By A. Martin
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.
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 siteis 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 Farecastone of the 20 Most/ Innovative Products of 2006.
Kayak. Use Kayak to search multiple travel booking sites. The Buzz section reveals the best prices others have found using the site. Kayak was named one of PC World’s Top 100 Best Products of 2007.
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 Yaptato 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.
15 Essential Mobile Web Sites: Ever needed to make, shall we say, a pit stop when you’re on the go? The mobile browser version of MizPee may help you find the quick relief you need. Read about MizPee and 14 other great Web sites for mobile browsers in our roundup.
The Best Mobile Browsers: You might not be surprised to learn that Apple’s Safari Mobile, for the iPhone, earned our thumbs up among mobile browsers. We also reviewed Palm’s Blazer, the RIM BlackBerry browser, and others. Which browser came in last price? You might be surprised.
Mobile Broadband Explained: Quick–what’s the difference between EvDO and EDGE? If you’re not sure, read our “Business Buyer’s Guide to Mobile Broadband.”
Stuck in an unfamiliar town? These sites help you get the most out of your business trip.
Menu Pages.This guide to over 25,000 restaurants in eight metro areas provides user reviews and downloadable menus.
OpenTable.com. Want to book a table for four people tomorrow night at 8 o’clock?OpenTable.com lets you quickly discover which restaurants in a given city (20 in the U.S., a few internationally) have availability at a particular time, then book a table. Members earn points that can be redeemed for discounts at participating eateries. OpenTable.com includes links to reviews in Zagat.com and other sites.
Zagat. The famed guide to restaurants, featuring consumer reviews and ratings, is available digitally in several forms. You can get restaurant details for freeon your laptop(but no ratings or reviews) or cell phone Web browser. For $5 (for 30 days) or $25 (for 12 months), you can access Zagat’s reviews and ratings on a laptop or cell phone browser. Other options: Download the Zagat application and database ($30) onto your Palm, BlackBerry, or Pocket PC handheld; or buy a CD-ROM for your computer ($30). Go to the Zagat Survey Shop for
info on these service.
Chowhound. Thisfoodie sitefeatures reviews and tips from diners around the world, plus interviews with experts; forums; videos; and blogs
TripAdvisor. Here’s where hotel junkies trade secrets, reviews, tips, and photos. Users rate hotels on such things as service, value, and cleanliness.The site features forums, in which travelers pose questions to other travelers. You can also book hotel and airline reservations.
USAToday.com. The newspaper’s Hotel Hot sheet blog is ideal for keeping up with the latest hotel trends and news.
HotelChatter.This blog has tons of hotel news, gossip, and reviews, as well as annually updated lists of the best and worst hotels with Wi-Fi.
Google Maps. I’ve had mixed success with all the mapping/direction sites. But I use Google Maps most often, because I love the satellite and street view features and the real-time traffic updates. I also use Google Maps on my Treo for on-the-go driving directions without a GPS.
Weather.com. For thousands of cities worldwide,Weather.com lets see how local weather will affect outdoor activities; allergies; skin
conditions; even weddings.
YouTube. There are thousands of user-posted videos in the Travel & Places categories.
Travelistic.com. This is probably the most travel-focused video sharing sit, with over 5000 videos shot by and for travelers.
USAToday.com. The newspaper’s Travel site aggregates tons of tools and information for travelers, including MileTracker, a downloadable application for tracking frequent flier miles and MileMarker, a calculator that helps you determine how many miles you’ll need to fly from points A to B.
Town and Country Travel. The high-end travel magazine’s Web site features a useful directory of linked travel resources. Ask the
Concierge, an online feature in which concierges at renowned hotels aregrilled about what to do and see in their city, is worth a read. The
site recently launched, however, so you’re likely to find only a few Ask the Concierge entries.
Concierge.com. The Web site for Conde Nast Traveler features helpful tools, including a database of travel agents, destination video clips, and Suitcase, an interactive travel planning tool.
Have I missed your favorite Web travel-related sites? If so, share them with me at email@example.com. Please be sure to include your full name and location.
Fall’s Sleek Cell Phones: Our pictorial guide to this fall’s Apple iPhone competitors includes the Sprint Touch, manufactured by HTC. As its name implies, the Windows Mobile 6 Touch uses a touch screen to speed navigation. Though you can’t pinch or squeeze with the Touch interface, as you can with the iPhone, it does offer some cool
More $200-ish Laptops: Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child initiative isn’t the only inexpensive portable in the news. Intel’s Classmate PC will cost about $200 to manufacture and will be aimed at least initially at school kids in Brazil, Nigeria, and some Asian countries (it won’t be sold to consumers). Asus’s Eee PC, now available for preorder, costs $260 to $400.
How to Remove Craplets: Craplets are those unwanted programs and utilities that come preinstalled on many consumer PCs. They hog hard drive space and can slow your system. Among the 20 (mostly free)downloads you can’t live without isPC De-Crapifier, which will remove most if not all of those unwanted programs.