April 6th Show, 2008

The Traveling Eye with Bonnie DeShong and Ja’Vonne Harley every Sunday from 4-5pm central time on The Talk of Chicago 1690 WVON or online @ www.wvon.com

This weeks show was exploring Travel Websites, what they are the differences and the ones we like.

In case you missed it. Here is a list of those websites.

Founded in 1998 by a frustrated frequent flier, FlyerTalk.com allows users to exchange information on how to get the most out of their frequent flier miles, credit card points and hotel points. There are separate discussion forums for every major commercial airline, and the site features a live chat for last-minute queries.

The online offshoot of Condé Nast Traveler, Concierge.com has all of the magazine’s content available on the Web, as well as unique travel articles and tips. You can search by destination, hotel or activity; the magazine’s famous lists (The Gold List, Hot List Hotels and Top Spas) are available for online perusal as well.

Some of the best domestic car-rental discounts on the Internet are available here. The site compiles pricing info from car-rental companies at major U.S. airports and links to special rates on other sites (like a recent Priceline.com sale for a $12-per-day rental car). Because it works with airport locations, Breezenet.com is most useful if you’re traveling via plane and want a car waiting for you when you land.

This Web site is an uncensored compendium of hotel reviews from all over the world: The good, the bad and the disgusting get equal weight. Click on “Hotel Hell” for horror stories (avoid the Pembridge Palace Hotel in London, which has bed bugs, it says), “Hotel Heaven” (try the peach tea at the French Quarter Inn in Charleston, S.C.) and “Celebrity Scoops” for places your favorite stars have been spotted. Tips, news and deals are available as well. The one hitch is that it’s difficult to find information on a specific hotel.

Personal travel blogs have overtaken mass e-mails as the tool of choice for staying in touch with family and friends while on the road–and thank goodness. I like MyTripJournal.com for its colorful and easy-to-use features and the customizable world map. Even if you aren’t currently traveling, browsing the site allows you to experience someone else’s vacation vicariously.

Unlike many of the major travel Web sites, Kayak.com includes flight listings from budget air carriers like Jet Blue and Spirit Airlines. It also has user-friendly features, like remembering your home airport, letting you search more than one airport simultaneously (for arrivals and departures) and a movable grid that lets you eliminate flights whose time specifications don’t match your itinerary.

Priceline.com revolutionized the way consumers bought travel, allowing them to name their own prices for everything from hotels to flights to rental cars. Today, with the abundance of airline travel sites, most online travel veterans use Priceline.com for one thing: hotels. Try bidding $99 for a four-star hotel in pretty much any American city, and users say you’ll often end up staying in one of the city’s very nicest hotels. If $99 is too steep, bid $50 or $30–even these low prices may be accepted at top hotels, according to our sources.

Listing more than 30 commercial airlines, SeatGuru.com provides seating maps and a helpful color-coded quality key (green is a good seat, yellow means be aware, and you don’t want red). Once you select your airline and aircraft, you’ll be able to see just where each seat falls on the floor plan, as well as which in-flight amenities (including video, AC power and Internet access) are available. The site is most useful when booking a ticket on an air carrier’s site.

Lastminute.com’s niche is the last-minute weekend getaway: Bookings can be made up to three hours before departure. The site works with partner hotels, airlines and car-rental companies to garner deals on last-minute inventory or services that would otherwise go unsold, compiling packages in site-specific categories like “Under $250,” “Romance,” or “Vegas/Casino.” Packages are available in flight/hotel, flight/car and hotel/car combinations, but users must use every component of the package.

If you can be flexible with your dates and even destination, TravelZoo.com is more effective at offering cheap fares than any other Web site we’ve encountered. Examples include $88 round-trip tickets to the Caribbean–though be warned that very often they’re only available on undesirable travel days, like Monday, and the deals can sell out quickly. Airfare, car rental, lodging and cruise specials are displayed right up front on the home page. There’s limited search capability (by destination only), so be prepared to be spontaneous!

Tripadvisor.com compiles reviews of North American and European destinations from guidebooks and other travel publications.

Luxurylink.com as its name suggests, auctions high-end hotel stays and packages at discounted prices—mostly off-season.

Hotels.com and Quikbook.com are consolidators that buy rooms in bulk—mostly in North America and Western Europe—and resell them on-line. Hotels.com is somewhat simpler to use, with bookings completed in a matter of minutes, but frustratingly, it doesn’t provide the phone numbers of the properties if you need additional information. Quikbook does; it also carries ratings based on staff visits, doesn’t require prepayment, doesn’t charge for changes, and is easier on the eyes.

Advantage-Intl.com is my company’s web site where you can find and book group travel offered as well as our major supplies like Superclubs and our newest feature General Travel Services, which is a booking engine for discounted air, hotel and car rental.