Use a Trip Planner Website or App for Budget Travel

  • 01 of 05

    Trip Planner: Websites and Apps to Make Itineraries Efficient

    Man making travel plans on laptop
    MoMo Productions/Getty Images

    Trip planners help budget travelers organize practical itineraries. It's an important first step on any affordable trip.

    These websites or smart phone apps take information about a possible trip and show you what's practical and what might need to wait for another vacation. There are dozens of these tools, and they cater to a wide variety of travel interests.

    Are you an adventure traveler? Do you enjoy visiting national parks or ball parks? Maybe you want to combine historic sites or visit great restaurants. Chances are there is an efficient way to organize your trip that will save both time and money.

    The following sampling of four such trip planners is simply an introduction to how the tools work. They are intended as examples of what can be accomplished in a short time with a trip planner.

    Click the right-facing arrow and we'll be ready to play ball. 

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Trip Planner: Baseball-Roadtrip.com

    Justin Verlander pitches in Comerica Park, Detroit.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Lovers of baseball are among the most driven and loyal fans in all of sports. Perhaps you have met people who want to visit every Major League Baseball park. I know someone who started working on this bucket list item when his son was still quite young. Through the years, they've visited all but five major league parks together. 

    If you're not a baseball fan please stay with me, because this presents an interesting budget travel exercise. How do you check off as many parks as possible in a short time and with limited financial resources?

    Given the complexities of home-and-away schedules, All-Star breaks, day games and night games, it's good to have a tool such as Baseball-RoadTrip.com at your disposal.

    Enter the dates you're available to travel, and some teams that are relatively close in geographic proximity. You can select "day games only" or "night games only" and switch the order of your itinerary for ball parks that are less than 100 miles apart. Click the "plan your trip" button and receive a proposed itinerary, along with links to purchase game tickets.

    The tool also provides mileage between cities for planning the most efficient trip. I entered five Midwestern cities with major league baseball teams and a two-week period in July. Baseball-RoadTrip returned 13 possible itineraries for consideration.

    How about an around-the-world trip within a two-week period? Click the right-facing arrow and consider the services of AirTreks.com.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Trip Planner: Airtreks.com

    Air travel itineraries can be difficult to manage.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Have you ever considered flying around the world? For most of us, that's a rather ambitious itinerary.

    AirTreks.com is a travel agency specializing in multi-stop international travel. You can use the website to plan your global circumnavigation, or simply help you discover the best itineraries between several adjacent cities far from your starting point. At this writing, a Chicago-Madrid-Istanbul-Bangkok-Tokyo-Chicago itinerary comes with a range of airfare prices between $2,316 and $3,196 per person. A notice on the site says "the final price of your trip will depend on your travel dates, availability and taxes." At this point, you submit your itinerary and contact information to hear back from an agent.

    A less ambitious trip might look like this: Chicago-London-Rome-Casablanca-Madrid-Chicago. At the time of the search, the range for this trip was $1,504 to $2,075. You can save any finished itinerary by creating a free account tied to your email address.

    Once you submit your itinerary and an agent begins working on it, that quoted price range is usually good for a relatively short time -- maybe 24 hours or so.

    The tool will also pass along nearby cities you can add to the itinerary for free or at very low cost. Often, they are major air hubs that you'll have to use to connect to your selected destinations.

    There is also a live chat option that connects you with an operator who will answer your questions.

    It's an easy way to shop for airfares when you have a complicated international itinerary to plan.

    AirTreks is developing a mobile app but at this writing it is not available.

    Click "next" to consider a trip planner that works in a different way than these first examples. 

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Trip Planner: TouristEye.com

    Whitewater rafting can require a leap of faith for some travelers.
    Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau

    Many trip planners operate on the principle that once the destinations are entered, the tool will optimize the itinerary.

    TouristEye.com operates on a slightly different principle. You provide the experiences you want to encounter, and they show you destinations and itineraries to fulfill those expectations.

    For example, click on "unexpected foodie destinations in the United States" and a new menu of cities will appear. Click on Charleston, S.C., and you'll discover a host of eateries and other local attractions to fit into your travel plans.

    Let's say you love whitewater rafting. Enter that in the search box and discover rapids within a few hours of New York City in the Adirondacks. A website, street address and current price range is provided. From there, you do more research.

    Headed to Philadelphia? Enter it in the search and discover some activities in the city that might not be in the guidebooks. Eastern State Penitentiary once housed Al Capone and now is open to tours.

    TouristEye.com is available in both iPhone and Android apps.

    Click "next" and consider how you can stick to a strict route and still see sights off the beaten path.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Trip Planner: RoadTrippers.com

    The allure of the open road is powerful.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    RoadTrippers.com asks immediately for a route and travel dates. From there, it provides scores of choices for accommodations, attractions and culture, food and drink, outdoors and recreation, points of interest, vacation rentals, camping, entertainment, services, shopping, sports, and motoring.

    The most direct route between your start and finish will be mapped, but there is a feature for diverting a certain number of miles (up to 30) from each route. So this tool can be used for people on a leisurely vacation or a no-time-to-lose business trip. You can plan every last detail, or simply line up a few hotel rooms.

    Simply save the finished itinerary and share it via email with anyone you wish. RoadTrippers is available in apps for iPhone and Android.