Personal Finance

Top 10 Money Saving Travel Apps for Your Next Vacation

Airplane in the sky at amazing colorful sunsetVacation; the best time of the year. Unfortunately, as we all know, vacations can be expensive. Whether you’re just hopping in the car for a road trip up the coast or taking the entire family to the Happiest Place on Earth, you’re always looking for ways to save some extra bucks. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

You can find help from hundreds of travel apps available for your iPhone, iPad, or Android powered phones and tablets. These apps are all designed to make booking travel plans easy and affordable by helping you find the deepest discounts possible on airfare, hotel rooms, rental cars, and more. All you have to do is check out the iTunes or Google Play store to browse the myriad travel apps that consumers can download to help them save money on their next trip.

But with so many of them out there, it’s hard to find the best ones that can really save the most cash and keep your trip budget under control. That’s why we’ve done that searching for you and found the ten best money saving travel apps that you absolutely must have before you plan your next vacation. You may have heard of some of these before, others might be brand new, but all of them can save you loads of cash before and during your getaway. Check them out and see which ones will benefit you the most.

1. Smart Layover

We’ve all been there before; booked travel plans with an eye on the best price and you find yourself sitting in an airport for a couple of hours while you wait for your next flight to board. All in the name of saving some money. So you wander around the airport, maybe hit up the bar for a drink or check out the newsstands to pick up a book or a few newspapers and magazines. After you do all of that, you still have another two hours to go. There has to be a better way, right?

That’s where the Smart Layover app comes in. Hang around the airport no longer, but instead find some fun and exciting activities to do nearby. The app is designed for travelers who know they have a layover coming or find out that their flight has been delayed. Simply type in the city of your layover, set the date and time, and the app will give you a list of great deals on day hotels, spas, sightseeing tours, exciting attractions, all of which are doable within the allotted time of your layover.

The app won’t suggest anything that will prevent you from missing your connection, either, as each listing takes into account how long it will take to get to and from the airport to enjoy your activity as well as time spent in any security checkpoint lines. But if you don’t want to chance it by leaving the airport, the Smart Layover app will also give you all the best deals that are available there as well. The deals vary on how deep your discounts could be, but for those travelers who have a few hours to kill it’s a terrific alternative to sitting in the terminal with nothing to do but watch CNN and browse the overpriced souvenir shops.

2. Hotel Tonight

Sometimes you just want to head out of town on a whim. Maybe you’re out of town already and plans change. Perhaps you’ve found yourself stranded in a strange city through no fault of your own. These are all great reasons to use the Hotel Tonight app. It’s an easy to use mobile portal for travelers who need to book last minute hotel accommodations and don’t want to pay full price. You just enter the city where you’re looking for a room and the Hotel Tonight app will give you the latest search results on the best deals for last minute reservations. As with other travel apps and websites, these are the rooms that hotels haven’t been able to fill and the discounts reflect that fact.

What sets Hotel Tonight apart from the other apps and sites, however, is that they offer seven categories of lodging so you can find the exact room in the hotel you really want. They rank each listing with one of seven labels: Luxe, Hip, Solid, Basic, Charming, Crashpad, and High Roller. Each label brings with it a certain description of the type of room you’re getting, with Basic representing a bed in a modest property with basic amenities to High Roller representing the best of the best penthouse suite or other VIP location. The app will label each listing with one of those seven possibilities so you know what you’re getting ahead of time. New listings hit the app at 9:00am each morning and you can book for that day or up to seven days in advance.

3. Skyscanner

When you’re heading out of town on a whim it’s possible you’re going to need airline tickets as well. If you’re not doing a road trip but instead taking to the skies instead then Skyscanner is the app you want to check out for the best deals on airfare to thousands of destinations both domestic and international. They’re not reinventing the wheel with Skyscanner; it works in much the same way as plenty of other airline search sites out there. It does, however, come with a few extra perks and bonuses that you won’t find elsewhere.

The app conducts a search of all the major airlines from Delta to Southwest and all others in between and gives you the best flights based on price, itinerary, departure time, or any type of search you want. You can filter your results even further to least amount of stops, class of seating, and so on. What makes this app unique is that it also offers is a fare chart to show you average prices around certain dates for travel. That way you can decide to leave a day or two earlier or later in order to save the most money on your ticket.

You can also choose the app’s “explore” option that gives you the lowest last-minute booking deals on destinations around the world. So if you’re not sure where you want to go yet, check out the least expensive flights that are available and book one of those to be super spontaneous. No matter what type of flight you book, be sure to reserve fast as fares can fluctuate quickly on the Skyscanner app. The price you see as you begin your search and finally decide on a fare can jump up fast.

4. Hopper

Another travel app for booking airline flights, Hopper has been designed to take the guesswork out of saving the most money on your flight. Named the best travel app of 2015 by Apple, Hopper takes the predictive fare price model one step further.  The Hopper app uses previous data from trillions of flight prices on past trips to forecast the rates on future flights to thousands of destinations. This information puts you in control of when you pay the lowest price, not the airlines.

The app has a very easy interface: you simply type in travel between two airports and tap your dates on the calendar which is color coded. Each color represents an approximate airfare range, green being the lowest, red being the most expensive. Once you choose your dates the app will advise you on whether to book now or wait until the fares for that trip drops in price. If Hopper tells you to purchase, you can easily book the flight with just a few taps and swipes, but if the app says you should wait then you can elect to have the app monitor your trip and when the price falls Hopper will send you a notification.

The booking process is done through Hopper as well; they don’t use a third party and the price you see will be the one you pay, as long as you act quickly. Hopper won’t pull a bait and switch just to get you to book through their app. Finding the best day to purchase your flight has just gotten easier with Hopper.

airline lounges sign5. Lounge Buddy

Maybe you’re still not too keen on leaving the airport during your layover but you still want someplace quiet to hang out, get on WiFi, and enjoy the many amenities of a comfortable airport lounge. Then Lounge Buddy is the app for you. You can use it to find and book a stay in airport lounges all over the world. Fire up the app and you can search for the lounge in your arrival or departure airport ahead of time. View images of each lounge before you arrive, read reviews from other users on the app, get hours and location, filter your search by amenities and privileges, read up on all access requirements, and even reserve your spot with a credit card or Apple Pay.

Lounge Buddy helps take all of the guesswork out of getting into an airport lounge since there are so many different rules and exclusive benefits that only apply to certain travelers. But the app is designed to help you navigate all of those obstacles. All you have to do is just enter your trip information and any Elite statuses, memberships, or premium credit cards that apply to you. From there, Lounge Buddy will give you all of the search results that are eligible with your enrollment information. You will need to sign up with the app, but once you do you’ll have access to over 2000 airport lounges at more than 800 airports worldwide.

6. Gas Buddy

No relation in any way to Lounge Buddy, the Gas Buddy app is designed for consumers traveling by car instead of air. Once you hit the road you can find the nearest gas stations closest to your specific location, which can be particularly useful when you’re on a dark highway at night in an area of the country that you’ve never been to before and you’re running low on fuel. Just turn on the app and it will give you the closest stations with the lowest prices, or you can type in a certain zip code and you’ll find all of the best prices in that region.

Gas Buddy employs user data from other travelers who post gas prices at stations they visit so that other drivers can find the lowest prices on fuel. You’ll get listings for a number of stations within a certain radius with prices for each grade of gasoline including regular and premium unleaded as well as diesel. Tap it once and the GPS-enabled app will find your location and all of the gas stations nearby. Tap again and you can access the map feature that shows all of the stations in the area. Select the station you want and Google Maps will give you turn by turn directions to get there.

The app works best in the United States and part of Canada as it has limited coverage internationally.

7. Expert Flyer

There are tons of travel apps for frequent flyers designed to save money on flights, hotels, layover activities, and airport lounge access. The Expert Flyer app sets itself apart from the crowd by making air travel as relaxing and rewarding as it can be. The app has been built to help travelers find seat upgrades, awards, special codes for upgrades; it’s basically a way into an exclusive world of hidden discounts to help you save money the next time you need to book travel.

Yes, it does have all of the similar flight booking capabilities as just about every other travel app and website on the market, but Expert Flyer offers users additional ways to get the exact seat and row they want for the best price on any flight. The app scours data from 400 different airlines so you’re bound to find the seat and trip you want on or near the date you want to depart and land.

There are two options for new users. You can either go with a free subscription that lets you find your flight and create a seat alert for aisle, window, or whichever seat you wish and the service will notify you when that seat becomes open on the flight you want, or alternatively you can opt for the Pro Subscription which comes in two levels, Basic and Premium for $4.99 and $9.99 a month, respectively.

8. Skiplagged

Think you’re paying too much for airline travel? Looking for a way to stick it to the airline companies and the industry as a whole? Then download Skiplagged the next time you need to book a flight. Yes, it’s another airfare app that is built to help you book flights from one destination to another all in the name of saving as much money as possible. So what makes Skiplagged different?

The app is designed to help consumers take advantage of the little known “hidden city trick”. It’s a loophole in ticket pricing that the airlines don’t want you to know about and they claim violates their terms and conditions of service. But it’s not illegal despite lawsuits from both Orbitz and United Airlines being filed against the makers of the app (the United suit was thrown out by the judge).

Here’s how it works.  When you fly you sometimes make a stop en route to your destination. For example, flying from Los Angeles to New York City may require a stopover in Chicago. However, if you tried to buy an airline flight from Los Angeles to Chicago that ticket might be more expensive. So instead, you book the cheaper flight to New York and when you land in Chicago for your layover, you just simply get off the plane and don’t board again for the last leg to New York.

This drives the airlines crazy because they’re not squeezing the extra money out of you for the direct flight into Chicago. The Skiplagged app lets you look for flights that expose this loophole and book accordingly, often for bigger discounts than you’d find, say, at Orbitz or on the United Airlines website. Now you know why they both sued.

Of course, there are some restrictions to this type of travel plan. First off, don’t plan on checking a bag — otherwise, it will continue on to the ultimate destination after you get off the plane at the stopover. Secondly, you can’t book round trip; if the airline finds out you didn’t take the second leg of your initial flight they might cancel your return. So when you book with Skiplagged you’ll need to book two one-way trips. But if neither of these things bother you, then you could potentially save from 5-50% on your next flight.

young couple packing for vacation9. Packing Pro

This app can save you money in a much different way than the previous apps on our list so far. It’s built for making lists when you are packing for a trip. You create a checklist of all the items you need to bring along when you are getting ready to leave. Make a list of all the toiletries you need to remember and make another list of all the clothes and outfits you want to take with you; each list can be made for a different trip or the same one.

The user interface doesn’t get much easier than with the Packing Pro. You just start a new list and add items to it as you see fit. Once you’re done you can email the list to yourself or to other people who may need it. The lists aren’t just for packing, either. You can make to-do lists for the errands you need to get done before you leave or make another list of all the sightseeing attractions, restaurants, and other events you want to attend while you’re on the trip. If you want to get really specific, you can even make inventory lists for every item in each bag you’re bringing along.

The possibilities are endless with the Packing Pro and you can customize the app and your lists anyway you wish. So how do you save money using this app? If you list everything you need to pack ahead of time, you won’t need to purchase anything you’ve forgotten once you get to your destination. So don’t worry about forgetting shampoo, toothpaste, or extra pairs of socks with the Packing Pro.

10. AAA Mobile App

Are you a AAA Member? If the answer is yes, then you should be using the AAA Mobile App. Membership has plenty of privileges and all of them are available on the travel agency’s mobile portal. You can create one of AAA’s tried and true Trip Tik travel planners, locate all AAA approved and Diamond Rated hotels, attractions, and restaurants, and you can share your itinerary on any mobile device.

For most members, AAA really comes in handy for finding those great discounts, and with the mobile app you can track down all of the nearest businesses and hotels with AAA offers. In fact, you’ll have access to over 164,000 locations with the AAA badge in their window. You can use the app to book lodging and rental cars as well and it can even help you with roadside assistance and finding AAA approved auto repair shops if need be. There’s even a feature to help you find the lowest gas prices in your area so you can fill up for less before you hit the road.

Our Final Thoughts

These apps saved us a lot of money when we used them to book airfare, hotels, and pretty much anything else that required reservations ahead of time. If you download all ten of these to your mobile device, then you’ll be covered for every facet of your next trip out of town. Whether you’re flying or driving, staying the night or booking a room for the week, we’ve got you covered to help save you the most money on your next vacation.

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