There are tons of online sites to help you plan your summer getaways this season, and the June 2012 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, highlights some of the best.
“With the right websites and apps, this summer’s vacation planning can be a cinch!” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.
“These tools can help you do everything from plan the perfect road-trip filled with attractions to nab a deal on a hotel room at the last minute.”
Best for mapping your route: AAA.com
You don’t have to be a member of the travel club to use this site’s helpful trip-planning tools (and TripTik app). Click on the travel tab to get started, then use the TripTiks to plan your adventure, including points of interest, with round-trip directions.
Cool tool: Look under “Member discounts” for hotel and meal deals.
Best for finding attractions: RoadTripAmerica.com
The site is loaded with tips on how to plan a great road trip, find roadside attractions, and budget fuel costs. The map-based trip planner has nine categories of attractions, including natural wonders, parks and recreation, and events, and it can tell you a little about each of them.
Cool tool: The Road Trip Compatibility Quiz analyzes how compatible you are with your trip mates.
Best for locating national parks and scenic byways: US-Parks.com
This site lists all the parks, including scenic, wide-open spaces in the West and historical East Coast attractions. It will alert you if a site has specific restrictions (no campfires, for example), and it will pinpoint nearby hotels and campgrounds.
Cool tool: The road-trip planner offers predetermined routes that allow you to take in several parks and monuments in one trip, depending on the time you have available.
Must-See Travel Apps
Best for helpful features: Booking.com
Prices are fairly standard on this app, but last-minute travelers will appreciate that you can filter results to see, for example, only pet-friendly hotels or those with free parking or an airport shuttle service.
Best for same-day hotel deals: Hotel Tonight
This easy-to-navigate app has lots of same-day hotel deals, and you can’t beat the prices. Deals show up at noon local time for each city on the app. Hotel Tonight categorizes hotels using its own labels: Luxe, Hip, Solid, Basic, and Charming.
Best for researching deals: Kayak
The app, like the website, allows you to search for days and months ahead of your trip. It shows you prices on hotels, flights, cars, tours, and other services all in one place; just be sure to compare prices with those at Hotels.com, Hotwire, and Orbitz. Kayak’s app generally offers the same deals as its site, but the other apps often beat its prices.
Consumers Digest Communications, LLC
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization.
Using more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center; the nonprofit organization rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications.
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Launched by Consumer Reports in 2006, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products, and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers and through subscription.
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