Ask any seasoned traveler about the merits of globetrotting and you’re likely to hear a litany of enthusiastic responses: personal growth, cultural exploration, catharsis.
Ask about the obstacles, however, and one resounding theme emerges: Jetsetting can cost a pretty penny. If your bank account is holding you back from your dream vacation, or if you’re planning a trip and trying to adhere to a budget, these 10 startups can help turn your travel dreams into realities.
“Think of DealScoopr as the lovechild of Amazon and Expedia,” says Nitesh Goyal, ex-Amazon.com engineer and co-founder of the travel deals discovery engine. DealScoopr promises travelers a simple way to save time and money on travel bookings. Users log in through Facebook for access to the hottest deals on flights, hotels and getaways in a variety of cities.
What makes DealScoopr different from similar services? Goyal says it comes down to personalization. “Most travel sites offer teaser rates to rope you in or show you deals that you may not want. You need to spend a lot of time finding a good travel deal to places you want to visit,” says Goyal. “DealScoopr creates a personalized travel experience by matching your social profile and travel preferences with great deals on flights and hotels.”
Though DealScoopr is primarily focused on the U.S. market, Goyal says the site has plans for expansion into Europe and Asia. The website is optimized for mobile, and a mobile app for iOS and Android is in the works.
We talked about GetGoing back in March, but it’s worth mentioning again. Recently named one of the 50 best websites by Time Magazine, this Y Combinator -funded company focuses on helping travelers discover and book trips within their budgets. Aimed at flexible leisure travelers, GetGoing asks users to set one date and two locations for their potential trip, and then puts together flight deals and an itinerary for both options. Users then choose their preference based on whichever deal they find more appealing.
Hostel-hopping is one of the most popular ways to save money on accommodations while traveling. With so many options available, however, narrowing down and selecting the perfect one(s) can be an overwhelming process. WeHostels, a mobile app that enables users to locate and book hostels (as well as connect with like-minded travelers) while on the go, boasts listings of more than 50,000 hostels in 800 cities around the world. To get started, the app selects the top five hostels in your city of choice and includes photos, logistical details, comments/reviews and maps. The current version of WeHostels boasts an impressive 5-star rating on iTunes (4.5 stars on Google Play) and is available in a number of languages on iOS and Android devices.
Fantrotter is a great option for concertgoers, football fanatics and festival chasers alike. A “ticket + travel” search engine, Fantrotter pairs events with flights, hotels and rental car options to create custom, package deals.
Michael Coletta, founder and CEO, believes that Fantrotter fills a void in online travel resources. “Fantrotter is unique in that no other website combines event tickets and travel in a way that makes virtually any ticketed event in the world a potential vacation. We believe that seeing an amazing concert, game or performance while traveling can be one of the most extraordinary and memorable experiences in a person’s life,” writes Coletta. In addition to the website, Fantrotter just released a Facebook app targeted at performers. Though flight data is currently only available for U.S. departure airports, Fantrotter recently established a partnership for worldwide flight data and hopes to soon launch for a global audience.
Say goodbye to pesky cancellation fees and sunk costs. A godsend for those with last minute travel conflicts, Roomer allows travelers to snag deals on cancellations. Roomer offers a marketplace for non-refundable hotel reservations: Users post their room, Roomer verifies the reservation, and other users can then browse and purchase travel deals.
For travelers who bring cellphones abroad, roaming charges can result in skyrocketing phone bills. Enter: Roamer. The app promises mobile users up to 97% savings on roaming costs abroad by linking cellphones with foreign SIM cards in order to circumvent expensive roaming charges. Perhaps the app’s best feature is that it allows travelers to use their own cell phone numbers instead of designating temporary alternatives. Roamer uses GSM to connect calls (instead of WiFi or 3G) to ensure connectivity and call quality, regardless of Internet service, and is available for both iOS and Android .
Planning a trip for a group of people — although often more affordable than solo travel — is a little like being assigned group projects in high school. Inevitably, one person ends up planning and executing most of the work, purchasing supplies and — if group members are unhappy with the results — stuck with all the blame. Tripobox aims to solve this problem.
The website offers travelers “stay, eat, do” deals in nine major cities around the globe (more coming soon), as well as a free online platform for groups to discuss, debate, plan and pay. Often, a mentality of “the more the merrier” pays off (literally) — the more people in your party, the better the deal on lodgings and activities. One of the most convenient features of the site is the ability for group members to pay individually, eliminating the need for one person to front costs for everyone.
A great option for the adventurous traveler, Zozi offers a variety of package deals around the U.S. and the globe, as well as discounts on adventure gear such as backpacks, luggage and athletic clothing — plus advice from celebrity “Zozi Gurus” . The site partners with ecommerce sites, media companies and travel brands in order to bring customers memorable experiences.
Never ask the question, “What do I have to declare?” again. For international travelers (slash shopaholics), Simply Declare travel app is a useful tool for keeping track of declarable purchases abroad. Users keep lists of purchases, enter item prices in foreign currency (which the app then converts to users’ currency of choice) and set spending limits. Additionally, the app keeps track of credit card receipts digitally — helpful for those who want a record of spending habits. Simply Declare is currently available on iOS .
The famous saying about boat ownership goes, “The two best days of boat owners’ lives are the day they buy the boat, and the day they sell it.” Boatbound takes some of the hassle out of boat ownership (and allows owners to curb costs) by functioning as an Airbnb -esque rental service. Boat owners list and rent out their boats to interested parties with a “pier-to-pier” platform.
Listing and searching on the site is free, and the service promises pre-screened, qualified rental applicants. Boatbound also provides owners up to $1 million in liability protection and $2 million in hull damage protection with every rental.
We’d be remiss not to mention the big dogs –- Airbnb , Hipmunk , TripIt and HotelTonight immediately jump to mind. Veteran Couchsurfing (the site’s been around for nearly a decade) is another well-known resource for travelers seeking affordable accommodations. For navigating public transportation, HopStop has emerged as a hugely popular website and mobile app, and it’ll save you money on cabs.
For travelers seeking a rewarding personal experience as well as the opportunity to travel the world, voluntourism may be an option as well. Interested parties should check out organizations such as WorkAway or WWOOF .
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