Best Discount Travel Sites
Looking for low airfare without having to scour the web? In recent years, discount travel sites have spread like wildfire, offering travelers the best deals and rewards not only on airfare, hotels and apartment rentals, but also on travel packages loaded with add-ons and perks.
The wide offerings explain why sites such as Jetsetter.com have become more like lifestyle portals — with a serious cult following. For instance, many travelers only book with Jetsetter, including a couple I met at Banyan Tree Mayakoba. They scored not only a price almost 50% off the published rate, but also a complimentary upgrade, dinner at the signature Tamarind restaurant and 1 spa treatment each. New sites continue to offer incredible deals for all types of travelers.
Check out our picks for discount travel sites with the best bargains.
Since it launched in 2009, Jetsetter has led the pack of discount "flash sales" on high-end properties, in this case hand-selected by the Jetsetter team. The travel-lifestyle website now has 2.2 million members (and counting), and 20 to 40 sales per week at prices up to 50% off. What makes Jetsetter successful (and fun to visit) is the variety of new features that keep it from being just a flash-sale site. It offers themed-sale formats, such as Mystery Mondays (even deeper discounts for members willing to book before learning the name of the hotel) and Jetsetter Journeys (where the Jetsetter team customizes your trip).
Looking to leave sooner rather than later? Airfarewatchdog.com has the upper hand on last-minute flight deals, pulling them from carrier sites fast. It's like having a personal assistant do all your grunt work. The site’s fare listings and alerts — including airline promo codes and unadvertised fares — are found and verified by humans (in this case, former airline and travel agency employees), not technology alone. The site even lists Southwest Airlines, which is notorious for not showing up on search engines. Best of all, fares come straight to your inbox (or real-time tweets).
Denmark-based Momondo.com finds and compares airfare prices from more than 700 websites (including airlines and travel agencies). It also finds small airline carriers few other sites can. A huge hit in Europe, Momondo is now generating buzz stateside with its growing routes, no-frills functionality and sexy design. It also offers color-coded city guides where a specific color represents a theme (adventure, romance, etc.), rail transportation within the flight search results and soon-to-launch fare predictions.
Known as the "Groupon for travel," TripAlertz offers discounts on getaway travel to destinations like Las Vegas, Aruba and Buenos Aires. The site sells excess inventory of 3- to 4-plus star hotels and resorts, adding tons of perks depending on the destination, like complimentary breakfast, guided tours and free Wi-Fi. TripAlertz also encourages users to travel with companions, offering $5 for every friend who joins.
There's no other way to truly feel like a local than staying in a local's "space," whether it's an apartment, a house or even a countryside castle. Since it launched in 2008, Airbnb has booked more than 50 million nights worldwide and become a popular portal for city sublets. Guests can directly contact the host, view photos of their space, negotiate payment and even make the transaction through the site. Peace of mind comes with a host guarantee that offers protection of up to $50,000. There’s a cool tool that helps you calculate how much money you can make by listing. You can also connect with other users based on shared interests.
The "eBay of travel" offers auctions on luxury hotels, with extras included. (You can also "buy now" at a considerable discount.) A recent search on Orbitz.com found a 3-night stay at Mandarin Oriental was $1,497 plus taxes for a deluxe room. With Luxury Link, it was $1,388 for a dynasty suite with wrap-around balcony, breakfast for 2, and complimentary wireless and taxes for 3 nights.