[TRAVEL] Are You Hands-Free or Hands-Dirty?
When planning a vacation, there are two kinds of people. One is the “hands-free” kind who lets someone else do the heavy lifting of destination research, locating specific accommodations, arranging on-site travel and entertainment, etc. Travel agents live for hands-free people. The other kind is you, dear reader, the “hands dirty” kind. Read on for some of the best do-it-yourself travel planning tools...
Vacation Planning Tools
If you like to be in control of all the decisions from where to go, to what restaurant for dinner on the third night, this is for you. You want to see lots of hotel options, not just one “best match” to your criteria. You even enjoy the challenge of hunting down each piece of the puzzle, even though some pieces must be discarded in the finished assembly. Fortunately, there are online apps designed for you.
Deciding where to go is usually the best starting point. With a destination in sight, the next step is how to get there. The mode of travel is often heavily influenced by how much you have to spend. On a big budget, one person can fly first class. A family on a smaller budget might have to put the youngsters to work on a tramp steamer. In between are options to fit every pocketbook.
The “Fly or Drive” app at the penny-pinching site BeFrugal can help you compare the estimated costs of flying and driving to a given destination. It starts with your location, destination, and travel dates, then asks for the number of people in your party and limits on hotel costs. Give it the hypothetical car’s make, year, and model, and estimate how many hours per day you want to spend behind the wheel.
When I was a kid, my parents took me and my two siblings on a month-long driving vacation from New York to California and back again. We stopped at lots of interesting places along the way, but the guiding factors were no more than 400 miles or eight hours a day in the car. Oh, and of course, there had to be an AAA-rated motel for less than $35 a night at the stopping point. Gas was cheap, but sometimes things got a little testy in the back seat of that 1970 Plymouth Fury III.
For the flying scenario, estimate how many minutes you think you will spend on the ground at the airport (tough, I know), whether a friend will pick you up and drop you off or whether you’ll take a cab, shuttle, etc. Airport transportation costs will be updated as you change each option. An estimated plane ticket price per passenger can be reduced by 8% if you become a BeFrugal member. Checked bags fees and daily car rental fees can also be calculated.
The output details estimated travel times and costs, overnight stays and their costs, and even the total amount of CO2 emissions for each mode of transportation. So much for the fun of vacation planning!
Finding Flight Deals
Airfare bargains get better the further in advance of travel dates you commit to an itinerary. The exception to this general rule is unanticipated empty seats that an airline would rather sell at a steep discount than fly for nothing. Usually, only single travelers have the flexibility to jump on such last-minute deals.
Google Flights’ "Explore Destinations" option is a novel way to compare flight costs and itineraries of multiple destinations at once.
You can leave the “when” and “where” criteria loose, i. e., “1-week trip in the next 6 months” and narrow it down as you refine your plan. One panel shows advisories of special offers to selected destinations. You can specify the type of trip, such as “honeymoon,” “ecotourism,” or “beaches” to tailor your search.
Booking.com’s Destination Finder is a nice, simple way to compare hotel prices at a destination. Select a price range, dates, numbers of adults and chilren, enter the city and you may get over 100 results. Then you can filter by “top picks for solo travelers,” prices from low to highest, review scores and prices, rating stars, and “distance from downtown.”
There are hundreds of hotel and airfare booking sites; perennial favorites include Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Priceline.com, along with Google Flights. Some meta-sites specialize in demystifying the complexity. Kayak.com cross-references many of them to find you the best value based on your travel plans.
Are you planning a vacation this holiday season? What online tools do you plan to use? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 19 Nov 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [TRAVEL] Are You Hands-Free or Hands-Dirty? (Posted: 19 Nov 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved