The Top 10 Websites and Apps to use while Traveling in the United States

          At MaxTour we spend hours every week booking travel and searching for the best deals for our guests.  As the travel industry has moved online, we have been right there with it, using a variety of online tools and websites to help give our guests amazing experiences here in the United States. Below are some of our favorite websites and apps we use for traveling around the US.  If you are planning some travel in the United States, use the resources below to help you get started.  If you are a travel veteran, let us know about your favorite travel websites and apps in the comments!

Accommodation

Hotels.com

We like Hotels.com for a variety of reasons. They have a wide selection of hotels at reasonable prices. Their booking terms are favorable. For most properties, you can book now and pay when you check in. They usually give you free cancellation up to 24 or 48 hours before you check in.  If you start to book rooms using Hotels.com, make sure you sign up for their rewards program.   It is free to sign up and after booking 10 rooms you will get a room free.

AirBnB

There are many websites available to book homes for your vacation, but we like AirBnB the best.  Airbnb offers a diverse selection of accommodation options, the most popular being entire homes,  as well as single rooms for rent in other peoples homes.  Booking homes with Airbnb works best for families or people traveling in groups. For families or groups, using Airbnb can save you a decent amount of money compared to booking many separate rooms in a hotel.  Also, you can cook meals at the house, saving money on big restaurant bills.

If you have never used Airbnb before, there are some things you need to know before making your first booking.

Be careful about extra fees.  Many places can have a low per night cost but after cleaning and service, fees can double the price.  So always ask about extra fees before deciding on a place or booking one.

Never book a place that doesn’t have any reviews.  We recommend at least 4 reviews on a property before booking.  Check reviews carefully before booking to make sure you are getting the quality you are looking for in your rental.

If you are concerned about being cheated or scammed, Airbnb has some measures in place to protect you.  After you book, your money is held with AirBnB until 24 hours after you check in.  If there is a problem you can contact the company to resolve it.

When using AirBnB, remember that it is NOT a hotel.  You are renting someone’s home and the service is different than a hotel.  Don’t expect someone to make up your bed every morning.  Try to keep your scheduled time of meeting your host.  Treat the rental with the respect you would give to a friend’s home.  If you keep all of this in mind and follow these tips, we think you can have a fun and rewarding experience staying in a local’s home while saving some money in the process.  Have questions about using Airbnb?  Feel free to reach out in the comments below.

Flights

Google Flights

Google Flights is our go-to website for searching for flights.  They are consistently able to find the cheapest fares, along with providing a few other tools that make shopping for a flight easier. One of our favorite tools is the ability to find the cheapest flight spread out over a period of time.  Let’s say you want to book a flight from Las Vegas to New York.  You know you want to go next month, but aren’t sure exactly when you will go.  With Google Flights, you can enter you the cities you want to travel to and see a calendar showing the cheapest tickets between these cities going forward for months.  This is just one of many features that make Google Flights our go-to website when booking flights.

Insider Tip:  Always search for flights using your browser’s private or incognito mode.  Flight searching software is known to track your searches and show you higher prices the second and third time you search.  They intend to trick you into thinking the price is going up so that you buy quickly.

Southwest.com

Southwest is one of our favorite airlines in America.  2 free checked bags and no charges for flight changes are just two of the reasons we love to fly using Southwest.   They don’t put their flights on the big flight searches like Google Flights and Expedia, so the only way to check their prices is to visit their website.  Las Vegas is one of their main hubs, making travel particularly convenient for us here in Sin City.

Insider Tip:  Southwest doesn’t allow you to preselect your seats.  Instead, they put you in boarding groups, A, B, and C.  A boarding group boards the airplane first, followed by B, then C.  To get in the highest boarding group possible, set a reminder for exactly 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart.  Then go to Southwest.com and check in for your flight.  You will probably get put in the A boarding group, with a high B boarding group at worst.  And you will avoid the dreaded C boarding group.

Deals

Scotts Cheap Flights

Flying internationally can be expensive.  What’s more, tickets between two destinations can vary widely in their prices depending on the time of year. If you are flexible with your travel plans, we highly recommend Scotts Cheap Flights.  Scotts Cheap flights searches the internet everyday for the best and cheapest international flights.  They then send them to you in an email.  Some examples of great deals they have found : San Francisco to Bali for less than $400.   They have found flights from Shanghai/Beijing to the United States west coast for less than $500.

Insider Tip:  They have a free and paid version of the email.  Unless you like to travel internationally many times a year, the free version works fine.

Travelzoo

Travelzoo is an email deals newsletter we have been using for more than 10 years.  They scour the internet every week for the absolute best deals in travel.  They have deals for hotels, vacation packages, dining, and activities. You can choose your region and city to get deals that are localized for your area.  It is very simple.  Sign up with your email, enter your region and city, and wait for the deals to roll into your inbox.

Local Transportation

Uber

Uber is a must have app for the modern traveler. Use it to conveniently get around in cities that may be unfamiliar to you.  We always recommend that our users use Uber instead of  local taxis.

Google Maps for Public Transportation

Public transportation can be a great way to see a new city and save money at the same time, but can be confusing if you don’t know how it works.  Enter your destination in your Google Maps app and press the blue circle.  If it isn’t already chosen, look at the top for an icon of a train and press it.  This will show you the fastest options to reach your destination via public transportation.

You can also use Google Maps to help you walk around a new city. Instead of using the train icon, use the walking person icon to learn the best walking route to your destination.

Finding Restaurants

While we love using apps to find hot new places to eat, word of mouth recommendations are our favorite method for getting good food.  For example, Chengdu Taste is probably the best Chinese restaurant in the city, and yet they are rated 4 stars on Yelp and 8.2 on Foursquare.  So if there is someone you trust, take their recommendation over that of strangers on an app.  If you are new to a city and don’t know anyone, check out these apps:

Yelp

Yelp is the most popular app/website for finding good places to eat. They rate restaurants on a 5 star rating scale, so 0 stars is the worst restaurant and 5 stars would be the best.  We usually recommend that our guests stick to restaurants rated 4.0 or higher.   There are a lot of bad restaurants in the United States, and using Yelp can make sure you don’t end up eating at one.

Foursquare

Foursquare is similar to Yelp.  We like their rating system better.  It runs from 0 to 10, and it uses the decimal system so you can see the difference between a restaurant rated 7.1 and 7.9.  Yelp doesn’t have  the decimal system and you end up with a ton of places rated 4 stars and it’s hard to get a true reading on which one is better.  We also like Foursquare when we travel internationally as it rates restaurants in almost every country. When evaluating restaurants on Foursquare, a 9.0 or higher rating is usually an amazing place to eat, 8.0 and higher is a good place to eat, 7.0 or higher can be good if it is the only option.  We rarely go to places rated below 7.0

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