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Best Websites to Book Your Summer Vacation!

  • May 26, 2011
It's about that time of year, you have to use your PTO and the kids are out for the summer or you're feeling some wanderlust after being cooped up for a much too long winter. How do you plan the best summer vacation when you're time starved and broke? Check out these websites for the best tips and you'll be well on your way to fun adventure on a dime!
VRBO or Vacation Rental By Owner is the first website I go to once I decide that I'll be traveling anywhere. It often gives you places that are amazing, provide the comforts of home, and are incredibly affordable, often cheaper than a hotel.

Recently, it's helped me find the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in, a wonderful owner who bought us champagne to celebrate our wedding, a full kitchen and a beautifully landscaped garden with a fountain in Santa Barbara for $75/night (cheaper than Motel 6!). Now, I'm looking into places for a family vacation to Puerto Rico this winter and for our honeymoon in Barcelona next year.
If you are a little time sucked and stressed out like I've been in recent months, it's nice to get little affordable escapes sent to your inbox. Bloomspot has other deals like Living Social, Groupon, etc but, my fave deals that they have are their getaways.

Recent deals include: $129 for a $424 room that includes $25 credits to the wine bar, restaurant, and spa and breakfast in Mendocino, $65 for your own cabin and free bottle of wine in Stanislaus, $469 for a $899 one bedroom suite in NYC's Time Square, $1428 for a $2380 9-day trip to Peru (includes meals, local excursions, ground/sea transportation, lodging, day trips), $899 for a $1460 culinary trip through Vietnam (includes most meals, lodging, ground/sea transportation, 5 excursions), and $800 for a 4-night all-inclusive stay for 2 in Costa Rica.

Yes, that all came in one email AND it's free to join!
SniqueAway is like Bloomspot in that it sends you travel deals right to your inbox but, it only focuses on travel. You get to earn credits if your friends join that go toward your travel (wink wink LOL) and the deals are timed, so no you can't just put it off until tomorrow. They include Trip Advisor reviews with the deals and include all sorts of travel tips for each resort. You're not limited to one type of room, the deals are tailor made depending on what you need and there are deals off of every room type.

Recent deals include: $175 to $389 for suites that usually total $275-$595 at Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona, all-inclusive rooms in Jamaica starting at $335 for a $660 valued Ocean View King room, $115-$305 for an Ocean View Junior Suite (reg. $190-$486) in Cabo San Lucas, $69-$165 (reg. $109-$259) King room and free downtown transportation in Dallas, TX, and $89-$165 deluxe room (reg. $139-$259) in a glacier-carved valley in Arkansas.
Living Social
Living Social is one of those one-stop shops for local deals and they've added a getaway section to their site, lucky us! It's also free to join and they send deals to your in box.

Highlighted recent deals (there's quite a bit so it's best to just give you an idea, go to their site for more!): $115 for $224 room in Pacific Grove with champagne, full breakfast, wine and apps on the patio included; $319 for a weekend stay for two (reg. $548) in a Studio Suite with $50 food and drink credit, free breakfast and free access to clubs at the Palms in Vegas; $400 (reg $1023) for a five night stay for 2 in a Partial Ocean view room with free parking, breakfast and Internet in Hawaii; $325 for weekend stay in Palm Springs (reg. $740) with free breakfast, wine and apps, and a tour; $240 (Canadian dollars) for a $432 (Canadian dollars) escape to Whistler- two nights in a suite with $50 dining credit and free WiFi.
Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel
This site/magazine gives you great ideas for affordable getaways. They have relevant searches, such as their 9 Memorial Day Weekend getaways, real deals for anywhere you'd want to go, hotel reviews and lists, great How To's (like How To Score 2012 Olympic tickets!), and Trip Ideas and inspirations.

Budget Travel is a great place to record all your travels and gives you a way to do just that with Travel Journals, photos, videos, and your own travel homepage to share all your stories with your friends and fellow travelers.
Virtual Tourist is a great place to go to check out what you may be getting yourself into for any destination you might want to visit. When I typed in Puerto Rico for an upcoming trip I'm planning to meet my new family (I know, lucky me!), I got a user comment for "Pro", a user comment for "Con" and an "In A Nutshell" explanation which were a couple of descriptive lines.

They have a number count for how many members live there (653!) as well as a breakdown of how many photos, videos, regions of Puerto Rico and tips and reviews. There is a list of 42 popular destinations that members have shared info about, a Q&A section, and an area to help you explore deeper into your destination. Under the title "Explore Puerto Rico", they have different sections with a number of reviews from real people that have been there and done that such as San Juan, Dancing, El Morro, Bacardi Factory, El Yunque Rainforest, etc. And that's just the Overview...

Along the left sidebar there's a list of sections: Things To Do, Hotels, Restaurants, Nightlife, Transportation, Shopping, Local Customs, Warnings and Dangers, Tourist Traps (might be my favorite since I usually try to avoid them!), What to Pack, Off the Beaten Path, Sports & Outdoors, Favorites, Forums and Deals.

This site is just like having a well traveled friend guide you on any destination you're thinking about visiting. After all, isn't being a tourist much more fun when you hang with the locals? This site is your local buddy.
Cheap Carribean
This site is all deals, all Carribean, all the time. You can search the deals, destinations, cruises and hotels. My favorite part of this site is that you can create your own vacation and enter your departure city, arrival city, preferred airline, non-stop flight option, flight times, price per person, meal plans, number of people and number of rooms. Then, voila! They give you search results as well as let you know if there are any savings or discounts with each trip.
Are you like me and have the impression that all hostels are no better than dingy dorm rooms with drunken college kids roaming the halls and, horror or horrors, shared bathrooms? Well, we couldn't be more wrong. Thanks to Hostelworld.com, you can find accommodations that fit your taste at a tenth of the cost of a hotel room.

There are pictures, ratings from fellow hostelers, info, rates, map and directions, facilities, and reviews for each hostel so you get to know exactly what you're getting yourself into before you go. They give you rates by room type and let you know which are private, how many beds and if you get your own bathroom (hooray!).

This is definitely a way to cut down costs while traveling and (bonus!) you get to meet other travelers.
Did you ever see Under the Tuscan Sun and say to yourself, I'd LOVE to do that? Now, you can and without any permanent commitment! If you're going to be away for a while, you should look into doing a home exchange. You switch houses with someone that lives in your desired location for a set amount of time. This is the only site that costs money, so it's best to be a serious world traveler or wanting to stay in a place for quite a while to make the most of it.

Select destination and browse some apartments and houses. Once you find one you like, click on it and the information that is included is: Our Home, Our Neighborhood, Other Information, Our Dates (meaning when they would want to exchange houses), Our Destinations (where they want to exchange), About Us, Languages, and Other Listings. There's a great selection of photos and a breakdown of the place.
ITA Software
Want cheap airfare without multiple pop-ups? Then, ITA is your website. Every time, I have a trip I go there and go to their airline search. For example, with this recent PR trip, on the normal airline sites, I was being quoted anything from $600-$1000 RT from the Bay Area to San Juan. On ITA, it was $508 for American Airlines. On American Airlines site, it was $608- a whole hundred dollars more!
Travel + Leisure
I LOVE this magazine and site! Yeah, I might have to replace my Brides subscription with this one lol Their fun and unique lists are a great aspect of the site- anything from Secret Islands to Best American Cities for Singles to World's Most Romantic Cruises. But, my favorite part is the travel ideas by theme section, where depending on the kind of trip you want (adventure, beach, world's weirdest, affordable, eco-friendly, etc), they have a great collection of lists and links that relate to the type of trip you want.

For example, let's pick affordable since we're all interested in saving some money. As soon as you click it, you get a homepage with such sections as: How to Get a Cruise Deal, Best Affordable Carribean Hotels, Best Affordable Beach Resorts, Best Hotel Loyalty Programs and Best Bargain Shopping in Paris. Then, they have day trips and neighborhood explorations along with budget travel tips on how to get the most bang for your buck (when's the best time to go to Peru, money saving tips in Hawaii, get fare sale alerts, etc) and deals (of course!).
One stop shop for all things vacation with deals on Vacation Packages, Hotels, Air, Car, Cruises, Activities and Deals and Offers. They have last minute deals for those of us that just get that itch to get up and go after a hard week indoors. On the opposite side of the coin, for all you planners out there, they also give you deals with their Book Ahead and Save programs. As an added bonus, now they have a way to receive reward points to use toward travel without any blackout dates.
Hotels.com USA
You get to do a narrow search based on star ratings, rate, hotel name, guest rating, deals, neighborhood, nearby points of interest, accommodation type, amenities, themes and accessibility features. All this search power without any cancellation fees and a price match guarantee. You can also book with a flight and book group hotel rates.
For the true adventure seeker that doesn't need to know where they're going until they put up the money, this site is for you. Once just limited to hotels, now Hotwire covers cars, flights, and cruises. They have great vacation packages and last minute deals, that's the only place on the site that you will see the hotel and airline name. This is not my favorite but, I felt like it should be on this list- I like checking out the hotels before I book and they don't let you search multiple airports when you do your vacation search.
We have quite a bit of people worldwide that either live in other areas or are world travelers that love to travel and share their experiences. There are 25 Travel Communities to check out here with a bunch of great reviews on hotels, restaurants, must-see's, etc. Also, check out our Local Communities to get the local's take on their neighborhood. Then, when you travel to their town, you'll know the cool places to check out If you need any tips for Mexico, Nevada, Peru, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington or Arizona- feel free to hit me up!

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