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Travel websites: Gateways to bargains

Here's a list of some of the newer online resources, along with a few old reliables.

November 08, 2009|Terry Gardner

The trick to Web surfing for a travel deal is often deciding where your mouse can best catch a wave. Here are a few newer websites, along with some old reliables, with a new trick or two to help you surf into savings.

Dealbase.com

Helps find hotel deals primarily in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.

Pros: Allows comparison between its deals and those on Priceline, BookingBuddy, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotwire. Its "deal analyzer" sizes up whether a "deal" really saves you money. You can sort deals by destination (city, state or country) or by tags (beach, B&B, adventure, etc.).

Cons: Limited international searches for Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

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UpTake.com

If Kayak and Tripadvisor got married, their offspring might resemble UpTake, which performs Google-type metadata searches focused on travel. UpTake hopes to reduce the number of websites travelers must visit for trip planning -- "so they don't need a vacation after planning their vacation," says UpTake President Yen Lee.

Pros: Comprehensive data gleaned from reviews, photographs and blogs help consumers choose a destination by trip type (business, romance, budget getaway). Links take you to your preferred booking site such as Hotels .com, Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz or the hotel itself. UpTake provides multiple hotel reviews and in- cludes smaller B&Bs and campgrounds other sites omit. Travel Insights 100 offers travel expert news and views. ( www.uptake.com/travel insights100).

Cons: No international searches yet. Activity searches aren't all-encompassing.

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CFares.com

Money magazine calls CFares "Costco for airfares."

Pros: Finds the lowest international airfares for both members and nonmembers. Searches flights through airlines, wholesalers and consolidators (both paper and electronic inventory by digitizing data from written contracts). Platinum members pay $50 annually but earn rebates with every fare purchase; by year's end, CFares will offer hotel rebates too.

Cons: No dynamic search for hotels, so may not always find the lowest rate. No hotel rebates yet.

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Yapta.com

Yapta (Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant) is "constantly on the prowl checking prices on the specific flights and hotels that interest you," says Tom Romary, Yapta's chief executive.

Pros: You choose your destination, travel dates and specify which flights or hotels to track, then wait for a fare alert. Yapta checks prices multiple times daily so people don't miss out on the best price. Yapta's Frugal Travel Flaunts Facebook application lets people flaunt/share savings with Facebook friends. Yapta also tracks fares after purchase so you can try to get differences refunded.

Cons: No flexible search function to find cheapest days to fly within a 30-day time frame.

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Kayak.com

Reliable search engine for flight, hotel and car rental deals. Co-founder Paul English says Kayak focuses on "speed and simplicity."

Pros: Flexible date searches to find the best travel dates for the lowest fare. Mobile applications for iPhone, BlackBerry, etc. Trip management -- e-mail your itinerary after booking and Kayak uploads it automatically: www.kayak.com/trips; www.kayak .com/trends provides open access to millions of Kayak travel searches to see where people are going

Cons: No great app yet for Facebook (but a new app is coming).

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Bing.com/travel

I loved Farecast.com and resisted its marriage to MSN Travel, until I discovered that Bing really zings for easier and faster travel planning.

Pros: Tools and fare alerts to decide when and where to go and when to buy (alerts suggest "Buy" or "Wait" based on probability of fares increasing or decreasing). Bing's "visual search for travel" has images to make trip planning fun. You can set a time frame, maximum price and number of flight hours to find a bargain destination. Bing's hotel rate analyzer helps determine the best deal

Cons: Unlike Yapta, Bing doesn't track fares after purchase.

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Priceline.com

Significant savings when you "Name Your Own Price" for flights, hotel rooms and rental cars.

Pros: "New travel guides with maps" for hotel searches give you an idea of what to bid and the neighborhood where the hotel may be: travela.priceline.com/travelguides. New "Inside Track" offers information on price, number of connections and flight times making "naming your own price" for a flight more attractive if you can see the flight is likely to be nonstop between noon and 6 p.m.: www.priceline.com/insidetrack.

Cons: Even if I get a deal on a nonstop flight, I won't accrue frequent-flier mileage.

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travel@latimes.com

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