The New Web Challengers

A World of Travel Info

Kayak: I've always admired a good travel agent's ability to find the bargains. With Kayak I feel like I'm my own travel agent. I ask for flights from Los Angeles to New York, and Kayak finds 117 that fit the bill. Too many, so I click Price & Time on the results page and use the sliders to make price, arrival, and departure adjustments (see FIGURE 9

Figure 9: Kayak's slider controls let you filter your travel search results by price and departure/return.
). The listings change in real time. If I forget to include a nearby airport as a departure alternative, just one click adds it, and one more tap on the Stops field sorts the flights to put the nonstops on the top. (Kayak can also find deals on hotels, and car rentals will be offered later this year.)

SideStep: Whenever you're looking for a second opinion, check out SideStep, which offers immediate, side-by-side price comparisons for flights, hotels, and auto rentals. Click here to download SideStep's toolbar. It automatically opens a pane on the left side of Internet Explorer when you visit Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, or any other travel site. Move to another site, and SideStep steps up with new pricing. Bargains are hit-and-miss: Against Kayak, the SideStep toolbar fared less well in flight prices, but it did better at finding low hotel rates. SideStep's rates compared favorably with those Travelocity served up, finding a cheaper JetBlue flight, and it blew away Orbitz with a $113 flight savings. These results are from a few random searches--your mileage may vary.

TripAdvisor: When I first landed on TripAdvisor, what really jumped out at me was the site's placement on its "worst" list of a hotel my wife and I had planned to book, causing us to look for an alternative. Also handy are the user reviews in the site's TripAdvisor Forums, which can save you from repeating someone else's mistake. For an instant comparison of rates (for, say, a hotel mentioned on the forum) at Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, and Travelocity, click the QuickCheck button to see the information from each site in turn.

WiFiFreeSpot: You're crisscrossing the country on a business trip, and you just have to get online. There are scads of free Wi-Fi access points that will let you make the connection. WiFiFreeSpot lists free Wi-Fi hotspots in airports, hotels, resorts, RV parks, campgrounds, and vacation rentals. The site covers North and South America, Europe, and Asia. You can also look for hotspots by type of location or by region.

Dodgeball.com: If you're on the road and looking to hook up with some friends, use Dodgeball.com and your mobile phone to broadcast your whereabouts to your buddies. Send a text message to the site stating your location, and in no time all the pals on your Dodgeball.com network will get the message (you can also send them a photo, if your phone has a built-in camera). They'll find out what you're up to--and where they can join you. And if a friend of one of your friends is within ten blocks, they'll get a message as well (a feature you can turn off, thankfully). Dodgeball.com is available in Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and 16 other cities.

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