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ON A BUDGET

Booking online can save you big bucks

June 29, 2003|Arthur Frommer | Special to The Times

INTERNET travel is booming. Every year sees an increase in the number of Americans using the Internet to obtain information and make bookings; dozens of travel Web sites emerge yearly.

The chief growth area has been in accommodations Web sites. You've heard of the leading ones: Hotels.com, Quikbook.com and the hotel-finding services of Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Priceline.com and Hotwire.com. But I urge you to become familiar with the following sites as well:

* A British service, www.laterooms.com, specializes in obtaining last-minute discounts on hotels primarily in Britain and Europe. But it also offers some deals in Australia, New Zealand and a few other countries. Its major competitor is an Australian site, www.wotif.com.

* Last-minute travelers to England also can try www.hotels-london.co.uk, which offers discount rates at leading London hotels for people waiting to book until the last week or so.

* A U.S. service, www.travelaxe.com, claims to compare the discounted hotel rates found on nearly 20 other Internet booking engines covering more than 30 countries, including the United States. It saves you the trouble of scanning multiple Web sites to find the best-priced room for your next trip.

* Casino resort expert www.travelworm.com surveys hotel rates in Las Vegas, Reno and Laughlin, Nev.; Biloxi, Miss.; Atlantic City, N.J.; and other gaming locations. Recently it got me a sharply discounted price for a popular hotel in Las Vegas.

* Disney fans searching for a bargain should try www.disneydollarless.com, www.mousesavers.com and www.wdwig.com. The sites list discounts at resorts in and around the theme parks in Anaheim and Orlando, Fla., as well as reductions at restaurants and from tour operators.

* Looking for a real deal? Try www.globalfreeloaders.com, a free database of more than 3,000 people in 100 countries who are willing to put you up in their homes at no charge. But to enjoy this hospitality, you have to be willing to offer it too -- the site focuses on reciprocal hospitality by people who enjoy meeting travelers from other nations.

* If a simple vacation exchange is more to your liking, try www.ihen.com, www.homelink.org, www.4homex.com and www.invented-city.com.

* The site www.bootsnall.com connects travelers with resident experts on destinations all over the world. Lodgings -- many of them hostels -- are the specialty. The site says it can find you free answers from a volunteer corps of advisors.

* The unchallenged expert on adventure travel -- mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, safaris -- is www.gorp.com. It offers comprehensive information for would-be Indiana Joneses, including lodgings.

* Want to rent a villa? Check www.unusualvillarentals.com, a 3,500-page Web site with hundreds of listings in the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe and Hawaii. It was recently favorably reviewed by Fortune magazine.

* Riders might find a dude ranch they like at www.hiddentrails.com. Some have surprisingly affordable rates.

* If you hate planning, you might try www.lastminutetravel.com to find unsold hotel rooms and air-and-land packages at deep discounts. Its major rival: www.11thhourvacations.com.

* A site that focuses on Asia, www.asiatravel.com, says it can save travelers up to 75% at 5,000 hotels in Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and nearby.

* If the Caribbean is in your future, look at www.caribbean-on-line.com, which contains, among other things, thousands of resort reviews written by recent visitors.

* Economy travelers should check out www.hostels.com, the largest Internet directory of private hostels and those belonging to the Youth Hostel Federation.

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