The promise of an all-in-one travel planning website — including flights, hotels, tours, and car rental — has been around almost as long as the web itself. But, the planning process involves boatloads of information and few companies have been able to present it all in a way that makes sense. Recently, several tools have cropped up and, so far, we like what we see. Here are three online tools that actually take (most of) the headache out of the travel planning process.
Google has a knack for getting just about everything right and their latest travel tool is no exception. Rather than a separate website, Destinations on Google is built into the company’s existing mobile search. Simply search for your dream vacation spot and append “destination” to the end (e.g. “Dublin Ireland destination”). The resulting search combines information from several existing tools — namely Google Flights and Hotel Search — in one, easy-to-read list. The real win is the clever use of filters to allow travelers to widen or narrow the search based on almost any criteria. Fancy a skydiving trip to Australia sometime this fall? Or perhaps a rainforest tour of Costa Rica leaving next weekend, but returning sometime the following week? You can see all of your options instantly.
Iceland-based TripCreator isn’t new but the company is now rapidly expanding their list of available countries beyond Europe. Their “wizard” trip builder poses several simple questions to determine where and when you want to travel. But their approach also includes specific questions like “How busy do you want your schedule?”, as well as what interests you might have (e.g. cultural, nature, wine and dine, etc.). While this concept isn’t new, the execution is. The site’s results are well-thought-out and presented in a way that makes trip-planning a breeze. Bonus: their trips are actually quite affordable.
There is no more useful mobile travel app than TripIt Pro, period. The app’s best feature is its ability to compile every trip detail — flights, hotels, rental cars, even tours from third party websites — into a single, easy-to-read thread. For full, hands-off convenience, the app can even monitor a user’s inbox and completely automate this functionality. Turning on notifications also allows instant access to things like check-in reminders, gate change announcements, and other important flight updates (TripIt’s notifications are often faster than the airline’s!). As an added bonus, the app also monitors frequent flyer programs and available seat upgrades on your upcoming flights. Incidentally, the free TripIt app is also well worth a look. But the upgraded Pro version offers all of the above features and more for less than $50 USD per year.