A quick getaway and the positive anticipation that leads up to it are great stress relievers. These online tools can help you fit more breaks into your calendar.
If your summer tan is fading, it must be time to start planning your next vacation. New and familiar online services can help you get an affordable deal, whether you prefer a quick getaway or an elaborate escape.
Make your first stop one of the travel-focused search engines such as Kayak.com, TripAdvisor.com or Yapta.com. These services check multiple sites for availability and pricing, and they let you book directly through the airlines. In addition, Yapta continues tracking your flights after your purchase, and if a price drops enough to cover re-ticketing or cancellation fees, the site sends you an alert so you can purchase the lower fare. Kayak and TripAdvisor include checked-luggage fees in their fare comparisons. Bing.com helps predict whether fares are likely to go up or down, allowing you to plan your purchase time for maximum savings. And online travel agencies such as Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com have eliminated fees and introduced rebates when fares go down after purchase.
Social media can also play an important role in your travel decision. For example, TripAdvisor, which boasts about 35 million user-submitted ratings and reviews, will help you seek advice on venues from your Facebook friends and even offers reviews of specific airline seats through SeatGuru.com. VirtualTourist.com's over 1 million registered members hail from more than 220 countries and territories, and provide one another travel tips on close to 73,000 locations worldwide. Another site, Oyster.com, follows a different model. It uses paid researchers to rate hotels and post photos of pools, rooms, views and amenities that often contrast with a property's promotional photography.
Once you've booked your reservations, e-mail the confirmations to TripIt.com, where everything is sorted into a clear itinerary that you can share online or access on your mobile device.
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