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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Useful Travel Websites You May Never Have Heard Of 12.15.10

So, I thought I'd take a break from food travel for the moment and talk about something that might be more helpful to your holiday travels.

It’s true that there are a million travel websites out there. Some are really useful and some less so. Unfortunately, it’s become common to just jump onto Expedia, Priceline or Travelocity and not really look at any other sites. There are new sites cropping up every day, for all kinds of things, but with travel being a multi-billion dollar industry in just America alone, new web addresses are showing up on the internet. I never advocate using a site you’ve never heard of that doesn’t seem to have existed five minutes ago, as they can always be scams, but it pays to do a bit of research in that case. Look for reviews and any complaints. Likewise, look for positive feedback, too. Today, I’ve compiled 5 of my favorite lesser-known travel sites that can be super useful and even save you money. Considering I’ve checked out and even used these sites, you have my word that they are totally safe!

Dohop is one of those websites that gives you awesome information and you wonder why you've never heard of it. It basically lets you build your own search engine by searching round-trip or one-way flights between any two locations and then giving you all your options, starting with the least expensive. It searches over 600 airlines and shows you the best fares possible, even if it means flying to or out of a different airport in the area. It's the only intuitive search engine that I know of that gives you these options without you having to tell it you are willing to fly in or out of surrounding airports. If you want to book, Dohop directs you to the right website to reserve your flight(s).

This week, Dohop launched Dohop Away, which is a great function for finding new places to visit. Enter your starting airport and when you want to travel and you will get a list of all the flight deals available for that timeframe. Pretty easy to just click and choose a vacation and then decide what to pack!

Dohop also has a great search function to find you low-cost hotels and car rentals worldwide. I also recommend you signing up for their newsletter. It is quite witty and has some great information, including guest posts from other travel bloggers (like me!).

Don't forget to "Like" Shereen Travels Cheap on Facebook. My page offers even more deals and budget-travel tips and members can ask questions and leave comments on my wall, which I love to read and respond to. And if you are one of the first 500 members, you will be entered into a drawing for one of two cool travel bags from Travelon. Make sure you tell your friends to join, too, because there is a sweet prize for those that refer winners, making your odds of winning bigger, the more people you invite to join!

#2 Venere.com
I discovered Venere years and years ago and keep telling people to use them for hotel booksings, because they just keep adding great features that make it super user-friendly. Venere is a UK-based hotel search engine that has listings for hotels, B&Bs and apartment hotels. It gives you all the information you could need on the majority of them, including pictures, amenities, location and traveler reviews. Then even offer listings for lodgings that don't yet allow for Internet bookings, but you can still see pricing and contact info so you can call them directly. 
Venere is branching out to include hotels worldwide. While they are adding accommodations, they basically only have major tourist destinations everywhere outside of the UK and Europe, but the list keeps growing, making them good competition for the bigger search engines out there. I have found amazing deals on Venere that I couldn't find elsewhere. Aside from that, many of the hotels don't require prepayment, so you can pay once you get there or just put down a deposit to hold your reservation. This makes it really convenient to use, because you aren't forced to pay for a big chunk of your vacation months before you go.

Are you a tweeter? If so, come follow @shereentravlschp on Twitter and get bite-sized travel deals and budget tips.

While you may or may not have seen my posts about the awesomeness that is Airlikes, please take some time to check out their site and help this new website grow, which can only be achieved by travelers like you. Even if founder Nicolas Pellier hadn’t added a link to my blog on his brand-new website, I would have gladly given him a great review, because his website is innovative and something I find very useful for myself and potentially for many travelers worldwide.

Airlikes is like TripAdvisor for airlines and airports. Aside from being able to search for flights and hotels, the whole purpose of this France-based website is to give travelers information on airlines and airports all over the world. There are always readily available reviews for hotels and car rental companies, but not so much onairports or airlines themselves. With Airlikes, travelers like you can post reviews of both to help out other travelers booking their vacations and trying to avoid airports that are always busy or inconvenient or just figuring out how to lessen the stress of being there and making it easier to navigate. With all that going for it, you can also find news on airports and airlines, as well as weather conditions, general information on the airports and the airlines that fly there and also information about the country it’s located in. Pretty nifty. Check out this nice interview Nicolas did with tnooz, then go write a review of your home airport! 

It's not always easy to catch all of your favorite pages' posts and, if like me, you have a day job, you can't be playing on Facebook or Twitter all day long. Sign up for 
NutshellMail and get a personalized newsletter sent to your email address as many times as you like. It will have all your wall posts, friend requests and favorite page (as you select) posts. You can add Twitter to it, too, and see tweets from your personal lists. Get 1 or 10 newsletter updates a day or get it once a week. You decide what you see and how many times you get it. Make sure to add Shereen Travels Cheap and @shereentrvlschp to your lists!

Don’t have time to keep checking all the rental car sites to see if a better deal exists than the one you already booked? Then you need AutoSlash. Jonathan Weinberg, one of the two founders of AutoSlash, was nice enough to thank me for mentioning them on Twitter and Facebook, so I thought I would expand a bit on their actual services for those that wish to know more or missed my posts (and if you did, please consider following me on Facebook and/or Twitter, so you don’t miss any cool new websites or offers.) Use AutoSlash for free and let them find the lowest rental rate on cars at your destination. Not only that, they offer you the best discounts and codes available and will continue to monitor rental rates FOR you and alert you when they find a better deal with instructions on how to go about rebooking. I don’t know how you can go wrong with such an awesome (and FREE) service. Try if you must, but I would save yourself a lot of time and money and let AutoSlash “take the wheel”. Want to know even more? Poke around AutoSlash yourself or read this great article on tnooz. At less than a year old, this site has gotten some rave reviews already and I think you are really going to love what they can do for you.

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I was fortunate enough for WhichBudget to contact me through Facebook and tell me all about their website and Facebook pages. WhichBudget started up to help travelers learn about all the new budget airlines available which allow them to fly more often for much less. With the number of airlines increasing and many more people needing to travel inexpensively, WhichBudget is so helpful. Plug in your starting and ending locations and you will see all the airlines (and flights) that fly between those cities. With all the options and pricing available at your fingertips, it’s really easy to choose one that works for you. WhichBudget will direct you to the correct website where you can make your purchase and get ready to plan your trip.

Another awesome thing about WhichBudget is the option to choose just a departure city to find the many places you can travel to for cheap and when. This is great for people who want to find new cities to travel to, but also for those who don’t know where they want to go, just that they want to travel somewhere. When I searched other sites for travel options between London and Paris, I got quotes in the hundreds of dollars range. With Which Budget, I got a quote on EasyJet for less than $100 per person. Try it! It works internationally, including the U.S.

Wish there were even more deals in this blog? Well, you can subscribe to The #traveldeals Daily, too, and get a newspaper page full of travel deals from Tweeters like me.

Don’t forget to watch this space for new posts and updates on featured posts by ME! Yeah, yeah, I’m all about myself sometimes…but still, don’t forget to check out these great posts I did for the following websites (which you should also take a look at, because they were awesome enough to let me post for them and because they are totally useful).

Anything I haven’t covered that you’re longing to see? Well, don’t be shy! Take the anonymous poll and let me know where it is you want to go or learn more about! If you don’t care about being invisible, you can take it anyway, or you can come post on my Facebook wall and ask me questions. I LOVE feedback of any kind.

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