MAJOR ONLINE AGENCIES
Each of The Big Three offers airfares, hotels, car rentals and packages and sometimes has special rates unavailable elsewhere. All have agents available by phone and have worked to improve their service though, as consumer advocate Christopher Elliott points out, which suits you best may be a matter of personal preference. Here's a rundown on each.
Tip: With each, read the fine print carefully. Resort fees and other add-ons can be hidden in the small type.
- EXPEDIA, www.expedia.com
- Airfare: Charges $5 for booking flights. Click on ``Fare Comparison Chart'' to see fares on alternative dates.
- Hotels: Displays cost with taxes but does not include surcharges such as resort fees; credit card is charged the full price at time of booking. Most changes and cancellations incur fees of $25 and up.
- Car rental: Displays automatically by preferred vendor unless you specify a specific company, but other views are available; shows total cost.
- Also offers cruises, vacation packages, tours and activities.
- TRAVELOCITY, www.travelocity.com
- Airfare: Charges $5 for booking flights. Offers easy option for checking flights to/from other nearby airports. Travelers can sign up for alerts on specified routes.
- Hotels: Search includes traveler reviews and Travelocity ratings. Some rates require the room be prepaid with a credit card.
- Car rental: Easy to use grid helps you see prices for various types of cars at a glance; total price including taxes shown but not special fees like under-age drivers; allows you to input discounts like AAA.
- Also offers vacation packages, cruises, last-minute deals and rail arrangements.
- ORBITZ, www.orbitz.com
- Airfare: Charges $6.99 for booking flights. Offers easy option for checking airfares the day before and day after your preferred date. Weak on international travel that originates abroad.
- Hotels: When checking hotels, you can put in a point of interest (such as the Washington Monument) and find hotels nearby; it also offers the ability to search for a specific hotel chain and displays cheapest options in an easy-to-see price grid. Shows price with taxes within a few clicks. Note: Your credit card is billed at time of reservation; cancellation costs $25 and up.
- Car rental: Prices displayed in easy-to-use grid; shows total including taxes.
- Also includes cruises and vacation packages.
These sites are easy to use but search a wide variety of published airfares with a single click. Some also search hotels and rental cars.