Tripmasters is an online travel agency that focuses on multiple city, budget vacations from the United States to Europe, Asia, South America, Oceania and even Hawaii. We've used Tripmasters numerous times, as well as its sister company European Destinations to book international vacation packages, and trust the company completely. What we've found is an honest organization that provides unspeakably inexpensive vacation packages from the U.S. that are fully customizeable and come with excellent customer service. In fact, we've trusted Tripmasters.com enough to recommend to friends and family who have all booked through the service, and had great experiences of their own.
Before we get going, I want to be clear that we are, in no way, being compensated for this review. However, we've been loud and proud supporters of Tripmasters for several years among our friends and family, and wanted to share the information with our readers. We hope you're able to glean enough information from this review to give them a try. There are plenty of reasons to do so, and we'll do our best to details as many of them as possible in this review.
Also, we want to add that Tripmasters.com is our ideal provider for multiple-city vacations - this is where you really get the value. If you're looking for a packaged deal for flights and hotels, but you're only going to one city, you are probably better off using Expedia or Travelocity, and compare package options. If you're looking for two or more cities - you would be silly without going via Tripmasters. In fact, we've found that we can almost always find otherwise-unknown hotel deals and find great places to stay in European cities like Barcelona.
Ease Of Use
Formerly an off-line travel agency, in the more traditional form of vacation booking that was prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s, Tripmasters is one of the few companies of that era that successfully embraced technology and made the move to becoming a completely online booking agency - unless, of course, you want to speak to one of their agents.
Located at tripmasters.com, the first thing you'll notice about the website is the easy-to-use interface. The front page is not unlike any other online travel booking agent with which you might be familiar, be it Expedia, Priceline, or otherwise. As shown below, it's laid out in a simple pattern that even someone who isn't particularly computer savvy can easily understand.
Outside of the centrally-located booking engine, where one can build out custom trips in seconds (more on that in a moment), you'll notice a breakdown of all of the areas Tripmasters offers vacations to in the upper right corner of the front page. You can easily click on one of these buttons to go to the area of Tripmasters that focuses on vacations in that region, or simply begin building your trip in the central booking engine.
A third option is to scroll down where you see the photos of different vacation groupings, including "European Best Sellers", "Best of Southeast Asia", "Hawaii Island Hopping", and "Best of Costa Rica". This will show you the pre-established itineraries provided by Tripmasters.com (which you can always alter) if you're not quite sure exactly how you want to travel, but you know where you want to travel.
There are a few other options on this screen, including the "Search Tripmasters" bar at the top, which is a keyword search function that will take you to a page of already-established itineraries that include any keywords you type in the above space. If you prefer a detailed listing of all destinations, click on the "view destinations" bar on the right with the "down" arrow. This will take you to a broad page with a listing of all cities and countries where Tripmasters (and its sister company, European Destinations) travels.
A final way to immediately navigate to a listing of itineraries is to click on the "top deals" tab in the upper left corner, under the Tripmasters logo. This takes you to a page with some of the strongest discounts on the site.
How You Get Cheap Flights and Hotels
So, how is it that Tripmasters comes across its discounts, which it then passes along to its customers?
The arrangement is fairly simple. Tripmasters has a team of representatives who reach out to create relationships with airlines around the world. Once Tripmasters brings up one of these airline partners, they scour their schedules to see flights which have low bookings, for whatever reason. This could be due to overall interest in the traffic, or merely the time of the flight. Either way, these flights are allowed to be sold at a discount through Tripmasters as a part of the packaged itineraries. While this may sound like flights are undesirable, most are plenty comfortable enough and on schedules which aren't that bad. Typically, if going to Europe, you'll have an overnight flight which gets you to your destination sometime before noon, in most cases. Keep in mind that you can also still access European trips through Tripmasters.com's sister site - European Destinations, located at www.europeandestinations.com.
For hotels, Tripmasters really is an expert at making relationships with small, local, non-chain, boutique hotels. These hotels often lack the big advertising budgets and marketing departments of a larger chain, so they rely essentially on word-of mouth to get their name out. Tripmasters pairs with these companies, which will often discount their rooms up to half the price of a regular booking.
What results is a combination flight and hotel booking that can save you anywhere between 35% to 70% off the price of a multiple-city, international itinerary.
How The Booking Engine Works
The primary booking engine, located in the large, transparent box in the center of the front page, allows you to wholly customize trips from scratch. I'm not ashamed to say that, not only have we booked on this site numerous times, but I've spent far more time simple researching different itineraries and ideas out of the Miami airport. This booking engine becomes, in a way, it's own tool of daydreaming and visualization, which is incredibly cool and can keep you on the site for hours while you lust over all the places you want to visit! We always tell people when we talk about Tripmasters to "prepare to spend a few hours on there!"
The engine is simply laid out, with boxes for all of your typical trip itinerary information including departure airport ("leaving from"), cabin class (airline), "going to", dates, and number of nights. To build a multi-city itinerary to more than one location, which is the most beneficial way to use Tripmasters or European Destinations, you can enter the first city you want to visit, then add more by simply clicking the "add city" button, as shown in the lower left side below.
In the below example, I've selected Miami as the departure airport, with Helsinki as the first stop, then added Tallinn and St. Petersburg as the 2nd and 3rd itinerary locations, and specified three nights in each. Then, simply click on "no more cities, continue" to view details, customize your trip, and purchase.
The next screen will give you the opportunity to adjust a few areas, including your transportation between cities, how many hotel rooms you need, and how many guests are included. As you can see, I've selected "on your own" to travel from Helsinki and Tallinn because the cities are so close to each other. In fact, there's a three-hour ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, making the need for a flight entirely needless (plus, you'll save money).
You can also change the need for hotel rooms and travelers with the dropdown to the left, with 10 different options for traveler and hotel room arrangements, including accommodations for children. Once you've selected what you need, simply press "continue". In the example below, we've chose one hotel room for two people.
Here's where things get fun with Tripmasters! LOOK AT THE PRICING! Two people, with nine total nights over three European cities, with all flights and all hotels, for only $1,979!
That's TWO ADULTS, THREE EUROPEAN CITIES, ALL TRANSPORTATION AND ACCOMMODATION ...
For under $2,000 TOTAL!
From here, however, you still have continual options. As in the above screen, you see the "find cheaper flights" button, which allows you to look for direct flights, different layover, extended layovers, or practically any arrangement you could imagine. Furthermore, if you scroll down while on this screen, you'll be able to change hotel room,s add activities, car rental, rail passes, and intercity transfers including ferries, trains and private transfers - per the picture below.
You can even open up maps within the user interface that allows you to view hotels in relation to popular attractions and public transportation!
Once you've decided on the package you want, you'll be taken to the booking page where you can elect your payment method, including Paypal and Paypal Credit program (which allows you to pay off the trip over 6 months, interest free). If the cost of your trip is in excess of $2,000, you'll have the option to book it for a "down payment", which is normally 60-70% of the total package cost. Of the remainder, you'll pay half one month after you book, and the other half one month before departure for the trip.
As you see, once you've done the proper research, you can book a trip in literally minutes with Tripmasters - something we've now done countless times and will continue to do!
We can't speak highly enough about the customer service at Tripmasters, and we have specifics to prove it. Never did we call and have to leave a message, never did our call go unanswered, and never did we have a problem go unresolved. If you need the contact information, it's easy to find on the website, and multiple options for reaching an agent are available.
First, the communication with you after you book your trip is incredible. You'll receive confirmation e-mails after booking that will include a unique identifier that allows you to check on the status of your trip at any time, as well as your payment schedule and full itinerary. If anything changes, however, they contact you immediately with not only the problem, but a ready-made solution.
To give you an example, when Tracy and I went to Vienna, Barcelona, and Lisbon through Tripmasters' sister site, European Destinations, we had a layover in Madrid on our way to Vienna out of Miami. We received an email immediately stating that our initial flight leaving Miami had been delayed by 15 minutes, which cut our layover to under one hour in Madrid. Being such a tight schedule on an international trip, Tripmasters proposed we fly from Madrid to Vienna on a slightly later flight to avoid the hassle of having such a short layover. They even sent us a revised itinerary, and all we had to do was simply respond back via e-mail that we accepted the changes.
Within 24 hours, we had an e-mail with the updated itinerary, and the vacation went off without a single problem thanks to their excellent customer service!
This isn't the only case, however. We've had questions about payment information, changing credit cards, and even itineraries, and Tripmasters/European Destinations has provided impeccable service every time.
Lowest Priced Airfare And Hotels From The U.S.
What makes Tripmasters so great, beyond the user interface, easy-to-use platform and excellent customer service is the obvious.
We've traveled extensively around the globe, and nowhere have we seen prices as low. I spoke with a Tripmasters media representative months ago in regard to a possible partnership, and her reply was indicative of why we recommend them to you despite having absolutely no formal ties, and receiving no compensation for writing this. Her reply?
"Sorry, we don't partner with outside brands as our fares are so low there isn't margin to pay anyone to promote it."
Think that sounds like a long shot? Unreasonable? Well, you're reading a long blog entry with dedicated space on a website that took a lot of time to write. It isn't being written because we were paid. It's written because we love Tripmasters, believe it's the best deal on the entire internet for international vacation packages from the U.S. to Europe, Asia, South America and Oceania, and want our readers to benefit. Period.
You won't find a less expensive option for international travel from the United States to locations throughout the world than with Tripmasters - and the ease-of-use and friendly service only adds to the experience.
Useful Travel Resources for Any Trip!
Google Maps – Plan your trip anywhere with Google Maps. Also great for directions on the go!
RentalCars.com – Great site for comparing rental car prices
Skyscanner.net – Our favorite place to book cheap airline flights
Expedia.com – Book affordable accommodation or bundle flights and hotels
What's the one travel accessory we never travel without? RFID Protected Travel Money Belt
Suggested Reading: Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips