Need a vacay, like, right now? ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, suggests these sites that make last-minute travel cheap and easy to book. Each one of them meets ShopSmart’s requirements for contact info disclosure and customer service.
In addition, check out the last-minute travel sections of the Big Three sites (Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity). ShopSmart also recommends looking at opaque travel sites such as Priceline and Hotwire, which don’t reveal which hotel you’ve booked until after you pay for it but offer heavily discounted rates. And try GetARoom.com (800-468-3578) for super-low unpublished room deals.
BEST FOR living like a local. Users can rent private rooms in people’s homes or entire homes. With more than half a million listings (including 600 castles) in 34,000 cities, it can save you from a bland hotel — and save you money. ShopSmart found an entire three-bedroom house in the Riverdale section of New York City, just minutes north of Manhattan, for $150 per night; on average, a night in a hotel in NYC will set you back $281. Safety tip: Opt for hosts with a Verified ID badge; they provide proof of identity, which gives you an extra layer of security.
BEST FOR finding a hotel room. Get the best of both worlds: Search every hotel in a city and book your favorite (you don’t pay until you show up). The Best Price Guarantee means if you see a cheaper price, the site will match it. But discounts such as AAA’s aren’t covered, so if you use those, it’s worth it to book directly with a hotel.
BEST FOR nice surprises. Feeling adventurous? With GetGoing’s Pick Two, Get One program, you enter your preferred travel dates and the experience you want (say, a beach vacation or an outdoor adventure), and the website finds flights to different cities at up to 40 percent off. Review your choices, then narrow your destinations to two — and here’s the kicker: The site makes the final decision for you. After you enter your credit card info, you find out where you’re going on vacation.