able to access data on your cell phone without extra charges. However, if you’re outside of the States or your cell phone provider charges hefty roaming fees, switch off your data service and use Wi-Fi instead. The Wi-Fi Finder app is genius for locating places that offer both free and for-fee Wi-Fi, along with comprehensive maps. Even if you’re not being charged extra to use your data plan, it’s nice to know when you can switch off your phone and use your tablet or computer instead.
After planning an entire vacation using my tablet and smartphone alone, I’m converted. Not only do travel apps make the planning stages super easy, but they allow you to have data, itineraries, reviews, and maps in real-time at your disposal while on vacation, reducing stress and unnecessary expenditures.
What are your favorite travel-related apps?