Our 5 Favorite Money Saving Travel Tools
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We love to travel. In fact, we love planning our trips almost as much as traveling itself. We spend months scouring the best travel apps, reading reviews and searching for the perfect places to fly, see, and stay. Honestly, we probably change our plans six or seven times before we actually book them.
When you travel as much as we do, you always have to be conscious of your budget. We save over $10,000 a year on travel costs using rewards cards. So, obviously, making the most of our points and miles is a huuuge key to our strategy.
But, it isn’t just about saving money. Even more than pinching pennies, we really strive to get the most value we can from our points. It’s important to us that we get the most bang for our proverbial point buck.
Of course, all of this doesn’t just happen. It takes time and research to make sure you’re visiting the most important sites and getting the best deals available. So, even though we’re a bit old school when it comes to technology, we do rely on some of the best travel apps to help us find the best use of our travel points and dollars. Here’s a list of some of our favorite travel tools, most of them we use on a daily basis.
5 Best Travel Apps for Saving Money
1) Best Travel App for Reviews – TripAdvisor
If you’ve traveled at all, you’ve almost certainly used TripAdvisor. Personally, we’re addicted.
Reading reviews is one of our favorite ways to relax. Seriously, if you don’t find us working on the blog or spending time with the kids, we’re probably on TripAdvisor. I’d estimate we spend three to four hours every week reading user reviews of hotels, condos, and different tours. Not only does it generate great ideas for what to do and where to stay, it also gives us a really good idea of what to expect. Plus, some of the ridiculous stuff people say is super entertaining.
For us, the best and easiest way to use TripAdvisor is to get their free mobile app. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices. Personally, we use it for the user reviews and photos, but you can also use it to compare prices of hotels, airlines, tours, and more. Get your free TripAdvisor Mobile App here.
2) Best App for Comparing Airfare – ITA Matrix
Leave it to Google to create one of the best travel apps around. The ITA Matrix is our favorite way to compare flights from multiple airlines. Simply select your dates, type in your departure and destination information, and the ITA Matrix will search all of the major carriers for available flights. It then lists all those flights for you, complete with pricing and layover info.
Typically, we use the ITA Matrix on our laptops, however there is a mobile app available that does the same thing. While this is our favorite app to compare airline pricing, please note that you can’t make any purchases from the app. It’s for informational purposes only, so you’ll have to navigate to the airline’s website to buy. Also, be sure to check for airline specific deals and seating assignments when you book.
3) Best App for Booking Hotels – Expedia
Expedia is probably our all-around favorite travel tool to use. It’s super versatile, allowing you to search and compare almost everything you need for your travels. You can find everything from hotel rooms to rental cars, and you can book them directly from the site. We usually use it when searching for hotel and rental car rates.
Even though we try to keep our cell phones clutter free, Expedia is one travel app we can’t live without. No matter where we are, we can open the app and search for the lowest prices. You can also find sales that are exclusive only to the mobile app, so you’ll save even more there. Plus, the app is free and they even give you an incentive for signing up. Get $25 off your first hotel $100 hotel booking through the app by clicking here, then click the mobile link. From there, simply send a message to your smartphone and download the app. Even if you only use the app once (which would just be silly!!!), you still get the cash.
4) Best Travel App for Condos – VRBO
Although we usually use credit card rewards to get free hotel stays, sometimes a hotel isn’t enough. When we travel with family, we often prefer staying in condos! Staying in a vacation rental saves us money because we have access to a kitchen (less eating out). Plus, it usually means we’re able to stay right in the heart of the action. Before we travel with the kids or friends, we’re always sure to check VRBO for condos in the area.
We’ve used VRBO (and occassionally AirBnB) to rent condos in Playa del Carmen, St. Thomas, Gulf Shores, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and more. (Check out the condo we rented And with the user reviews available right on the site, we’ve never had an issue with any of them. In fact, the owners are typically excited to have you stay there. VRBO has a mobile app available for both the iOS and Android devices which you can find here. Again, just scroll down the page and type in your cell phone number to have the app sent to your smartphone..
5) Best Airline App – Southwest
We’re not travelers who care to fly first class. We’d much rather save the money and get from point A to point B as quickly and cheaply as possible. Since there’s a hub in our home town, that means we fly Southwest a lot. For us, the Southwest App is easily one of the best travel apps for us to keep on our phones. Plus, we use the desktop site several times a week.
From the Southwest Mobile App, we’re able to search for flights, check our flight status, and access our Southwest Rapid Rewards® accounts. We’re also able to check-in for our flights, which is really important for snagging good seats since Southwest has general seating. Finally, we can book or change our flights, which is very convenient if we find a better fare. If you fly domestic or to the Caribbean, the Southwest app is definitely one you should have.
Using the Best Travel Apps
Traveling is a ton of fun, but it can be stressful if you don’t plan ahead. Using the best travel apps helps you find the perfect locations to stay and visit, plus they might save you money doing it.
Of course, if pricing is your only concern, you still need to check around. Even the best apps don’t get it right all the time. Compare prices at several different websites before you make a final decision to book. If you do, you’re sure to discover wonderful places at great prices.
What are your favorite travel tools to use? Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments below.
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Nice, Greg. I haven’t tried ITA Matrix. I’ll have to test that out soon! My favorite travel app is TripIt. I love being able update my travel info just by forwarding confirmation emails. I had the Pro version for a while and it was super handy being able track flight delays.
I actually don’t use TripIt, but I’m pretty sure Holly has. I may have to check it out for myself!
I’ve used ITA Matrix before. A great app for finding flights. That went I’m not using reward with Southwest. 🙂
Yeah, it is a great little tool. If you are looking at more than one airline, ITA Matrix is the way to go.
I’ve never used the ITA Matrix before because we generally just use Southwest at this point with a Companion Pass!! 🙂 But in the next year we plan to start flying more frequently so I will need to check that out.
Isn’t the Companion Pass the greatest thing ever? Love that thing!
How does one go about getting a companion pass ?? I found your site & I absolutely love all the info, but am fairly new at using all these tips. Don’t know why, I am 61, but husband & I just retired so planning more time for travel.
Thanks for any help !! ?
To earn the Companion Pass, you need to either earn 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar year or fly 100 one-way flights. For most people, the 100 flights won’t work, so earning the points is usually the way to go.
I love that you mentioned TripAdvisor first. Sadly we don’t do much travelling but whenever we go out to dinner even in our local area I always find myself nosing around TripAdvisor for reviews (I also love it when there are customer pictures, you can spy on how good the food looks too!). TripAdvisor is perfect for the extreme planner who wants to know exactly what they’re getting, which is me to a T (and also sounds like you guys).
Yep, we are definitely planners…although we’ve been leaving some room for spontaneity lately. We pretty much only look at the user photos. That way you get a really good idea of what stuff actually looks like before it is filtered and airbrushed by professional photographers.
I agree that Tripadvisor and Expedia are very helpful! I’ve never used ITA Matrix before, though I’d like to check it out. We haven’t flown as a family of four, but that ends this Friday. Our little one is so excited to fly on a “jet plane.”
I’ll never forget the first time our kids got on a plane! They were so pumped, and they still love it. Have a great trip!
I’m so guilty of going right to Southwest’s website when it comes to booking hotels. I will definitely check out IA Matrix. Usually, I spend time on Google Flights if we’re not flying Southwest (which is basically never). Thanks for the round up!
You bet. We love these tools, and highly recommend all of them!
I love Southwest!! I have yet to have a bad experience.
Yep. We fly Southwest all the time and have never had a bad experience. Of course, we just missed the huge outage a few weeks ago, so that helps keep me positive 🙂
We regularly use all of these, well with the exception of ITA Matrix as we love SW so much, to save money on travel. TripAdvisor is usually our first stop when researching travel – it’s good both for info and a laugh!
Right?!? How can you go wrong when something is funny AND informative?
I’ve never used ITA Matrix before, I’ll need to check it out. My favorite is definitely TripAdvisor – I don’t think I’ve ever booked a hotel without checking the reviews on TripAdvisor first!
Totally. We were just on it looking at hotels last night 🙂
We use TripAdvisor when planning our trips and love Southwest too. When we traveled to the Florida Keys this summer, one of the boat drivers for our parasailing adventure made the comment to us that TripAdvisor can “make or break” a business down there!
I’ve never heard of ITA Matrix, but will be sure to check it out before booking our next trip. Thanks!
Yeah, TripAdvisor is a really big deal for companies in the tourism industry. I’ve had many ask us specifically to leave a good review for them on TripAdvisor if we were satisfied.
Are the prices on the AirBNB site in American dollars?
Hey Chris! AirBnB automatically adjusts the currency to the default currency of the country you live in. So, if you live in the US but are renting a place in Paris, your price would be converted from Euros and show on your screen as USD. Hope that helps.
Love the list Greg! I’ve used trip advisor, vrbo, and the southwest app so I’ll vouch for those too. All great and easy to use. I usually fly Delta since I’m near a hub and their app is also very well designed. I actually recently used vrbo to book a place for a group of us going skiing in December. And even better I’ll be paying for my portion with rewards points!
Nice work! Using a cashback card or a travel credit?
Trip Advisor is awesome! I’m like you, I read the comments because I find them highly entertaining. Now I just need to travel more so I can check out some of these other apps!
It’s a great resource for reviews and traveler photos…and a little levity 🙂
I think the only thing missing is a points tracking tool. I personally like AwardWallet. Although points could easily be tracked in a spreadsheet so you may not need an app.
How providential that you wrote this article this week, Greg. My wife and I are finishing up plans for a trip to Vegas in October. I thought I had probably found the best deals available, but now I am going to cross-reference ITA matrix to be sure. Thanks for the tip!
If you travel outside the country, download an app called Simply Declare for tracking your purchases for Custom purposes, in real time currency. http://Www.Simplydeclare.Com is made for the thrifty traveller
I have never heard about ITA Matrix before – I checked it out and it is really cool. I have saved it for my future use. Thank you for sharing.