By SHANNON KELLY
Looking for a last-minute vacation or just a great deal on a hotel or flight? Here are six of our favourite online and mobile travel tools for keeping your vacation on budget.
1. EveryLodge. This Web site aggregates flash sales from 14 popular sale sites like Groupon Getaways, TripAlertz and LivingSocial. The great thing about these sales is that they’re (mostly) vetted by the individual sites so it’s rare that you get junky low-end hotels in the mix. Overall, it’s a great one-stop shop option for hotel deals.
2. HotelTonight. A free app that alerts you to last-minute hotel deals of up to 70% every day at noon, HotelTonight is available for for Android (here) and iPhone/iPad/iPod touch (here). For now, only Toronto and Vancouver hotels are included in Canada.
3. Priceline: Name Your Own Price. With the grandfather of all travel-deal site’s Name Your Own Price service you suggest a price based on the hotel’s star rating and neighbourhood. You discover the exact hotel after you accept a price and pay. Rule of thumb: opt for at least a three-star hotel, and preferably a four-star. There are many caveats to this service, most obviously that you won’t be able to check any specifics about the hotel (like whether it has an airport shuttle), since you don’t know what it is. The bottom line is that you can get excellent savings, but you have to know what to bid for a good deal and you have to be flexible.
4. TripTwit. If you follow any travel brands on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed some great flash sales. But who has time to check Twitter every 15 minutes for the next deal? TripTwit sends you one daily e-mail with the top Twitter deals from the alerts you choose, either by destination or brand. Most of these are major brands like Air Canada or W Hotels. Yes, the initial signup is a bit cumbersome and you can only choose 20 alerts. Also, you can’t choose a Canadian city as your origin. (Boo!) Still, it’s a great way to get notified of deals you might otherwise miss.
5. Kayak. This may be the most elegant and easy-to-use flight-search engine out there. As soon as you type your departure and arrival locations, the best-priced days to fly show up on a calendar. It searches hundreds of airlines across Expedia, Flight Network, CheapOair, Travelocity, and Travel-Ticker. It can also combine one-way bookings from different airlines to find lower-priced options. And its app is slickly designed and easy to use. You won’t find smaller airlines like Porter on Kayak though. It has a hotel-search function as well, but it’s not as impressive as the flight search.
6. HotelsCombined. For pure reach, this Web site, based out of Australia, is amazing. Whereas most hotel-deal sites only cover the biggest cities in Canada, with HotelsCombined you can compares prices on 19 hotels in Stratford, Ontario, and 87 hotels in the Okanagan Valley. Because of the number of hotels included in searches, it’s an excellent way to compare prices. The site also has a best price guarantee: they’ll refund you the difference if you find a better price on another Web site, excluding the hotel’s own site.