Most Web-Savvy travelers now how to find cheap airfares, hotel rooms, and rental cars on comparison sites such as kayak.com and farecast.com or the big booking sit Expedia ,Orbitz, Travelocity, and the like. But last year, dozens of Web travel sites jumped in to fill newly emerging niches in travel planning. Here's a selection of sites (many still in beta testing) that might help with your plans.
WHERE TO GO
These six sites can help an undecided trip planner discover a perfect travel match. Based on your answers to a simple questionnaire, Best Trip Choices(besttripchoices.com) identifies which of six "travel Personalities" you most closely match and suggests destinations and activities suited to your preferences. (You handle the booking.) Similarly, Travel Muse (travelmuse.com), Trip base (tripbase.com), and Triporati (triporati.com_ offer destinations based on interests you identify on supplied lists or tags. Travel Muse and Trip base factor in your budjet, and Travel Muse asks you how much time you're willing to spend en route. All three provide reviews, maps, links to booking sites, and more.
If you're considering a cruise or an organized tour, stop by Travelbeen.com, which debuted in seven countries, with it's goal of incorporating every travel Web site on the planet into its "social search engine." One of the service's more unusual features is its ability to search for travel suppliers by specialized criteria, including accreditationswww.google.com . The accrediting groups, however, aren't explained. For example, you can call up a list of cruise lines that belong to the International Association of Antartica Tour Operators, but not an explanation of how those lines differ fro lines that aren't members.
If you're looking for a hotel deal, try DealBase, (dealbase.com), which presents key criteria for each offer-price, savings off full room rates, and terms of booking (including) the dates of your stay and the deadline for booking)-in just three lines of type. You can filter deals by category or interest )golf, beach, four-star, and so on, bookmark your favorites, and view them as a list.
Once you have settled on a destination, these two sites can help you plan your visit. Visually compelling Planet Eye (planeteye.com) creates color-coded, geo tagged Microsoft Virtual Earth maps that you can use to identify, say, restaurants and attractions within walking distance of a particular hotel. In addition, you can create virtual folders (called "travel Packs") to file photo-illustrated restaurant reviews and travel tips aggregated from many sources.
At Trazzler (trazzler.com), identify the destination or interests you want to research ( if you provide the latter, Trazzler will help you choose a destination); then flip through a "trip stack" (think baseball cards)--photo illustrated hotel, dining, and activity suggestions with links to Web sites that provide more detail. Compile a wish list, and the site aggregates data, from your searches into a preference pie chart. This content comes from both professional writers and user reviews. Compiled by Janet Fullwood.