Web Sites > Travel
Ralph Carmichael  

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The Big Three Reservation Sites are Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz.

Some search-engine travel sites are Kayak, Mobissimo, and Qixo (pronounced kick-so).

Reservations Sites

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BookingBuddy BookingBuddy takes some (not all) of the hassle out of searching the various travel sites for the best fare. Enter your travel details, and BookingBuddy will point you to the different travel sites to find the best deal. I wish it would search them for me and gather the results instead of just redirecting me to them, but at least BookingBuddy saves you from having to enter your travel info nine times on nine different sites.
SeatGuru Before selecting your seat on the plane, be sure to visit SeatGuru so you know you're picking the best one. The site has seating plans for all the major airlines and plane types, and let you know which seats have the most legroom, nearby power outlets, or seatbacks that don't recline.
AirfareWatchdog It's far from the prettiest site on our list of faves, but airfarewatchdog.com provides lots of cheap deals, and insider tips on how to find more. It's also one of the few travel sites that let you search by departure city, for when you just want to get out of town for a few days and don't really care where you end up, as long as the airfare is cheap.
FareCast Airline tickets are like stocks: the prices fluctuate all the time, seemingly for no reason at all, making it hard to know when to buy. Farecast helps you know what your odds are of getting a good deal. The site is a fare aggregator similar to Kayak, but it includes useful fare predictions (as opposed to Kayak's fare history, which Farecast also has) that guess at what the price fluctuations ought to be in the coming days and weeks. It even rates tickets as "Buy" or "Wait" and tells you how volatile the ticket price is.
HotWire In our price testing for this story, Hotwire had the best price for next-weekend flights. Travel partners offer Hotwire unsold inventory (plane seats, etc) at deeply discounted prices, which Hotwire then passes on to users. The only problem is that the service doesn't always tell you which airline you'll be flying or your exact flying time, so if you're choosy about your flights, Hotwire may not be for you.
InsideTrip InsideTrip adds user ratings to the familiar aggregated ticket search formula. Users rate the comfort, speed, and "ease" of flights, and those ratings are added to InsideTrip's search results. Also, you can set priorities using the TripQuality Dashboard; is legroom more important to you than a good on-time percentage? Do you prefer non-stop flights? Newer planes? Customize your results and find the perfect match.
Kayak Kayak and SideStep are the big names in aggregated ticket searching, and are owned by the same company as of December 2007. The sites comb through ticket prices from all the major airlines and sites like CheapTickets.com to find you the best prices. Kayak is a bit more no-nonsense than the other sites we looked at; you'll find lots of useful data, but not a lot of the Web-2.0 extras that SideStep and others have.
Mobissimo Mobissimo does the same kind of fare aggregation as Kayak and Farecast, but it puts a "fun" Web-2.0 skin on it. The site doesn't have all the robust features of Kayak and Farecast, but it does have an AJAX UI that lets you move modules around, a scattershot travel blog, and Flickr, weather, and currency-converter widgets.
SideStep SideStep combs the same data and uses the same basic UI as Kayak, but the user experience can be quite different. It's ticket search results will be the same as Kayak's, but SideStep incorporates more content like travel guides and newsletters, and SideStep has a downloadable toolbar that offers side-by-side ticket-price comparisons with travel sites like Expedia. A rep for Kayak and SideStep told me that Kayak is the Google of ticket search, while SideStep is the Yahoo!, and users tend to prefer one over the other.
Yapta Yapta's downloadable plug-in tracks the prices of flights you're interested in, letting you know the best time to pull the trigger. But even if you don't want to download anything, the service can still save you money. Once you've bought your ticket, enter in your flight number, travel dates, and ticket price. If the price drops below what you paid for your ticket, Yapta will let you know via e-mail so can get a voucher for the price difference from the airline. I've done it myself and it's worked every time. Also, starting next month, Yapta will help you find flights instead of just tracking prices for you. The new Flight Finder feature will let you specify your flight preferences and track down flights that meet them.

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Web Sites > Travel
Ralph Carmichael