June 4, 2008 -- Savvy travelers know the best deals are almost always found online.
At a recent New York Times travel show the following sites were getting the best buzz for their new-and-improved technologies, expert editorial advice and essential trip tools.
From deep-discounts for Internet auctions, to new online communities for couch surfers and jet setters, to cell phone plans that actually make sense, check out the services on these popular new sites before you book your next trip.
Cheap Tickets & Deals
Thanks to new cutting-edge, search engine technology, Momondo allows users to search almost 500 travel sites and compare results in one legible display. Unlike many aggregator sites, they include major booking engines, national carriers and most low-cost airlines, particularly in Europe.
This Denmark-based service is free, and simply links you to the airline or agency with the best deal, with total price transparency. In addition, Momonodo provides travel inspiration with city guides and advice from users worldwide who blog about their journeys.
Fare alerts make it easier than ever for travelers to find the absolute cheapest rate being offered. Yapta.com is one of the most successful of these fare tracking sites and can help you secure the best airfare deals available on the web.
Simply "tag" your desired itinerary and Yapta will send you an email alert as soon as the price drops. Furthermore, it continues to track prices even after you buy a ticket and could help you get a refund, because most airlines offer a refund or credit if you buy your ticket from their site and later find a cheaper rate.
Another excellent tracking option is Yahoo's FareChase!. Simply download the FareChase! Alerts Widget to you desktop and keep constant track of how rates fluctuate on your desired route.
Luxury Link is one of the web's best sites for travel deals, offering user-friendly auctions on outstanding vacation packages. From an Amazon adventure, to a romantic weekend in Venice, to a golf retreat in Texas, the site sells high-end vacations around the world with lots of enticing extras, such as massages and dinners thrown in.
Luxury Link offers hotel/airfare and hotel only schemes, and are upfront about blackout dates, unlike most travel auction sites. Choose between single auctions (winner takes all), Dutch auctions (multiple packages available), "best shot" auctions (one chance to bid) or fixed-price (buy it now) offers. It's not uncommon to win a vacation for a third of the market value. Conde Nast Traveller named Luxury Link the Best Site for Bidding on Affordable Luxury Hotels for 2008.
Best Editorial & Expertise
From the founder of Town & Country Travel comes a members-based travel community for sophisticated globe-trotters: Indagare.com. The site, which Vanity Fair calls the Best New Travel Website of 2008, gives travelers access to discerning advice from a field of journalists and tastemakers from around the world.
Whether you dream of taking an eco-adventure camel back across the Namib Desert, are looking for the best places to stop for lunch in Rajasthan or to kick back at secluded spas in Sonoma County, Indigare has expert info to guide your journey. They also offer online tools to let you explore by "destination" or by "passion," custom itineraries that you can access from your PDA and booking service. Membership costs $250/year.
Fab Search is an editorial aggregator that allows users to search travel articles by destination from outstanding sources such as Vanity Fair, the Financial Times and Town and Country.
From the Berkshires to Rajasthan, if one of the high-profile publications they cover has written about it, you can find their coverage neatly formatted on Fab Search's site.
Using your cell phone abroad is typically pricey and problematic. Cellular Abroad offers no contract, pre-paid and affordable solutions, including unlimited free incoming calls in almost 160 countries.
You can rent or buy a phone, or just purchase a sim card to use in your own mobile device. Their outgoing rates are almost sure to undercut your domestic provider's, and they offer deals for single-destination and multi-country travel, making it an ideal solution for business travelers, vacationers or students studying abroad.
Couch Surfing is an online community for outgoing travelers to network and find free, friendly lodgings around the world. As a user you must first create a profile, and then you can link to friends and join discussions. Once you've got a destination in mind search for members near your desired location and reach out to them about possibly staying at their house. Best of all, you can pick and choose where you stay and who stays with you.
This international non-profit says they seek only "to make the world a better place," and that they "believe that the surfing of couches is a means to accomplish that goal." So far almost half a million people have successfully used the service from more than 200 different countries.
Travel insurance is no longer just for lost luggage. It's now possible to insure yourself against everything from the possibility of medical evacuation by air, to just simply changing your mind (look for "Cancel For Any Reason" policies from AIG Travel, Global Alert and TravelSafe).
InsureMyTrip.com is an online insurance aggregator that lets travelers get quotes and compare insurance products from competitive international insurers. The one-stop site also offers live customer service Internet chatting to give you advice on which policies best meet your needs.