It is nearly impossible to plan a trip anywhere without using the web. And really, these days, why would you want to? The web is a bounty of sites with hotel discounts, real traveler reviews, airline sales, budget-friendly sources, family travel tips, and most importantly, great ideas for where to go and what to see. And in the age of instant gratification, travelers can receive major deals through flash-sale sites or a real-time tweet. Needless to say, long-haul trips have never been easier to plan. So, we picked the best sites available now to help plan your next far-flung vacation.
While Kayak.com, HipMunk.com, and Priceline.com all work as a great tool for finding lower-priced hotel deals, HotelsCombined.com is the world's leading hotel search engine with more than two-million hotel deals and 20,000 affiliate partners. Chances are likely that you haven't yet heard of this site, based out of Australia, but you'll be ahead of the curve in discovering it, and becoming addicted to it. No other website has the same kind of reach for hotel deals; it scours through hundreds of the web's global hotel sites in real time to offer the best available rates available.
One of the most popular websites for travel planning, TripIt.com consolidates all your traveling plans into one site. You can forward hotel, airline, and restaurant reservations to your itinerary and it organizes all your details in one comprehensive page for you to review as a solid itinerary, additionally adding important details like maps, weather on travel dates, and more. It also syncs your itinerary to your calendar, so you can easily share it with friends, family, and coworkers. TripIt.com is free and comes in handy when taking a long trip.
Insider's Tip: TripIt.com now has apps available for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android.
What's important when booking a hotel? Picking one in a good location, making sure it's clean and well-liked by past travelers, feeling like you're getting a good deal, and that it will be a launching pad for adventures of all kinds. TabletHotels.com has an answer for all of those: big gorgeous images for inspiration; helpful user and editor reviews; exclusive perks; transparent and easy-to-find details; and maps and city guides that will make travelers feel like they've got their finger on the pulse of any new destination. Which comes in handy when planning your far-flung vacation has got you flustered.
Insider's Tip: Tablet also hosts private flash sales, giving you even deeper discounts than when you just book on the site. If you need to get away, but aren't sure where to go, that's a great place to start.
Popular for college students and travelers on a budget, BudgetPlaces.com's recent launch in the US is already generating buzz for those of us who travel on the cheap. The site consolidates more than 9,000 of the world's budget hotels, hostels, apartments, and bed & breakfasts onto one site, offering special deals and guest reviews. In fact, travelers can stay at several top cities (including London during the Olympics!) for less than $35 per night.
Owned by TravelZoo.com, Fly.com is a meta-search engine tool to help travelers find the best airfare, scouring tons of international carriers, airlines, and online travel websites for the cheapest deals and best routes. It offers fare calendars that highlight sales for travelers who are flexible with their dates. Even with all this, there is no sign-in or subscription necessary; the site is absolutely free!
Insider's Tip: Find incredible deals with their real-time Twitter fare alerts.
Another flight search engine, Momondo.com is based out of Copenhagen, so it has a good handle on budget and regional airlines in Europe and Asia you can't seem to find elsewhere. The cutting-edge technology used combs through not only other search engines and airlines but also travel agencies. It's easy-to-use functions and clever design make it popular for travelers, and it has recently been winning its way into the United States. Travelers can also book rail travel with the site, should you feel like a European adventure on the tracks this summer.
Insider's Tip: Momondo offers quirky, color-coded city guides where a specific color represents a theme (adventure, romance, etc).
Considered the "Group-On" for travel, TripAlertz encourages members to travel with buddies on getaway packages offered. The site sells excess inventory of 3- to 4-plus star hotels and resorts, with value-added perks to entice the deals, depending on the destination, whether it's complimentary breakfast, cocktails, or transportation.
Insider's Tip: For every friend you refer that joins (they don't even have to book), you earn $5.
Jimmy Im is a freelance travel writer based in NYC. He's appeared as a travel expert on shows on the Travel Channel and LOGO and teaches travel writing courses. He's also cofounder of OutEscapes.com.