In planning trips with my friends, I think that this New York Times article sums up a lot of what I have learned from my research. Here are my additional comments on some of the author’s main points:
1. “Don’t be seduced by price alone.”
When I was planning a trip to Paris, I learned that public transportation to the hotels and hostels near Disneyland Paris was unreliable and not always available. My friends and I thus decided to stay at a hotel within walking distance to a metro for 20 dollars more per night–saving us the aggravation and expensive taxi rides we would have incurred otherwise. Also–a positive experience is priceless. If you can afford to go on vacation, you can afford yourself an extra five minutes to see if the Motel 6 is really where you want to spend a third of your time when if you look for vacation rentals on CraigsList, or look for “escapes” on LivingSocial, you could still save yourself the money and the unpleasant experience from trying to solely cut the numbers.
2. What Expedia Does NOT want you to know: That sometimes, it is cheaper to ask the hotel what their seasonal specials are because they might cut out the taxes, resort and valet fees that Expedia does not. Plus, a hotel will throw in a complimentary drink, breakfast or give you spa credit when an Expedia does not. One example: I booked a hotel room through a hotel website in New Orleans. The price on Expedia was five dollars more expensive and the room was not as nice as the one I booked through the hotel.
3. There are other websites besides Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia. There is LivingSocial, Groupon, BloomSpot, Vacation Rentals on CraigsList, and TripAdvisor.com where travelers share their insider information.
4. If you are traveling through Central and Eastern Europe, RyanAir and OrangeWays are the least expensive ways to get around but one should note that it costs 25 euros to change a flight, which can be even more expensive than a round trip flight itself. OrangeWays provides bus connections through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Germany. However, it costs 2 euros to change the dates of a trip but it costs around 10 euros to change the destinations. So if you’re traveling from Budapest to Bratislava for instance which is 14 euros but change your mind and want to go to Prague instead-it is better to simply cancel the ticket, get 20% of your money back, and book a new itinerary. Or to save money in the first place–be sure about where you want to go.
5. Vacation Rentals: The New York Times only has vacation rentals listings in France, Spain, Italy, U.K and Greece. While there are vacation rentals listings in Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Poland, and in Berlin; there tends to be a greater occurrence of scams within these Craig’s List sites as well. The best bets for Berlin are to find a vacation rental for 25 euros a night which I was able to do when I first moved there two years ago. For Krakow–the Secret Garden Hostel is centrally located and one of the cheeriest and least expensive finds in the city. However when it comes to cities in Central or Eastern Europe where you have never been to before, I would highly recommend searching Expedia which has Guests’ Reviews, and the use of Google Maps at the same time to ensure you won’t be staying out in the boonies.
I hope some people find this advice useful. Happy Travels!