The number of travel-related sites on the Internet is growing at a weedlike pace. Too bad the number of reliable and useful sites isn't keeping up. "Separating the wheat from the chaff isn't easy," says Noah Vadnai, author of Travel Planning Online for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide). "Go for a brand name you know," he advises. "Check for broken links and shoddy design--those are signs of trouble."
In the Web's sea of travel-related sites, several stand above the rest:
- http://www.aa.com : American Airlines' online presence is most impressive. It offers Web-only specials for discounted airfare and hotel accommodations, frequent flier information, fast online booking and several features that let you personalize the site.
- http://www.hertz.com : Hertz runs one of the best car rental sites. On it, you can check your points status and examine its fleet of available cars. Or you can make an online reservation in a few short clicks. For frequent travelers, there's a Hertz #1 Club Gold Member's Only section.
- http://www.hilton.com : When it comes to hotels, Hilton's Web site tops the list of most versatile online presences. Online bookings aren't a problem at Hilton.com. Neither is checking your HHonors balance or finding one of the hotel chain's properties worldwide.
- http://www.bbonline.com : If you prefer a smaller inn, the place to point your browser is Bed & Breakfast Inns Online. In addition to offering a directory of more than 1,800 small hotels worldwide, the site features contests and recipes contributed by innkeepers.
- http://www.webflyer.com : Mileage junkies look no further! InsideFlyer magazine editor Randy Petersen has devleoped a site that contains all the latest frequent flier news. Petersen also fields mileage questions on his interactive bulletin boards and chats.
- http://www.mapquest.com : For fast online directions, check out MapQuest. This site offers quick driving directions between just about any two points in the United States, along with content from the Mobil Travel Guides. The cyber-maps make indispensable resources when used in conjunction with a paper atlas or map.
- http://www.ontheroad.com : On The Road is the leading provider of news and information for business travelers. If you've got a trip planned to a major city, the site's in-depth guides can point you to recommended business services, entertainment, museums and restaurants. Subscription only, the site's content is well worth its $49.95 annual fee.
- http://www.thetrip.com : Looking for a useful all-in-one site? TheTrip.com puts all aspects of travel--from booking hotel and airline reservations to industry news--together in an easy-to-follow package. Best of all, the site allows you to search for fares without registering for its service.
Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."
- British Airways is unveiling a New World Traveller service in its fleet of Boeing 777s this month. The new economy-class seats feature adjustable headrests, footrests and more knee room. The airline will be adding these seats to all of its planes during the next 18 months. For more information, call (800) 247-9297.
- Midwest Express Airlines offers special promotional fares on its Web site (http://www.midwestexpress.com). Its "Best Care Web Fares" in select markets are offered for purchase on the second Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each month, for future roundtrip travel. For further details, call (800) 452-2022.
- Microtel Inn & Suites has unveiled a booking capability on its Web site (http://www.microtelinn.com). For additional information, call (888) 771-7171.