When it comes to booking travel, most of our attention goes to finding the best airfare, hotel rate, cruise price, and maybe car rental; the big ticket, can’t-get-there-without-it, stuff. Those are obviously fundamental components of any trip. But they’re certainly not the only important bookings you’ll make. Once you’ve booked everything you need to get there, consider these activity and excursion ticket websites—the best of which let you search popular things to do and see in your destination. And whether you’re looking for something as exhilarating as skydiving or something as simple as a walking food tour, you can usually search for them on one site.
The excursions, tours, performances, and other activities you experience on your travels can make or break a trip. No one wants to be disappointed when an activity booking doesn’t work out or turns out not to be what you though it was—so you’ll want to be able to search offerings, and preferably to compare ratings of them. Plus, it’s essential to make sure you’re booking with reputable ticket websites offering reasonable prices.
The Best Excursion Ticket Websites for Travelers
Here are seven ticket websites and providers that won’t let you down. Click to read more.
Owned by TripAdvisor, Viator is a vast activity and excursion ticket website; one of the largest out there. Travelers can book anything from airport shuttle service, to guided tours, to skip-the-line admission at attractions all over the world. And because it’s similar to TripAdvisor, travelers can also browse reviews of the activity they’re eyeing. Most listings include comprehensive details about the tour and a generous cancellation policy (usually 24-hours prior to the activity with no penalty).
Viator does not operate the tours it sells. Rather, it’s a search engine of things to do. As such, its offerings tend to focus on cities and better-known travel destinations, although that includes excursions out of those places into the surrounding areas; like tours from Boston to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, tours of the Dutch countryside from a departure point in Amsterdam, etc. This makes Viator a great option for travelers who want to headquarter themselves in one hotspot but still experience the broader region.
Another day-tour-heavy option, GetYourGuide overlaps somewhat with Viator, but is focused more solely on experiences and tours (Viator includes services such as airport and in-town transportation services). Functionally, the sites aren’t very different; both offer an opportunity to compare tours and prices. And on that last note, it can be worth checking both: I found the exact same Niagara Falls day tour from Toronto on both sites. GetYourGuide allowed guests to book the base tour without the optional lunch and boat cruise for just $79, while Viator required guests to book the entire package for $138.
Tripadvisor leverages its massive inventory of user generated content to roll the research and booking process into one. Users can access all the standard tour information—such as age range, duration, start time, and language—while also browsing reviews and real-life photos from travelers who have actually booked the activity. The experience pages also feature what percentage of travelers would recommend a given activity, based on the “percentage of all Tripadvisor reviews for this product that have a bubble rating of 4 or higher.” The authenticity of the one-to-one style recommendations and opinions of fellow travelers can help give users the confidence to book.
For more event-focused resale ticket website StubHub is a useful last-minute option for verified tickets to everything from sports and concerts to comedy shows and theater seats. For the uninitiated, StubHub is a resale marketplace for ticket holders (and, let’s be honest, scalpers) to unload tickets they can’t use. This means shopping on StubHub is a double-edged sword: You’ll likely pay well above face value for high-demand or sold out events, but you can also find great deals at the last minute if the opposite is true. In the former case, StubHub (or similar initial-sale and resale option Ticketmaster) may be your only viable option. And in the latter case, StubHub can be a savvy way to save or even make some money; keep that in mind if you’ve ever bought some event tickets and then couldn’t attend.
Airbnb is all about living like a local, and Airbnb Experiences is no different. The emphasis here is on small or even private tours led by locals rather than tour companies, with an eye toward unique experiences rather than traditional sightseeing. Sometimes these experiences can be tailored to your interests: I booked a private bicycle tour of Berlin through Airbnb Experiences a few years back, and the guide all but ditched his preset itinerary and improvised based on my interests. As a result I got to see parts of the city I might never have found on my own.
One important consideration to remember: These are often regular folks, not full-time professional guides or tour operators, so it’s a good idea to bring a go-with-the-flow attitude on your excursion. Your experience may not be as polished or precise as a traditional tour, even if the host has been doing this for a while. Of course, the point of these experiences is to forgo those cookie cutter tours in favor of something different. AirBnB includes reviews and makes it easy to communicate with the experience host beforehand, so don’t hesitate to ask questions prior to booking.
Speaking of forgoing the cookie cutter experience, Atlas Obscura focuses, as its name implies, on all things obscure: The bizarre, forgotten, and hard-to-reach corners of a given city or destination that you wouldn’t normally find on excursion ticket websites. While nowhere near as robust as the other entries on this list, Atlas Obscura also offers a curated selection of tours and experiences. It’s currently in a half dozen U.S. cities, with more to come. Think: A guided wine-and-bug (yes, insects) pairing experience in Los Angeles, or a trip inside a holographer (maker of holograms) laboratory in New York. The tours are offered through Atlas Obscura, but AirBnB handles the booking. After all, anyone can visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right? So why not be different and check out a … Sewage Garden?
Launched in 2014, Amsterdam-based company Tiqets is a comparatively newer ticketing platform that emphasizes flexibility and convenience. Optional free cancellation polices are available on all bookings, allowing travelers to cancel tickets up to 11:59PM the night before the event. Tiqets also offers last minute deals on activities and events like palace tours, broadway shows, and city sightseeing tours. Browse by location or get inspired by their list of Most Popular Places to Visit. Tickets can be managed through their app (iOS | Android).
With a broader focus than the other sites on this list, Groupon can find great deals on everything from guided tours to restaurants at your destination. To search specifically for event tickets and travel activities, enter your destination in the search bar and browse their Things to Do category, which includes subcategories like Kids’ Activities, Nightlife, and Sports & Outdoors. From there, travelers can filter by price range, distance from the main destination, rating, and season.
Users can also browse via their Hotels & Travel section to book an entire trip via Groupon Getaways.
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