In 2010 the global tourism industry was estimated to be around $919 billion dollars and in a pinch. With global fuel prices on the rise, war, and natural disasters their future looked daunting, but they were fooled. Tourism is on the rise and has been, globally, for ten years. In fact, the entire industry has changed. Not so long ago the common route for vacation planning was to contact a travel agent, but they are a dying breed.
The internet has played a huge role in the development of new and old industries, for the travel industry it has created a more even playing field for the little guys and the mega corporations. Now travelers can find amazing last minute deals and bargains with the click of a mouse. Here is a list, with the help of Kiplinger.com, that we found to help you find the best bargain for your next adventure.
Kayak.com scours hundreds of online sources for the cheapest fares available. The more flexible you are on time and destination, the better your chances of finding a great deal. Search for dates up to three days before and after your ideal travel dates, or use the Buzz tool to search for flights that leave within a calendar month, in the six upcoming weekends or just anytime. If you're flexible on destination, Buzz lets you search a region, such as the Caribbean, Europe or Asia. And with the site's Explore tool, you can scan a world map for all the destinations you can reach within a specified price range.
Bing Travel gives you a recommendation to either buy a ticket now or wait for a fare based on its "price predictor." The price predictor forecasts whether fares on major domestic routes will go up or down. Enter your desired itinerary and the site will return a list of flight options, along with a recommendation to buy now or wait.
AirfareWatchdog works best for travelers ready to take off at the drop of a deal. The site has workers lurking on airline Web sites in anticipation of fare sales. They sign up for rewards programs to snag promotional codes and discount offers that can be passed on to AirfareWatchdog users. Bonus: The site includes fares from Southwest, JetBlue and other small airlines that may not appear on bigger search sites, such as Kayak and Bing.
WhichBudget.com will help you build an inexpensive overseas flight plan by using local, budget airlines -- a great way to save on international travel. It's based on a comprehensive list of airlines servicing 170 countries. To start, select your overseas starting point, end point or both, and the site will list airlines you've probably never heard of that service each route. For example, if you search for flights from Bangkok to other Asian destinations, you'll get options from AirAsia, Jetstar and Nok Air. Click on an airline's link and you will be redirected to its home page to book a flight.
Yapta.com will track a flight's price for you after you buy your ticket. If the costs drop below what you paid, most airlines and online travel agencies will refund the difference, usually in the form of travel credits or vouchers. Yapta will alert you to falling fares via e-mail or tweet. And if the change in price dips below the cost of any "re-booking fees" some airlines charge in these situations, the site will explain how to collect your refund. Note: Yapta does not currently track Southwest flights.
Hotels.com lets you search just one site for accommodations at more than 130,000 properties. You can find particularly good last-minute deals, which are updated every Thursday. But even advance-travel planners can score big bargains with the site's seasonal sales, destination-specific deals and "Smart Picks of the Month." Frequent travelers will appreciate the simplicity of the site's "welcome rewards" program -- for every ten nights you spend at any combination of the program's 53,000 member properties, you'll earn a free night's stay worth up to the average daily rate of your ten nights.
With LateRooms.com, you can find great last-minute bargains at international hotels. Once you find your deal and before you enter your credit card information, you may click on a link to book by phone -- a smart move to guarantee an eleventh-hour reservation. The site will give you the hotel's phone number, plus a reference code for the marked-down rate you found online. LateRooms also lists special offers, including "secret room" deals with deeply discounted rates at four- and five-star properties. The rub, as with Priceline, is that you won't know the exact hotel until after you pay.
To find a smaller inn or B&B, try searching BedandBreakfast.com. It gives details on even the tiniest inns and points to "hot deals" in your desired location. You can also search for specific amenities, such as a hot tub, a fireplace or whether a place is pet-friendly.
Vacation rentals are an especially good value for groups because they generally offer more space and amenities for prices similar to or less than hotel rates. HomeAway.com offers the biggest selection of rental lodgings, with more than 230,000 listings worldwide.
If you're traveling alone, or with a buddy or two, you can score a great deal by staying at a hostel -- without necessarily having to join the backpacker and bunk-bed lifestyle you might associate with this budget-lodging option. Many hostels offer more private, hotel-like accommodations these days. Hostelz.com offers more than 40,000 listings in more than 8,300 cities, and includes reviews from professional and regular travelers.
At CruiseCompete.com, more than 300 travel agents vie to give you the lowest prices for voyages based on dates, ports and ships you specify -- whether you're booking well in advance or at the eleventh hour. You provide an e-mail address and they send you their best offers. Plus, the site has agents available to guide you through the process via live chat or by phone.
DealBase.com has collected nearly 70,000 hotel and flight deals worldwide that are easily searchable. But what this site is best for is its "Deal Analyzer." Hotels often create promotional offers that include, for example, continental breakfasts or some other add-ons along with the room. DealBase.com will dissect these packages and let you know whether or not they're good values by telling you how much you'd really save. If you find that an offer is in fact a good value, click the "Get This Deal" button and DealBase will redirect you to the site where you can purchase it.
Hotwire.com often offers the best published deals on cars by collecting rates from its seven rental car company partners, including Budget, Enterprise and Europcar. The site also offers "hot deals" from rental companies that won't be identified until after you've paid. With cars, the risk in taking the blind-booking approach is minimal: A minivan is a minivan, no matter which company provides it. (You can also head back to Priceline.com to try bidding for a better bargain on your rental car.)
Hotwire does offer some good prepaid rental deals in certain international cities, but such bargains are AutoEurope.com's specialty. Auto Europe offers rentals at more than 8,000 locations worldwide. And if you have any problems with the rental-car provider you're hooked up with, Auto Europe will help you resolve them.
Other Great Resources
Currency conversion- Check XE.com for reliable, mid-market exchange rates. Along with an easy-to-read grid of conversion rates on the home page and a host of other tools, this site offers calculators for travel expenses, credit card charges and, obviously, currency conversions.
Eurail- Trains are often the fastest and cheapest way to travel within and between European countries. Our favorite English-language Web site for checking timetables and booking tickets on European train lines is RailEurope.com.
Travel insurance- You never know when an emergency situation will spoil your travel plans -- such as, say, an Icelandic volcano leaving travelers stranded all over the world. Buying travel insurance from agencies and travel providers, such as cruise lines, is usually a crummy deal because of price markups and restrictions on filing claims. At InsureMyTrip.com, you can compare plans and prices from multiple insurance providers with just one search and narrow your search results by specifying the kind of coverage you need.
Now go explore this amazing planet!