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The ten most useful online travel sites

Republished from Hula.travel
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Online travel sites today have revolutionized the flight and hotel booking experience both for low budget travel as well as luxury travel. This article examines the “usefulness” of online travel sites and ranks them in terms of their usefulness.

So I got a focus group together to ask them to rank the features they consider most useful in an online travel site. When I ask the group what are the stuff that worries them the most when they travel, apart from security, the consensus appears to be “the lack of local knowledge” which leads to them running the risk of being ripped off or outright fleeced! That makes sense as most of us know that when we visit a foreign country, simple things like local transportation or shopping can leave a bitter taste in the mouth. For instance, all of us have experienced the sinking feeling that there’s always a local price and a tourist price in these foreign locations when we travel.

In this sense, the online travel site that surprised, receiving an overwhelming number of votes for most useful site is Travelaureate. This site focuses on unraveling little known travel secrets that are not known even to seasoned travelers. For instance, the site teaches you how to travel from Monte Carlo to Nice by bus for just 1 Euro! With information such as this, you can travel like a local and take advantage of facts such as these which are often known only to locals!

The next feature that the focus group fingered as important for a site to be considered useful is “ease of use”.

In this respect, as far as flight search goes, ITAairfare takes the gong in terms of ease of use and usefulness! Not only does the site give you best pricing, it is great for finding cheap airfares due to its clear calendar styled format.

Another feature that the focus group pointed out is desirable in the “usefulness matrix” is definitely a trip planner.

This is the reason that Kayak is popular with travelers, especially with the “My Trips” feature. By forwarding your booking confirmations from your email inbox to trips@kayak.com, you can essentially take your travel plans with you by accessing your trip planner on a web page and even get flight status alerts by email or sms.

The final wow factors that the focus group found that would make an online travel site useful are clear differentiation with stand-out unique features and innovation.

As the site which practically started it all, Expedia is the grand daddy of all online travel sites! The innovative idea of making travel bookings available to all online marked a paradigm shift in the travel industry. The software programming to make it all possible is nothing to sneeze at and remains a landmark achievement to this day.

Airbnb was the brainchild of a couple of software engineers low on cash in 2007. They decided to blow up some air mattresses and rent out the rooms in their apartment on the net with breakfast thrown in. This grew into the Airbnb of today with B&B accommodations in some 193 countries.

If you’re into train travel, The Man in Seat 61 is the go to site. The site, apart from providing the usual info on tickets, pricing and routes is especially popular in Europe where low-stress travel is warmly accepted and a part of their culture. Apart from the romance associated with train travel over services like the Orient Express, you get to take in the local sights along the way.

Hotwire.com is one site fast gaining traction among travelers trying to find great hotel deals.With an easy to use booking engine and simplicity of use, users may be able to snag the best deals available.

Travellr is another site that travelers find handy for its user generated reviews with a twist. By forwarding questions in these forums to past users and locals with interests similar to the individual posing the question, Travellr can cull the best answers, through geo-tagging and connecting to Facebook, and Twitter.

Fast rising in popularity as an online travel site, YahooTravel offers a variety of handy features from Travel Guides to Travel Ideas and even a Trip Planner!

Ultimately, last though not least is Hipmunk. Unlike sites like Kayak with older search engines, it’s much easier to get the best flight with Hipmunk through the site’s elimination of the ’agony" factor of long layovers and multiple stops which is displayed graphically. Bad flight options are concealed through the utilization of intuitive filters thus aiding the user in the choice making process.

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