5 Tips and Tools For Convenient Holiday Travel

The 2011 holiday travel season is almost upon us. Whether you’re visiting family a few hours away or ringing in the New Year with a romantic European getaway, chances are your travels could use another layer of convenience. Here are five travel-related tips and tools to help you make the most of your holiday getaway.

1. Travel Deal Sites
The last couple of years have seen the meteoric rise of deal sites such as Groupon and Gilt Groupe. But if you thought deal sites only offered sales on luxury handbags and rooftop cocktails, think again. Tablet, Vacationist and Jetsetter offer savvy travelers great rates on hotels and vacation packages to destinations all around the world. For more deals, check out Mashable’s list of best travel sale sites.

2. Mobile Applications
Mobile devices are quickly becoming a traveler’s best friend. Apps such as Tripit and Expensify can help you track your itineraries and expenses in one place. GateGuru provides maps and tips for more than 80 airports, so you always know how long it takes to get through security (and where to get a pre-flight latte). If you think you’ll be using these applications – or your cell phone in general – outside the U.S., make sure you know whether your cell phone will have coverage overseas .

3. Frequent-Flier Miles
Some people view frequent-flyer miles as a means to an end. For others, miles are a religion. If you fall into the latter category, visit WebFlyer for an exhaustive collection of details on frequent-flyer programs. Whether you’re looking to compare blackout dates or want tips on where to buy, trade or sell your airline miles, WebFlyer may be worth a bookmark in your browser’s travel folder.

4. Take the Train
Flying is usually the obvious choice for getting to Asia or Europe from the U.S. But what about when you’re already overseas, and you want to travel while you’re there? Forbes recommends resisting the urge to rent a car or buy another plane ticket, and to take the train instead. More travelers are finding trains to be the best option for getting around foreign lands – they’re often less expensive than other modes of transport, they can be nearly as fast and they make for great scenic tours of the spaces between populous areas.

5. Lodging Alternatives
While there’s nothing quite like a stay in a luxury hotel, sometimes your travels can benefit from the trappings of home, and a new wave of sites offer such homespun lodging alternatives. Sites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway let vacationers rent private homes and apartments for their vacation lodging. These sites are sure to have appealing options, whether you’re looking for a Hawaiian beach house big enough for your entire brood, or a chic urban penthouse for Thanksgiving in New York City.

Are you planning a trip during the holiday season? What travel tools or tips do you rely on?

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