20 February 2009

Top Travel Websites

Travel + Leisure's Dec 26th edition listed a variety of travel websites which I hope to explore but in the meantime I'm jotting some of them here so that I can get around to seeing which ones are worth it.


Predict the ideal moment to buy a ticket


Farecast uses historic pricing data to anticipate whether or not a fare is likely to fluctuate in the next week, even providing you with a rating.

Get your money back if a fare drops


If you’ve booked a flight directly through an airline website, Yapta will monitor the fare, alert you if the price drops, and instruct you how to get a refund from the airline for the difference (yes, it’s often possible).

Find on-time flights at 60 U.S. airports


Learn the odds of an on-time departure, the expected length of delays, and the likelihood of a cancellation for any given flight. Caveat: predictions reflect past delay patterns, not real-time data.

Snag a seat with the most legroom


With 436 detailed seating maps for 62 airlines and 74 plane models, the site makes it possible to pinpoint the ideal spot for the most space, access to power outlets, and distance from the lavatory.

ncrease your odds for a hassle-free flight


Meticulous online bookers will love the TripQuality function on this site, which lets you search flights based on factors such as the carrier’s record for losing bags and the aircraft’s age.

Secure prime parking at the airport


This directory of more than 500 airport parking lots around the world gives you prices and distances from the terminals, plus maps and user reviews. Caveat: contact info is included, but reservations can only be made online for lots at 15 airports (with more added each month).

Get the best deals on flights and hotels

kayak.com & sidestep.com

These two aggregators (now both owned by Kayak) are still the ultimate source for deals on airfare, hotels, and car rentals. Their new Flight Quality tool highlights itineraries with long layovers or short connection times. And the Every Hotel on Earth (EHOE) program allows users to search a database of 130,000 properties by amenities and location.

Book low-fare carriers within europe


You can search 75 low-fare carriers that service 700 destinations. Two numbers pop up—the fare and the price—so pay close attention. The fare is the base cost, while the price includes taxes and hidden fees, which can add as much as $65 to the cost of a ticket.

Reviews by user


With eight years’ experience, this site is a leader because of the sheer volume of entries—nearly 20 million reviews of hotels, restaurants, and attractions, and more than 1.3 million photos. Be forewarned: opinions range from candid to nitpicky and suspiciously enthusiastic.

Compare hotels in a destination


Preview all aspects of a hotel and compare it with its competitors. Short videos take you inside more than 8,000 properties, from the lobby to the bathroom of a master suite.

Pinpoint the best room


Get the floors to avoid and the suites not to miss in 450 hotels across the United States. You can compare rooms based on noise level, view, location, and bathroom size. In the coming year, the site will expand to include hotels in Europe, South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Boutique properties


More than 1,000 reviews detail the high and low points of each listed property, from a bungalow in Bali to a ch√Ęteau in Bordeaux. You’ll know what to expect, whether it’s a stellar menu or pesky highway noise.

Quirky hotels


An igloo in Switzerland, a castle in Australia, a prison in Turkey: these are just some of the oddball finds on the site. A colorful interactive map makes it possible to search by region and then ranks each property by its “wow” factor.

Customize trip plans


Fill out a Trip Request form (identifying your budget, where and when you want to travel, and more), and you’ll receive personalized itinerary options from a travel agent who specializes in your destination of choice.

Coordinate Group Travel


Get all your friends or family members on the same page—literally. Everyone can have an equal share in the planning, thanks to a personalized website that lets you create to-do lists, chat on private message boards, and build day-by-day itineraries.

Package deals, one week out


The site’s Last-Second Deals tab allows you to search, by destination and date, a list of packages that include reduced rates for flights, hotels, and car rentals. At press time, we found a round-trip flight from New York to Seattle, plus a three-night stay at the downtown Hotel Vintage Park, for $622 per person.

Create no-fuss online itineraries


Forward your many confirmation e-mails (car, hotel, flight, restaurants) to this site, which synthesizes them all by time and date and creates a streamlined itinerary, including maps, weather conditions, and driving directions.

Overall directions


Google Maps still soars above the competition with easy-to-read maps, street views of most U.S. cities, live feeds of traffic conditions, and detailed car, subway, and walking routes.

Driving directions


Get suggested routes for 61 countries around the world (24 in Europe) along with estimates about what you’ll spend on gas and tolls. New technology sends the route directly to your GPS, and distances are available in both kilometers and miles.

Mapping Routes on U.S. Public Transportation


Decide on your transport of choice, as well as how far you're willing to walk, and get point-to-point directions for five cities. Bonus features: You can see what the trip would cost by taxi and look at panoramic shots of what to expect when you emerge from underground. Plus, there's a new small-screen version for phones and PDA's. Caveat: There are no actual subway maps.

Vacation Rentals


All 50,000-plus listings feature photos, Google-powered maps, and ratings and reviews from previous renters.

Destination ideas


Plug in when you want to go and how much you want to spend on your next vacation, and Tripbase will identify a handful of destinations that match your needs. Each will include an overview of the city, average flight and hotel costs, and expected weather.

Ship luggage in advance


With fees for checking bags on the rise, this site’s service is comparatively reasonable: between New York and California, it’s $96 for a small duffel (40 pounds) to $140 for a large upright (70 pounds). T+L Tip: it takes two to six business days for the bags to arrive domestically, and seven to 10 days internationally.

Researching Low-Fare Carriers in Europe


Don't get stuck on the name. This is a great resource for learning about 45 low-fare carriers in Europe. Select your two endpoints (say Rome and Oslo) and learn who can get you from one to the other on a direct flight (Denmark's Sterling Air). Caveat: FlyCheapo only shows you who flies where; for prices and schedules, you'll have to visit the airlines' own sites.


Plan a trip to one of more than 90 destinations from start to finish. Along with all the basics (hotel, restaurant, and entertainment ideas), get tips on what to read before you go. Caveat: They tend to overpack an average day with suggestions.

The Basics

Converting Currency


180 currencies from 250 places, updated every minute. The conversion application is easy to locate (unlike that of close competitor Oanda), and you can bookmark go-to conversions. Caveat: Animations and flashing ads create a bit of sensory overload.

Finding Reliable Weather Forecasts


A notch above AccuWeather and Weather Underground, 11-year-old Weather does the best job of delivering the essentials clearly. Get current conditions for 98,000 destinations worldwide, updated every 20 minutes.

Learning About Health and Safety Abroad


A comprehensive resource with recom-mended vaccinations, embassy listings, and crime advisories for 204 countries. (Information is culled from the state departments of the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K.) Also included: tips on local customs and transportation. Caveat: Incomplete listings of doctors abroad. Free registration required.

8 More to Watch

Vayama.com A booking engine that pulls prices from all international flights originating in the United States, including those of low-fare carriers.

Yapta.com Tracks airfares after you book and will send an e-mail about a significant price drop, along with info about how to use little-known loopholes for a refund.

Travelistic.com A compilation of on-the-ground travel videos (there were more than 4,100 at press time) from real people around the world.

Meethalfway.com U.K.-based site, with a soon-to-launch U.S. version, that helps you find a geographic compromise.

Seriouseats.com New York Times writer Ed Levine filters, compiles, and analyzes all the juiciest global food news and opinions.

Airtreks.com Helps you plan complicated multi-leg itineraries without the hassle and expense of one-off tickets.

Dontforgetyourtoothbrush.com Create your own handy before-you-leave checklists.

TheBathroomdiaries.com A seemingly silly, surprisingly useful resource reviewing 12,000 public bathrooms in 120 countries.

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