Five on-line travel agencies—Cendant, Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, and Travelocity—now control nearly half of the Web-based travel industry in the United States, and the proliferation of Internet travel bookings is outpacing the growth of the industry overall. With so many sites to choose from, though, which ones will best prepare you for your next trip?We've highlighted the top links for each category from airlines to weather.
AIRLINES Seats, airport lounges, airline services, and flights are all rated by visitors to www.airlinequality.com, a site created by international aviation consultants Skytrax, who also run Flatseats.com, the definitive guide to first and business class on more than 60 airlines.
AIRPORTS Click on any of the 56 worldwide airports on Airwise.com to get the latest terminal news, plus shop and restaurant directories and ground transportation options.
AUCTION SITE On Luxurylink.com you can bid on resort stays and packaged luxury vacations at discounted rates.
BLOG Virtualtourist.com has an astounding number of posts from 400,000 members in 200 countries, on subjects ranging from diving in Oman to bird-watching in Mauritania.
CURRENCY Xe.com's universal currency converter calculates foreign exchange rates for 184 currencies.
DIALING CODES Find international dialing codes, search a worldwide database of country and city codes, or reverse-search an international number on Kropla.com.
ECO-TRAVEL A carefully vetted collection of trips, activities, and 170 tour operators that benefit the environment and local communities can be found at www.responsibletravel.com.
ELECTRIC Kropla.com will also help you figure out which electrical system your destination uses and which plugs to pack.
FOOD Chowhound.com is rolling out sections on specific countries for its international posts. However, you still need patience to filter through the endless messages by foodies.
HEALTH CLUBS Find 5,600 gyms around the world (maps and driving directions included) at Healthclubs.com.
HEALTH SITE The travel section of the Centers for Disease Control's www.cdc.gov/travel has been revamped. In addition to giving health updates by regions, it now organizes advisories into four levels of importance.
INSURANCE COMPARISON Insuremytrip.com provides quotes from its 14 travel insurance partners in an easy-to-read format.
INTERNET ACCESS www.geektools.com/geektels is a searchable database of more than 4,300 hotels worldwide that have wireless and wired high-speed Internet access.
LANGUAGE At times laughably literal, Altavista's Babel Fish translation site, world.altavista.com, is helpful in a pinch. Translate a block of 150 words between 37 language pairs.
LOYALTY PROGRAMS Webflyer.com will manage your mileage programs and keep you abreast of the latest air, hotel, and car-rental programs. It also has a mileage tool to help you consolidate points.