6 Travel Planning Tools for Every Budget

There are two kinds of vacations. There are trips we plan and budget closely for, saving and cutting costs where we can. We search out the best deals, travel off-peak, and book hotels further off the main strip. Then there are the trips we splurge on, the ones where anything goes as long as it’s memorable. In either trip at either budget, it pays to be smart about how you’re spending your money. Even on special, no-expenses-spared vacations, you don’t want to find yourself overpaying because you don’t know the best places to look. Whether you’re pinching pennies or laying down the big bucks, these travel tools will help you make the right choices for a special vacation.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

1. Hopper

This new Boston- and Montreal-based travel tech company is perhaps the tool for frugal flying. As they describe it, Hopper “provides insightful, data-driven research to help travelers make better decisions about where to go, and when to fly and buy.” The app, currently only available for iPhones, gives users tips on the best time to look for flights, purchase tickets, and when you should be taking that trip. The app tells you exactly what a good and reasonable deal is on tickets from your location to your destination. In a heat map-type calendar interface, it shows you the best and worst times to fly from point A to point B with tips on exactly how much you can save by flying out on a certain day of the week.

Hopper uses the data it collects to predict if ticket costs will go up or down, taking the guessing game out of whether you should wait to buy or jump on the deal. It shows you the best and most popular deals for flights, and it provides alternate airports and the price for flying from there. Hopper also provides a cost and fee calculator to help you estimate all of your additional expenditures and a flight map feature from your selected airport, showing relative flight prices from your departure point to other airports around the world.

This tool is kind of the coolest thing since sliced bread. To download the free app from the iStore, click here. To try a sample report and give it a whirl, go to the Hopper website.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Jetsmarter

If you’ve always wanted to fly in style — that is, privately — but don’t have the slightest idea of where you should start, Jetsmarter is that place. With Jetsmarter, you have two options: You can charter a private jet from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world on any day and at any time you want, or you can hop on an empty leg flight for a little adventure. An empty leg is the trip the pilot takes from wherever he or she is to wherever the client is flying out of, and though this approach requires much more spontaneity, it also puts private flying in the reach of people without thousands of dollars to throw down on a chartered jet. You don’t get to choose where and when the jet is going on an empty leg, but if it lines up, Jetsmarter puts flying privately into the realm of a once in a lifetime experience for folks who previously considered it impossible.

For those with deeper pockets, Jetsmarter is basically the Uber of the private jet world. You can charter anything from a little Cessna plane to a VIP airliner. You have 3,000-plus registered planes at your fingertips. If this thing really floats your boat (or should we say, flies your plane?), you can register for a membership at $7,000 a year for 15% to 25% discounts on chartered flights and free empty leg flights, though you don’t need to be a member to fly with Jetsmarter.

To read more about Jetsmarter, visit their website. Otherwise, just download the app for Android or for iOS.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

 3. Airbnb

This certainly isn’t a new tool, but it’s part in a great vacation can’t be understated. Why stay in a hotel when for the same amount of money, often for less, you could stay in a house or apartment? A hotel room with a view of the Eiffel Tower can cost $200 a night, even on budget booking sites. With Airbnb, you can get an entire apartment to yourself with a view of the tower starting at $95. Maybe you want to stay in a certain type of accommodation and care less about where it is. With Airbnb picks, you can find their curated lists of horse ranches, windmills, treehouses, yachts, private islands, yurts, castles, lighthouses, and wagons to rent for a stay. Want to stay in a beachside treehouse in India? You can, for $100 per night. How about a castle in Burgundy, France for $140 per night? With Airbnb, the possibilities for amazing experiences at reasonable prices are nearly endless.

Source: onefinestay

Source: onefinestay

4. onefinestay

To ensure that you’re booking luxe accommodations, try onefinestay. Available in London, New York, Paris, and Los Angeles, the service manages a portfolio of homes worth over $3 billion. Guests in onefinestay homes are treated to 5-star hotel linens and boutique toiletries, and are lent a local iPhone with tips from the homeowner from which they can make free calls. Employees, taking the role of concierge, meet you at the home to show you around and help you settle in. If you’re looking for a lofty apartment with teak floors on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you can rent it for $346 per night with onefinestay. Going to Malibu? Rent a sleek 2 bedroom beach house directly over the water for $1,255 per night. If you’re going to splurge on a getaway, onefinestay can ensure you feel like it was worth every penny.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

 5. GetMyBoat

This app does exactly what you’d expect: It gets you a boat. This app hits all budgets. Book a guided whitewater rafting kayaking trip around Iceland for $25 per hour. Looking for a canoe in Michigan? Available for $34 per day. How about a snorkeling trip in Key West on a two-masted schooner complete with lunch and sangria for $69 per person? Maybe you’d like to book a 44-foot catamaran in the Philippines for $750 per day. Looking for a yacht in St. Lucia? Charter an 81-foot sailing yacht for $3,300 per day. Regardless of what your budget is, if you’re in the market for a boat rental, GetMyBoat can get you on the water asap. More like the Airbnb of boats than something like Jetsmarter, this service books boats listed by individuals, so the boat selection is constantly changing.

You can use GetMyBoat online through their website or download their iPhone app.

Deck of a Cruise Ship

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

6. Cruise Card Control

If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you know that charges can sneak up on you, racking up without notice and leaving you stunned by the bill at checkout. Cruise lines depend on onboard spending, and they can be tricky to keep track of. To avoid sticker shock when your cruise is up, get the Cruise Card Control app. It helps you keep track of what you’re spending with either a quick cost entry or detailed descriptions and photos of receipts. You can create a custom budget through the app and it will draw up graphs to help you visualize how much of your budget you have left to spend. This iPhone app is available for $2.99 through the AppStore.

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