The Best Flight Booking Sites

We all go through similar steps while planning a vacation . It will start with searching for cheap flights, planning itinerary, looking for budget hotels,finding car rental deals and wishing to get a steal deal on anything or everything. Gone are the days when people used to contact travel agents (some people still do and I don’t know why) and  be at their mercy to find cheap and affordable options. With world wide web in our pocket and internet on our finger tips, we can browse through websites with travel deals anytime we want. After a lot of research and booking experiences , I have created a list of websites to help you plan your next budget travel. I hope you’ll make good use of these resources to save money on online travel booking.

 I have used many of these websites myself and sites here that I haven’t personally used, I have put in a lot of time and effort to make sure each of them has the best deals.

kayak: This is often my first stop when I search for cheap airfares. Kayak searches over 140+ airlines and travel agencies (including Priceline.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Hotwire.com, and other big airfare search engines) to aggregate the best flight deals all in one place.

 hotwireA site that gives you best deals in flights, hotels and car booking. Hotwire offers unsold inventory at big discounts and even though the specific details are disclosed at the time of check in , the surprise is usually pleasant.

 sta :  With special discounts offered to students, teachers and youngsters under 26 years of age, this website is student’s favorite.

dohop A comprehensive air search website. You can find very good deals at times on this website.

getgoing

getgoinglogo : This website gives a very unique user experience. It is designed for budget travelers who are flexible with their destination choice.e.g. If you plan to go to South America but don’t know which place will have cheaper tickets (Bolivia, Peru, Nicargua etc.), this website will give you flights to all possible destinations in South America with airfare. I loved the concept don’t you think??

lastminute : Best travel ideas come very last minute and I think that is what makers of this website were thinking while designing it. I have been able to get some very cheap deals on this website.  If you want to book a vacation for this weekend or grab a flight for tomorrow, start your search here for the best prices on last minute deals.

vayama : A comprehensive search engine that offers  you a lower price for “secret seat” that gets disclosed at the very end. I once found a very cheap deal for my Seychelles trip on Vayama and ever since then it is my go to site.

wegolo

wegolologo : Wegolo will help you in finding “all-in” fares so  that you get no surprise taxes and fees on your checkouts. It does not support bookings over the phone but gives you the liberty of combining out- and inbound flights with 2 different airlines and select the optimum departure/arriving schedules or airports.

yapta : This website is true to its motto : “Prices drop . We Alert. You Save”.  If you serious about money saving on your airline tickets this website has to be bookmarked. After you purchase the ticket , Yapta informs you of price fluctuation  giving you a chance to get a refund of the difference from the airline.

orbitz : Airfare search portal assuring lowest price guaranteed. If another customer books the same flight on Orbitz at a lower price, you’ll automatically be issued a refund for the difference.

flylogo : A powerful flight search engine powered by TravelZoo,Fly.com  provides a clean and simple interfaceto its users to browse through deals. I like the fact that it does not give any pop ups , is clutter free  and gives very neat experience.

bingtravel : In order to create a new search identity Microsoft bought Farecast and re-branded it as Bing Travel. Bing Travel differentiates by offering predictions on when is the best time to purchase airline tickets.

priceline

 priceline_logo : While Priceline is a full-fledged booking engine, it’s most valuable for its bidding system called “Name your own price”. I am sure most of you are already aware of this search engine.

 farecompare : Tired of going on individual websites and search for cheap airfares, farecompare gives you option of comparing 3 websites at a time.

cheapoair : A comprehensive airfare search engine which shows prices excluding taxes.

skyscannerLogo : A good airfare search engine . The site is only a scanner for flights and not a booking site.I use skyscanner just to get a comparison but book directly with the airline.

momondo

momondo_logo : I like the fact this website breaks the monotinity of every search engine.  It provides an overview of available travel services on the internet and refers its users to travel providers.The technology of momondo enables its users to gain insight into the prices of airplane tickets and to get an assessment of the attractiveness of a flight ticket based on its price and travel time. A major reason Momondo ranks higher than travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity is that it allows people to book directly with the travel provider (Hilton or Delta Air Lines, for example), which permits the traveler to receive the appropriate loyalty miles or points.

I hope the list of websites above help you in finding cheapest flight to your favorite  destinations. My goal is to build up and expand this list with readers inputs. What site do you use to find the perfect flight price? Let me know in the comments. Thank you for stopping by . 

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Top places to visit in Puerto Rico

Who doesn’t like warm sunshine? If you live in northeast America, trust me you will understand the importance even more. So when it comes to a long weekend getaway from miserable winters,110 miles long and 35 miles wide Puerto Rico sounds like a dream come true. All types of travelers can easily fall in love with this island since it has something for everybody. Party lovers will find the city of San Juan full of nightlife, surfers will find their solitude on the west coast of island, explorers will have rain-forests and caves to dig around ,cosmopolitan types will have plethora of history, culture and art to soak in and yes beach lovers will have white sand beaches to sun bathe.

First thing first, assuming you are not a beach bum , this handy checklist will give you a starting point to pack. Don’t worry if you forget some things. There are all major stores found in the US readily available in Puerto Rico.

1) Sun Block: Puerto Rico is a sun kissed destination. Even if you are not on beach , you will still require lots of sunblock to avoid geAtleastn burnt. At least 50 SPF or above is recommended.
2) Sandals: All the main towns in PR are walk-able and that is preferred way to roam around. So do not forget comfortable sandals or flip flops.
3) Beachwear: Really, do I need to tell why??
4) Hiking boots: Puerto Rico has the only rainforest in US soil., any guesses on name?? It is El Yunque National Forest and has amazing hikes for beautiful views and yes you will have to walk for this.
5) Mosquito Repellent: If you have gone on hikes in any of the rainforests before, you will know the dangers of being bitten by mosquitoes.
6) Light waterproof Jacket: It does rain a lot in PR. Specially if you are in rainforests, weather is very unpredictable.
7) Sunglasses : Sun will have no mercy on you. Protect your eyes and look cool.
8) GPS and maps : Even though PR has well developed highway system, for navigating through off beaten path GPS and maps will be very helpful. Most of the US cellular providers (ATT, Verizon etc) provide good service so your Google maps will work.
9) Evening wear : Puerto Ricans are very fashionable specially when it comes to going to clubs and dinners (mainly in San Juan). A good evening wear will definitely help you to blend in.
10) Camera : Country is beautiful. Enough Said.

Once packing is all done, you are all set for the trip to paradise 🙂 .Rental car is preferred way to explore the island. The following day –trip itineraries will take you to some known attractions with some surprise discoveries. For most part I would suggest to base out of San Juan and explore much of the island in short drives. Here is a map to help you plan.

San Juan , the city trip:

Old San Juan and its charm

Old San Juan is a compact historic city which can be explored best on foot. City’s forts, museums , art galleries and cobble streets will keep you enchanted.

El Morro Fort

If tired of roaming, grab quick refreshment in one of city’s cafe or restaurant.My personal favorite Cuatro Sombras. Excellent frappes!!.

Who wont go for coffee here :)

World’s most interesting man’s fav coffee place, who m I to question 🙂

For a quick dip in water head towards Ocean park beach or Isla Verde beach and just relax. You might want to head out in evening as San Juan bustle with night life. There are plenty of good bars , casinos and clubs in San Juan that you don’t want to miss.

A day in Karst Region Arecibo (RioCaves,Cueva Ventana, Cueva Del Indio and Arecibo Observatory):

Rio Camuy Caves from inside

Rio Camuy Caves from inside

All the three caves are located in Karst region of Puerto Rico at about 1.5 hours driving distance from Old San Juan. Rio Camuy caves are magnificent. The caves are located in a 268 acre park. The park only allows a certain number of visitors in a day. So it is best to get there before 10:30am. They give 2 hours long tour to the caves explaining history, geography and formations in the caves. It’s totally worth it and costs 15$ per person.Cueva Ventana also known as window cave is
located at a a short drive of 30 mins on route 10 from Riocaves. Entry fees is 10$ per person and the view at the end of hike is amazing.

Grand entrance to the caves

Grand entrance to the caves

If there is still time left pick between Arecibo Observatory and Cueva Del Indio. Arecibo Observatory is known for world’s biggest and most sensitive radio telescope.Intersting fact,when I saw it I realized James Bond- The Golden Eye was shot there. Cueva Del Indio is famous for petro glyphs. I was amazed to see the rock formations in the ocean near these caves. Beautiful arches rushed with high waves looked spectacular. A must see totally.

Huge waves thrashing against rocks

Huge waves thrashing against rocks

El Yunque National Forest and Laguna Grande, Fajardo :

LaMina Waterfalls: El Yunque National Forest

Enjoy a dip under LaMina Waterfalls: El Yunque National Forest

Located 25 miles east of San Juan, El Yunque National Forest is must see for its wide variety of flora and fauna. One can get all details, maps and guidance from El Portal Tropical Forest Center. You will have the choice of hiking trails or driving through. Trails range from easy to intense and a hike will allow you to take in a variety of sights, including waterfalls, lookout towers, and mountain peaks. There are no designated canteens or restaurants in El Yunque. So , if you are planning to hike, do carry food and water with you. Be prepared for rain. After spending most part of day hiking in forests, take a break at Luquillo beach near Fajardo. Come on you deserve it 🙂 .

A rare natural wonder that you cannot miss while visiting Puerto Rico is bio-luminescence. There are three bio-bays in Puerto Rico. La Parguera (Southwest and least bright), Mosquito Bay (Vieques island and most bright) and La Laguna Grande (Fajardo and veru bright). There are only two ways to enjoy this trip either by Kayak or Electric Boats.
It costs 40-50$ for Kayaks and 90$ for electric boat. All tour operators have their base at Las Croabas where they brief about the tour and give safety guidelines.My Suggestion will be not to miss the briefing section. You will realize its importance as you kayak through dark mangroves.
Each trip takes about 2.5 hours from start to finish and by the end of it two things are sure to happen.
(a) No matter what , you are going to get wet.
(b)Your arms will be too tired , especially if you are going against the current.

Tips for Bio Bay:
a) Book well in advance. There are very rare chances of cancellations by others, so don’t bank on that.
b) It is best seen on a dark night, try to go when it is moonless or close to it.
c) Prepare to get wet. Wear shorts that will dry quickly.
d) Do listen to the briefings by tour operators. They are the life saviors in mangroves.
e) Do not carry any electronics, car keys, go pros(unless its waterproof and will remain attached to your body) etc with you to bio bay. You are bound to lose them.
f) There are no tours on Sunday. So plan accordingly.

Puerto Rico JPG2

Night look of Puerto Rico

Culebra and Viques Islands:
Travel (by plane or ferry) to Vieques or Culebra from Fajardo. A lot of companies run their day tours from Fajardo where they would take you to the island by ferry and will take you to fun activities like snorkeling. Flamenco is the most popular beach on Culebra and is gem of this island. It is one of those “picture postcard”beaches with white sand, blue water and pal, trees on the backdrop.Explore the island by renting car or bicycle.Vieques is famous for its bioluminescent Mosquito Bay and scenic trails along with pristine beaches. There is very limited accomodation options on both the islandsso plan accordingly.

Ponce-Cabo Rajo :

Located in southwest part of Puerto Rico, Ponce is second largest city and the so-called “pearl of the South.”Head southwest on 52 for Ponce and you’ll notice a drastic change in landscape—from moist and lush to dry and cactus-marked arid mountains. But I guess that is the beauty of this area. You can take a trolley tour to visit all major landmarks of Ponce or visit some coffee plantations. Puerto Rico is famous for its coffee.

Scenic Drive to Ponce

OnWay to Ponce

An hour further in southwest, there lies this beautiful town Cabo-Rajo which is famous for its dry forests. You will be surprised to know that Cabo-Rajo is always on alert for wild-fires, something you do not expect from a tropical place. If you manage to get to the lighthouse , the views from the top are beautiful. Take a peek over the edges of the cliffs. I assure you,it will be amazing.

Massive rock formations in sea

You can enjoy the view of blue water followed by pink water and then green water. Yes you heard it right pink water and that is because of salt mines.

 

A view from CaboRojo Lighthouse

A view from CaboRojo Lighthouse

Cabo Rajo is famous for salt harvesting and the observatory people will be happy to give you a tour.

Salt harvesting in CaboRojo

If you feel tired after a long drive, the beach next to lighthouse is all that you need. Its one of the most beautiful beaches in PR.

 

The places above are just to give you the idea of diversity and breaking the stereotype of Puerto Rico being termed as beach destination. If you budget your time carefully and tour around the island you’re likely to see why Puerto Rico’s nickname is the “Island of Enchantment.” If you have any questions email me or leave me a comment. I will try to answer as soon as possible. Do share your experiences. I will love to hear from you.

 

(All photo credits to www.photostains.com)

10 (Mis)conceptions about Puerto Rico

I recently visited Puerto Rico and I feel this is one of the most misunderstood places in the world. For all the future travelers to Puerto Rico, this particular article is about the most common (mis)conceptions about this island of enchantment. If that difference in opinion and reality is good or bad I leave it up to you. But i hope this article helps you in planning your vacation well.

Misconception 1: Puerto Rico is an independent country or a State in United States.

I think answer to this is still not clear. The reason being, officially Puerto Rico is a commonwealth. It was a Spanish Colony for a really long time and was handed over to US in 1898. The political status of Puerto Rico is unclear since it remains unincorporated territory of the Unites States. Calling Puerto Rican phone number from US is considered as domestic call, they use US dollar as their currency , you will find Best Buy, Burger King, Walmart and Walgreen in every nook and corner and to top it all shipping to Puerto Rico is considered domestic by USPS which in nutshell will make you think that this is US State.
However, confusion arises when you see they have their own national flag and national anthem, they use metric system unlike US ( which I personally was very happy about), many sites like Netflix have different policies on whether internet users in PR can access their content and most interesting Puerto Rico competes separately in Olympics. Hence, we can debate that PR is a separate country.

Misconception 2 : One needs to have visa to visit Puerto Rico.

Well i think most of this is related to people thinking PR is in South America. The fact is if you have valid visa for USA, you can definitely visit Puerto Rico. You do not need a passport to go to Puerto Rico if you are a US citizen or legal permanent resident. For people like me who are on work visa in USA, there is no immigration required, so feel free to plan the trip.

Misconception 3 : Puerto Rico is a beach lovers destination only.

Puerto Rico has so much variation in its landscape that I was bowled over by it. It has lush green rain forest in East which is supposed to be the only rain-forest in USA whereas a dry forest in southwest part, prone to wildfires which will totally amaze you. The variety of activities  and attractions in Puerto Rico make it an island of continuous enchantment. Art, culture, history and great outdoors, Puerto Rico has something in store for everything.

Misconception 4 : Its unsafe to travel in Puerto Rico as crime rate is high.

The crime in Puerto Rico is either act of passion or drug driven. If you are not chasing someone’s wife or you are not into drugs, trust me its pretty safe to roam around in Puerto Rico. But like any other big place some rules of safety always apply. There are areas where you would not want to go same as in a city in the States.Do not leave any articles in car as window smashing is common but I think this is same as many cities in States too.

Misconception 5 : Driving in Puerto Rico is same like driving in US.

Driving in Puerto Rico is nothing like driving in US. The traffic is insane and at times there are iguanas on the road, so be very careful. To top it all there is much confusion about the metric system too. The distance will be in kilometers, the speed signs on road will be miles\hour and if you go for gas refill that is measured in liters.

Misconception 6 : Puerto Rico is a small island  which requires only a day to explore around.

Puerto Rico is very well connected island and I must say the infrastructure in terms of roads is very good. However, it is not a small island. I think there are too many places to be seen in this island that cannot be done in one day. Most of the travelers go to Fajardo (east side of island),
see the areas around , visit Old San Juan and that is all for them. The west side of island is equally pretty and very different than east side. If you are planning to visit Puerto Rico for 3 4 days my suggestion will be to keep a day for west side and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

Misconception 7 : It is hard for vegetarians to find good food options.

I will gladly accept that this was my biggest misconception. I found many restaurants with good vegetarian menu. Panini, Pasta, mufungo, sandwich, pizza or salad , name it and they had it. I will be posting a separate post on where to eat in Puerto Rico to give my recommendations for vegetarians.

Misconception 8 : Souvenir shopping in Puerto Rico is all about buying tropical t-shirt and a shot glass with a logo on it.

San Juan has a lot of souvenir shops and art galleries. The best thing is that local artists are given a lot of importance and there are some galleries like El Galpon, Patchoulli etc that carry exclusive local artist work only. For greater part , it was hard for me to distinguish between a photo and painting of cobble streets as they were done with great finesse.From wall hangings to ceramic vases, handmade puppets to ornaments , Puerto Rico has something for all. Not to mention that this place is famous for it coffee and Rum. The most fascinating thing in many sovenier shops you will find is vejigante mask. These masks are hand-painted and assembled by local artisans. While some are very big to be worn in carnivals, a lot of them are small and can be easily carried home.

Misconception 9 : Puerto Rico is connected to mainland United States.

Though Puerto Rico is US territory but no ways its connected to United states mainland, not by any bridge and not via Mexico through roads. It is not one of US virgin islands (which many people think it is).One needs to fly to this island. So next time if you want to ask about travel time to Puerto Rico, it should be ‘How long will it take to fly to Puerto Rico?’ and not ‘How long will it take to drive to Puerto Rico?’

Misconception 10 : Hotels and resorts are preferred way of staying and enjoying in Puerto Rico.

While I know that staying in hotel has its own perks like free breakfast and swimming pool but if you research thoroughly on AirBnB and similar sites and decide to stay with a local host, nothing beats that. One gets to know so much about history of the place, great places in neighborhood, some hidden jewels to visit that it makes it totally worth missing continental free breakfast. Staying with locals gives you a new perspective and once feels more connected to the place. I weighed my options like hotel vs local, cost of eating out etc and it came out to be more cost effective to stay in an Airbnb. Most of the hosts will give you tour of the neighborhood, local restaurants recommendations, travel tips, places to avoid info etc which makes a lot of difference.

I hope this gives you a fresh perspective while planning to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has a lot to offer art, history, scenic beauty, beaches , activities. My trip to Puerto Rico was very memorable and I will share more of my experiences in my future articles on my blog. If you have any questions email me or leave me a comment. I will try to answer as soon as possible.Do share your experiences. I will love to hear from you.