Web Travel Resources, Part 1
Practically every airline trip today begins on the Internet. But with so many travel-related Web sites, if you don't know where to look, you can end up experiencing information overload, wasting time, and getting frustrated.
So this week and next, I'm following up my July column on "Best Travel Planning Sites" with additional sites, to help you go right to the information and tools you need.
This week I focus on travel planning sites. Next week I'll turn to travel tools and resources, such as sites that help you find restaurants and hotels, get weather reports, and more.
The Big Three: Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz
Each of these sites has something that sets it apart from the others.
Travelocity. Travelocity Business promises 24-hour-a-day phone support for business travelers at no additional charge. Its FareWatcher Plus gives you automatic updates on fare changes and deals for up to ten destinations. Windows Vista users can install the Travelocity Desktop FareWatcher gadget to receive alerts.
Expedia. This popular site also offers tools and services for business travelers. In addition, it includes helpful tips and information on 65 airports worldwide, to help you figure out how to spend your time during layovers.
Orbitz. Orbitz's Traveler Update provides a dashboard-style overview of current security wait times, local traffic, weather, flight status, parking rates, Wi-Fi network accessibility, and other information for U.S. airports. Traveler Update combines information generated by users as well as reports from the FAA, TSA, and other sources. You can use the service on your computer and on Web-enabled phones.
SideStep. This site searches over 200 travel booking and airline sites--including Expedia, Travelocity, and JetBlue--and displays results in its downloadable toolbar. When you research a trip on a travel booking site, SideStep's toolbar automatically pops up to show you the itineraries it recommends so you can easily comparison shop. You can search for airfares, hotels, cars, vacation packages, cruises, and more.
Airfarewatchdog.com. The folks at Airfarewatchdog.com claim that "real people" compare airfares on airlines that booking Web sites don't typically include, such as Southwest Airlines. The site also includes smaller airlines, such as Allegiant Air and international carriers, which don't usually share their best fares with the big travel booking sites. The site is no-frills but includes useful features, such as Fare of the Day and Top 50 Fares.
LastMinuteTravel.com. The name pretty much sums it up. This site is designed to help you find the best fares for airlines, hotels, cruises, rental cars, and vacation packages, particularly for those traveling with little advance notice.
Mobissimo. Unlike some travel booking sites, Mobissimo lets you search for international trips as well as domestic U.S. jaunts. The site is limited to airlines, hotels, and rental cars.
Flycheapo.com. This bare-bones site is useful for finding low-cost carriers within Europe.
WhichBudget. Going beyond Flycheapo.com, WhichBudget helps you find low-cost carriers in 124 countries. The site's text-heavy interface will give you flashbacks to the mid-nineties, but it's worth a visit nonetheless.
I wrote about the following sites in my July column.
Farecast. This site charts recent airfare history for the itineraries you enter and predicts what your trip is likely to cost in the immediate future. PC World named Farecast one of the 20 Most Innovative Products of 2006.
ITA Software. This site is known for being objective (unlike some travel sites) and makes it easy to find itineraries that combine the lowest fares and convenient routing.
Yapta. You can use Yapta to get alerts whenever an airline itinerary you've booked drops in price. Armed with that knowledge, you may be able to receive a refund or credit for the difference between what you paid and the lower fare.
FlightStats. Head to FlightStats for on-time performance records for major airlines.
SeatGuru. Peruse seating diagrams for domestic and international planes at SeatGuru.
For Further Information
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Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.
For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.