Budget travel sites to keep you out of the red

With stock prices falling like acorns, budget-centric websites are rising to the top of more vacationers' bookmark lists. USA TODAY's Laura Bly points a mouse to 25 sites — some old favorites, some newcomers — aimed at bargain hunters.



Relying on brain power rather than computerized algorithms, Airfarewatchdog's site and newsletter emphasize unadvertised, time-sensitive deals, including Web-only fares. Deals are checked for availability, and the site points out when a "bargain" really isn't.


Live Search Farecast attempts to answer one of the toughest airfare dilemmas — buy now, or wait? — by making predictions based on historical data on whether fares will rise or fall over the next seven days. Also worth clicking:FareCompare.com


This streamlined search engine helps fliers find the cheapest, most convenient itineraries. Filters exclude such factors as red-eye flights, while a fee chart compares extra charges on 25 airlines. One drawback: In disagreement over how search results are displayed, American Airlines' fares have been pulled from the site. Also worth clicking:Itasoftware.com (for single searches in a 30-day timeframe).


Though its fares may not be lower than competitors', the discount giant's refusal to allow booking on any website other than its own means that if you're flying from or to a Southwest market, you should check fares on their site as well. Transparent search returns let you see all fares, even if they're sold out, so you know why you're paying more.


Short for "your amazing personal travel assistant," Yapta tracks airfares for specific itineraries, alerts you when prices go down, and, if you've already bought a ticket, helps you get a travel credit or voucher for the difference. (Yapta only sends an alert if the savings are more than the airline's rebooking fees, and claims 19% of purchased flights qualify.)



Whether it's a spare futon, blow-up mattress (hence the name) or private apartment, the options at recently launched AirBed&Breakfast target adventuresome, cost-conscious travelers. The site lists hosts in more than 250 U.S. cities and 60 countries who rent space in their homes; credit card bookings are automated and rates average $102 per night, plus transaction fees of 5%-12%. Also worth clicking:Couchsurfing.com; Roomorama.com


Dedicated to helping travelers score the best deals on "blind booking" sites Hotwire and Priceline, this message board posts overall strategies, lists of hotels by zone and quality level, and winning and losing bids. Also worth clicking:BiddingForTravel.com; BidOnTravel.com; Re-Bidding.com


Aimed at car, RV and tent campers, Fred and Suzi Dow's site posts reviews of campgrounds in more than 150 U.S. national forests (all visited by the authors) with fees ranging from free to $25 per night. Also worth clicking:FreeCampgrounds.com


Once catering largely to backpackers in bunk beds, many of the 600 North American hostels listed on Hostelworld.com offer private rooms, fresh linens, flat-screen TVs, free Internet access, meals and transportation at rates ranging from $18-$35 per person a night. Also worth clicking:HostelBookers.com


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