The Best Cheap Travel Sites 2016 Edition

How do I know what the best cheap travel sites 2016 edition, are? I travel. A lot. TripIt tells me that in six months of 2015, I spanned just under 365,000kms over seven countries.

I also travel cheaply. For some months last year, I had no housing and accommodation costs, only paying for transportation (also, cheaply) and food. I’m happy to splurge a bit of food (read: tea, or something I have to have in a certain country, like Moules Frites in Belgium), or on a one-of-a-kind experience. I’ve also found that by traveling the way I do, I really get the heart of a country, a town, or a place, instead of just passing through as a tourist.

No matter what your reasons for traveling on the cheap, make sure you know what you want out of the experience before using any of these sites. They’re all great, I’ve used them extensively, however, I find these are best to use after I’m done daydreaming. Meaning, play first, then use these to get things done for less money than you ever expected.

The Best Cheap Travel Sites 2016 Edition

For Free Accommodations… TrustedHousesitters.com

It took me about a month to find Trusted Housesitters while traveling in Ireland, and I went through a host of others to get the perfect fit. WorkAway would’ve been great if I, well, wanted to work (I still suggest it for younger travelers wanting to stay somewhere 3+ months), and HomeForExchange might have worked if (a) I had a home to exchange, and (b) I could figure out their searching system. A few housesitting sites later, and I settled on Trusted Housesitters.

In a nutshell, you pay to get early access to the listings on the site. Folks around the world (mostly Europe, Australia and North America), create private-access ads looking for a home, pet or farm sitter, and people like you apply. There’s a whole process to this No form found — but get yourself just one housesit, and the site access (about $100/year) pays for itself in two nights.

If you use nothing else on this best cheap travel sites (2016 edition) list, use the link above to get yourself a housesit.

To Figure Out How To Get There… Rome2Rio.com

Before I apply for a housesit, I check Rome2Rio. It’s a free site that shows you every way to get from Point A to Point B in the world. Anywhere. (I’ve tried to stump the site a few times – it’s always returned a result so far). What I love about Rome2Rio is that it doesn’t just show air and train travel. It also shows ride sharing options in Europe, the cost of renting a car and driving it, ferries, and even nearby airports that might be cheaper to fly into.

On numerous occasions, Rome2Rio has saved me more than a thousand dollars per trip, directing me to sites like TrocDesTrains (French reseller for train tickets that people bought but can’t use), and BlaBlaCar (ride sharing through various countries), as well as different airports to fly into, using companies like Ryanair (ridiculously cheap airline throughout Europe; make sure to read the fine print). Before I accept a housesit, I check Rome2Rio, first.

To Find the Cheapest Flights… Momondo.com

Momondo, literally, changed how I travel. I find the website better and easier to use than the app, but both worked for me depending on how desperate I was (read: in a rush? use the app, otherwise, the website). I call Momondo a flight aggregator: it takes all the flights from all the airlines, and puts them into their database. Then, users like you rate the pricing (accuracy, customer service) and airlines/ads with low ratings get pulled from the database.

While amazing, the real gem is in Momondo’s price tracking system. Use the information from Rome2Rio to fly to/from the cheapest airports, and then use Momondo to see which days you can travel the cheapest for. If you’ve got a bit of leeway (I found a day or two was almost always enough), I could save up to $400. As well, Momondo shows you the cheapest times of year to fly anywhere – this one feature netted me a $249 CDN flight from Dulin, Ireland to Vancouver, Canada.

Another contender that’s worth signing up for is Airfare Watchdog, which is more of a newsletter in its usefulness than anything. Sign up for location(s) alerts, and you’ll get emails once in a while letting you know there’s been a drop in prices. I don’t use the site to actually book my travel, but it’s a good head’s up if I plan on going somewhere specific.

When You Get There… Couchsurfing.org

Most student travelers are well-versed with this dating site through space sharing. No, that’s not the intention, but just try signing up at Couchsurfing, put out a call for a place to sleep as a single female pretty much anywhere, and see what kind of weirdness appears in your mailbox. (You’re welcome!) I, however, rarely use Couchsurfing (or it’s variants) for a free place to stay. No, I use it for the events, the social opportunities, and the stuff-only-locals-know factor. It’s a must-use no matter what your age, and thus on this best cheap travel sites 2016 list. 

Even the most expensive cities (London, Geneva, Vancouver all did when I went) will have freebie events for fellow couch surfers, or at the very least will host in an inexpensive pub for get-togethers. One Couchsurfing event in Paris that I hung out at had over 300 attendees, and from that, I was invited to numerous get-togethers that opened me up to a whole different side of the city that I’d likely never have found on my own.

If You Get Bored… A Few Options

For those into the odd, interesting or just plain weird – on a budget – check out Atlas Obscura. Think of it as a Wiki for strange locations around the world that aren’t (usually) overrun by tourists.  I’ve even added a few things here myself (Hello, Face Slapping Natural in San Francisco!) Just punch in where you’re at, and you’ll get a geographical listing of amazing places and hidey holes that you’d likely miss on your own. Why does this make the grade for the best cheap travel sites 2016 list? Atlas Obscura is also releasing a book this year – a must-grab if you’re wanting a physical copy of the website.

Another go-to? Geocaching.org. Another freebie (or $10 if you want a few non-essential yet awesome options), Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt using your cell phone. I used it to create my own walking tour of Brussels, Belgium, and use it in pretty much every country to explore green spaces.

Speaking of walking tours, many larger cities offer “free” walking tours of the major attractions. I’ve used many of them (my favorites in London and New York City), however, do note none of these are technically free. Depending on where you are in the world, fledgling actors run these with amazing passion, and they only get paid whatever you decide their time is worth at the end if anything. Search for your city of interest and “free walking tour” for options, or check out my colleagues over at About.com for DIY walking tours (Montreal walking tour, Paris walking tour, Dublin walking tour – I did all of these, and was exceptionally grateful to Evelyn, Courtney, and Bernd for writing these out so beautifully).

One more addition to this best cheap travel sites 2016 list, which isn’t a website but rather an app: Here. Download the country or city you’re heading off to, and you’ll have GPS-enabled maps for driving, walking and oftentimes transit, for free, without he need for WiFi or expensive data additions to your home-based cell phone.

Now… Its Your Turn

What about you? What do you think are the best cheap travel sites, 2016 edition? Disagree with any of my choices? Has this inspired you to travel cheaply in 2016? I’d love to hear all about it!

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