As a budget travel addict, I frequently check dozens of websites. Here are a few of the most useful, that I find myself returning to again and again:
Our travel itineraries are intense. We often visit smaller towns and sleep in a different place almost every night. We travel exclusively by public transportation and whenever possible I book my train tickets in advance. For example, for our upcoming trip this May, we have already booked two flights, eight hotels and eight sets of train tickets. I rely on TripIt to keep this hot mess organized. It’s easy and free to use TripIt. Take a couple of minutes to set up an account (you can link to a travel companion if you want). Now, every time you buy a plane or train ticket or make a hotel reservation, forward the email confirmation of your hotel or plane/train ticket to firstname.lastname@example.org . TripIt automatically takes your reservation and files it chronologically using your flights as a beginning and end date. You now have a nifty itinerary showing day by day where you are staying and what time you are traveling. Your TripIt account also shows your confirmation numbers and the price you’ll be paying for your reservations. There’s even a weather forecast and a map for each destination!
The Man in Seat Sixty-One is an invaluable resource for train travel in Europe. The site is broken down by destination, and I highly recommend reading the site’s advice before purchasing train tickets. You’ll learn about buying discounted tickets, and receive advice on how to handle problems. Last year I was eagerly waiting to purchase discounted tickets from Paris to Poitiers, and when the train tickets finally went on sale, my credit card wouldn’t go through and my order was completely rejected by the French rail site. I logged into The Man in Seat Sixty-One for help, and within minutes found the site’s advice on what to do when your US credit card is rejected. Seat 61 directed me to an alternate ticketing site, Capitaine Train, which offered the train tickets at the same discounted rate as the original and didn’t reject my credit card–whew!–crisis averted. Seat 61 is maintained by English man, Mark Smith, and has an obsessive nerdiness and frank appreciation for rail travel for it’s own sake that’s quite endearing.
I have five different frequent flyer accounts and HOB has additional five. After discovering, to my horror, that HOB let a large amount of his miles expire (which is almost grounds for divorce), I realized I needed to actively manage all of our accounts to maximize our rewards. A bit of research led me to AwardWallet. AwardWallet is a free service that stores all your travel award accounts (from frequent flyer to hotel reward programs) in one place. The site remembers all your account numbers and passwords and automatically updates your personal page when you accrue points. If any of your point balances change, you get an email. Same thing if you have points close to expiring. Instead of storing the user name, account numbers and passwords to ten accounts, I only need to remember my AwardWallet login information. It’s super convenient (and may have saved my marriage).
Did I mention that these three sites are FREE? That’s right–you can stay organized and informed and indulge your budget travel geekyness all for my favorite price: $0. Let me know, cheapo travelers, what websites do you rely on?