Q: I feel overwhelmed with emails from different travel sites. Can you narrow these down for me before I make summer plans? - Ted Traveler
A: Dear Mr. Traveler: You're a smart cookie to start planning for your vacation early. With air fares and gasoline prices up so dramatically, planning's a good idea for upcoming reservations. (Don't forget to review one of last summer's columns that featured "staycations" - vacations close to home.)
One of my favorite publications is Bottom Line Personal. I've taken some of its preferred travel sites, combined with some personal favorites, to offer readers a variety of locations and best prices.
• Airfares: While it doesn't cover every airline around, Kayak.com is a great site for multistop itineraries. Another choice company is Smarter Travel. As do others upon sign-up, it emails fare sales and travel information.
My third preference is Booking Buddy. I'm
sure some folks have other sites that work well for them so go for it! These just happen to be my own selections for most-of-the-time travel.
• Hotels: Consumers need to be careful when booking on special hotel sites or you might end up paying a nonrefundable rate.
With that said, some of the better sites include Bid dingForTravel.com or Bet terBidding.com. Both sites offer objective reports from travelers who've recently bid for travel and tell us which hotels they received and for how much. TripAdvisor.com also reports on specific hotels with reader descriptions, ratings and dates submitted.
• Car rentals: A new site, AutoSlash.com, searches the Internet for discount coupons and then applies these so you automatically get the savings. Even better, the site continues its search so if the price drops you can rebook at the lower rate.
While Breezenet.com does searches national rental companies, it also looks for smaller, local car rentals; savings can be great.
• Cruises: One of the best sites I enjoy is Vaca tionsToGo.com, one of the biggest sellers.
It usually offers all kinds of goodies, such as free upgrades, chipboard credits of, typically, $100-$300, a bottle of vino in your cabin, and other perks.
If booking directly with a cruise line or even some travel agencies, you won't receive these money-saving bonuses. For cruise reviews and even a section on current discounted cruises, check CruiseCritic.com.