(written for The Houston Chronicle)
Planning a getaway to a place you’ve never been isn’t easy. Instead of spending hours searching for the best bang for your buck, let the Web plan your next vacation.
Use these seven sites to find the best accommodations and excursions within your budget and create an iron-clad itinerary.
Airfare alarm: Yapta.com tracks ticket prices from all of the major airlines and alerts you when the fares for the flights you want drop. If you already purchased your ticket, they will also help you get a refund for the difference.
Pack more clothes: Purchase tiny toiletries from 3Floz.com and have room in your suitcase for an extra outfit. Of course, this is also helpful for carry-on luggage. Their inventory is impressive, so you’re sure to find products you love or have always wanted to try.
Bid for a big bed: LuxuryLink.com allows you to bid on vacation packages all over the world offered by high-end hotels and resorts.
Relax at home: AirBnB.com lists extra rooms, apartments and houses for rent that you will find to be as cozy as your own home. There aren’t hotel amenities, unfortunately, but you will find the prices to be more amiable.
Find some fun: On Zicasso.com, you enter in your destination and budget, and the site generates a list of things you might like to do.
Get organized: Once you’ve made all of your reservations, forward the confirmation e-mails to TripIt.com, which will generate an itinerary you can share with friends via Google Calendar, Gmail and LinkedIn.
Stay Connected: If you have to keep in touch with co-workers or family while you’re away, join Skype.com, which lets you talk and video chat with other Skype users for free. You can call phones from your computer for a very small fee as well. iPhone users can download a free app and make calls anywhere they have Wi-Fi access.
Mary Rambin is a native Houstonian who writes a lifestyle blog, MoreThanMary.com.Tweet this!