Are you ready to make your reservation, but unsure which travel site to visit first? Here are some tips for choosing a travel booking site that best fits your needs.
- Know what you want. Do you want to plan an entire vacation at once? The big travel sites, like Expedia and Travelocity, are one-stop shops where you can get airline tickets, hotel accommodations and rental car reservations quickly and easily. They're good places to start -- to get a feel for the types of hotels and airfares available -- but they may not always get you the cheapest rates. If you're looking for a bargain, visit a site like Kayak, which lets you search rates on hundreds of different travel booking sites simultaneously. Or, if you just need a hotel, airfare or rental car, you may save more money on a specialty site like Hotels.com, RentalCars.com or CheapFlights.com.
- Consider ease of use. The best travel booking sites are clear and easy to navigate. When you click on a link, it should take you where it promises -- not get you lost in cyberspace. The Web site should save your information as you search, so that you don't have to re-enter your travel dates 20 times in a row. Some sites even go a step further, letting you save your itinerary and favorite places.
- Look for hidden fees. Some travel booking sites will add their own fee when you make a reservation, or they may not include taxes or other charges in the price they quote you, which means you may not be getting as much of a deal as you thought. Read the terms very carefully before you book to see how much, if anything, extra you'll be paying. Thanks to the economic slump, travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity have dropped their airline booking fees (which ranged from $5 to $12); some sites, like Kayak.com, say they don't charge any booking fees at all.
- Check into customer service. Does the travel booking site stand behind its services? What will they do if you find a cheaper rate elsewhere (some sites have price guarantees that will pay you back the difference), or if your trip doesn't go as planned? The site should have its customer service phone number or e-mail address, as well as its cancellation and other policies clearly posted.