Kayak.com
Kayak.com

Best travel search engine

By a large margin, most reviewers identify Kayak.com as the best site to begin researching travel options. After entering your search parameters, Kayak.com scours service providers, booking sites like Orbitz.com and international sites to come up with the best offers on flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises. Like other search-only sites, Kayak.com links you directly to the site offering the travel option you select. For flights, Kayak.com provides historical fare information to help you pick the right time to fly. Additionally, Kayak's system will send email alerts about changes in flight and hotel prices relating to your specific travel plans.
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Yapta.com
Yapta.com

Best airfare tracking

Although Yapta.com is limited to searching for flights and hotels, it earns attention for doing something no other search-only site does -- tracking flights after the tickets have been purchased. If the price drops enough to cover any re-ticketing fees, Yapta.com sends out an email alert. This site uses the same flight search engine as Kayak.com, but it has a different twist on tracking airfare prior to booking. You can request an email alert if the price drops for a specific flight on a specific airline, whereas Kayak.com sends the lowest fares based on travel dates and cities.
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Hotels.com
Hotels.com

Best for booking hotels

Reviewers agree that no other travel booking site comes close to matching the sheer number of properties worldwide available at Hotels.com. This site also makes it possible to search for hotels by a particular landmark or address, which other sites don't permit. Owned by Expedia Inc., the site makes it easy to filter its more than 130,000 listed properties by location, price, hotel rating, guest rating and other criteria. In addition to the hundreds of guest reviews available for many of the properties, the site offers a 24-hour price match guarantee. If you must change or cancel your reservation, Hotels.com doesn't impose its own fees, though you are still liable for any cancelation or other fees imposed by the hotel itself.
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Priceline.com
Priceline.com

Best for discounted rooms

Experts say Priceline.com's model of bidding below published prices often yields the best prices, especially for last-minute luxury accommodations. Although you can specify neighborhoods and hotel class, the catch is you won't know precisely where you are staying until after bidding on and booking the room. This uncertainty seems to be a minor inconvenience to business travelers and vacationers who are thus able to afford more upscale accommodations. We didn't find expert recommendations on Priceline's air travel bidding, as odd flight times and sometimes long layovers lead to more user complaints.
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TripAdvisor.com
TripAdvisor.com

Best for traveler reviews

With literally tens of millions of user-written reviews, TripAdvisor.com is a great resource for learning about hotels and activities before you book. Maps and user-submitted photos are available for many locations. Some users complain that the site isn't well organized, but stress that searching by destination will usually net you the information you seek. TripAdvisor.com is also a search engine for flights, hotels, restaurants and rental properties; however, it doesn't receive the same attention for that as it does for its traveler-written reviews.
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