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Sixteen online aids to help you travel on the cheap

From Airbnb to Skyscanner, online aids have made travel easier and more economical

Specialised search engines such as and are dedicated to finding the cheapest flights available. Photograph: iStock

"As an alternative to booking flights over the phone, Ryanair has developed an internet-based flight information and booking service. Flights are listed by number, day and time of departure and the booking may be made online."

That was how this newspaper reported the launch of the Ryanair website in September 1999. There was nothing in the short and sober report to suggest that the writer – or indeed the newspaper – had any notion that the airline’s move into cyberspace was about to change the business of travel forever.

Almost overnight, consumers were handed greater control over how and when they travelled and how much they would have to pay.

But online bookings were only the start of a long journey. With each year since then, technology has made travel cheaper, easier and better for us all with everything from Airbnb to TripAdvisor and on.


So here are just few of the well-known – and less well known – ways you can use the wonders of the modern world to find get the best value for your trips away.

1 Ryanair and Aer Lingus have made much of their post-Christmas sales – and there are bargains to be found on both – but one of the big mistakes Irish people make when they are looking to book holidays is to limit their searches to Irish-based airlines and Irish airports. There are several specialised search engines dedicated to finding the cheapest flights available. The biggest player is Google, and by using its dedicated flight search you just pick a destination and a date to find out when and with which airline is it cheapest to fly. We tried it last week and in seconds were able to knock more than €100 off a flight from Dublin to Rome next weekend by opting for Ryanair instead of Aer Lingus. Other options worth exploring are and One of the appealing things about the former is the manner in which you can filter the search results. You can search just one airline flying to one destination at one time or search for "anywhere in Italy" or "anywhere in southeast Asia" for less than a certain price point and see where it gets you.

2 We recently came across the Like many others it allows users to search for flights across multiple airlines and booking engines. What made it stand out was its "error fares" section. It outlines why some airlines sometimes price flights incorrectly. One reason is that airlines can forget to add on fuel surcharges to long-haul flights – this can happen if one leg of a journey is short haul and the other long haul – and it cites an example of flights from Dublin to Buenos Aires via Frankfurt with a German airline that cost £275 return, although that example is dates from 2015. At the time of writing last week, fare errors highlighted on the website included return flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to India for less than £300. There are a couple of caveats, however. We have never used the site, so don't know for sure how good it is. And we did note the message on the website in which the owners "strongly recommend you delay making further plans as much as possible". It adds: "Because this is an error fare, there is always the small chance the airline may cancel the ticket." Having said that, it might be worth a look.

3 Airports are not the most interesting places in the world to hang out. This is where LoungeBuddy comes in. It is a free app – available for both IoS and Android – which will give you all the information you need about the airport lounges available to you in whatever airport you are flying out of and the cost. Not only that, the app also contains reviews of the lounges and – even better – you can book access to the lounges through it. Given that most airport lounges offer free refreshments, wifi and are away from the money-pit shops, getting access to such a place could save you money.

4 There is little point in making significant savings on your flights only to waste the gains by not being more clued in when it comes to parking. If you are driving to your departure airport – and always first ask yourself if you would be financially better off taking a taxi – pay for parking in advance and online. If you book your parking in Dublin Airport in such a fashion, you will pay €25.95 per day. If you just drive up you will be hit with a daily rate of €40. And in the long-term car parks you could easily knock as much as €5 off the daily rate by booking in advance. Over the course of two weeks, being savvy could save you €70, and you would save nearly as much over a four-day mini-break just by thinking ahead.

5 Couch-surfing is probably the cheapest type of accommodation there is. Couchsurfing.comwas one of the first social platforms dedicated to putting like-minded souls in contact with each other. The website was given an overhaul last year, as was the process, and would-be guests can now get their profiles vetted, so you can be confident you will be staying with who they say they are. It isn't for everyone, obviously.

6 A more grown-up version of couch-surfing is Airbnb, and if you do your research properly it can be brilliant. You register with the site – – pick your destination and look for a place to rent for however long you want it. Once you transfer money to property owners through the website platform, your money will be safe and you can book with relative security. However, you should never stray off the platform, even if a property owner promises you a great deal if you book directly with them.

7 Airbnb is not resting on its laurels. It recently started offering travellers excursions and experiences hosted by locals as part of an ambitious expansion that will let you plan entire trips through the site. A redesigned app went live late last year and works for a dozen cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, London, Paris, Florence, Cape Town, Havana, Seoul, Nairobi and Tokyo. There are plans for 50 more cities to be added this year, and among the experiences currently on offer are a tour with Nelson Mandela’s prison guard, surfing on Venice Beach and a three-day craft gastronomic tour of London. There are also burlesque dance lessons, mountain biking, samurai sword classes and murder mystery tours.

8 You have surely heard of Airbnb and Couchsurfing, but you may not be so familiar with The notion was dreamed up in San Francisco four or so years ago. It is, basically, a communal dining company and has been dubbed the "Airbnb of dining". Effectively it connects food lovers with hosts all over the world. The hosts open up their dining room tables and serve up authentic, home-cooked meals giving a unique, local experience for less than you might pay in a fancy restaurant. It operates in 200 cities across 50 countries and is, it says, highly selective about who can host a meal. So if all you can cook is beans on toast and spaghetti bolognese, you're not going to get on their list. Would-be hosts who are starting out are evaluated by peer reviews and ratings, which are assessed by EatWith's people. "If the chef has a high enough rating and the reviews are stellar, then they'll pass and become a fully fledged EatWith host," a spokeswoman for the company says.

9 Surfing couches, renting people's homes and eating at their tables are not for everyone, and if you are in the market for a hotel room for less – sometimes a lot less – have a look at The website, which is owned by Expedia, does deals with some of the world's leading hotels and sells their unsold rooms at reduced rates without the hotels having to advertise the discounts on their websites or in any other public forums, a move that many fear would damage their brands and anger other guests. The only downside is you have to pay up front for the hotel room and you don't get sight of where you will be staying until after you have paid, when the details are emailed to you. You can set the location and the number of stars but then you are taking a gamble. Pricewatch has used this service on several occasions and it has never let us down – although do choose your stars wisely – and the more of them there are the better.

10 When visiting any city you will save money if you use public transport rather than taxi, that is obvious. Not only is it cheaper, but by using public transport you will get a much greater sense of a city's scale. And every big city in Europe has better public transport than Ireland does. But until technology came to our aid, public transport systems in unfamiliar countries and cities were largely impenetrable to all but the most clued-in travellers. Go to and you will find out virtually everything you need to know about the transport options in your destination city.

11 Guidebooks are great and Lonely Planet and Rough Guide have helped us over many years. But technology has stolen a march on the printed products, and to get the best out of any destination you need to download a couple of apps before you go. Both Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide series have excellent travel apps, as does Time Out.

12 It is easy to tire of the likes of Living Social and Groupon if, like Pricewatch, you signed up years ago and find yourself seldom in the market for discounted teeth-whitening or yoga classes. But they can have real value for your break away. If you sign up to all the deal sites you can find in your destination well ahead of your departure date, you will be able to eat for less and take advantage of discounted activities. With Google Translate doing the hard work for you, you won't even need the local lingo, although if you do want to learn a bit of the language spoken in your destination country, we can't recommend Duolingo enough. It is brilliant. And kids love it.

13 We all know that the best and best-value restaurants are off the beaten track. A horrible meal on La Rambla in Barcelona will cost you €60. A lovely one 100m down almost any side street will cost €10. It is the same in every city you go to. Tripadvisor. com"> can be used to find the best restaurants, or at least the ones that TripAdvsor users have ranked highest. With the app installed on your phone, you can also search for the top-rated restaurants close to where you are at any given second, and the mapping function will guide you to where you need to be. It is very handy.

14 If you are planning a trip away and want to ensure you get a table in your restaurant of choice but are not comfortable speaking the local language you should check out, which is owned by TripAdvisor. It allows you to book tables in restaurants in more than 30,000 restaurants in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Denmark, Portugal and Brazil.

15 Download the app Free Wifi Finder. It uses GPS to find wifi hot spots all over the world. And use the Skype or Viber apps to make calls at no cost.

16 You can easily knock €30 or €40 off the annual cost of a travel insurance policy. Sites such as do the donkey work for you. If you take more than two holidays a year, it is much cheaper to get a multi-trip policy. And we would always urge people to take out travel insurance, if only to protect themselves against unforeseen cancellations and the like.

Have we missed something? Is there a website or an app that you have come across that helps you get great deals or save money while your travelling? If there is something that you think we should have included, get in touch.