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T+L's Top Travel Websites of 2009

200911-a-travel-websites

Photo: John Pirman

Hotels

Pick the Best Room

tripkick.com

Click Factor: Like seatguru.com, which guides fliers to the best seats on airplanes, this site gives travelers the scoop on the specific hotel room to request based on view, noise level, size, and even the quality of the bathroom. (For instance, request an odd-numbered room in the MGM Grand’s 100 Wing for the best view of the Las Vegas Strip.)

T+L Tip: Keep checking back on the site, which is quickly growing: At press time, it had reviews for 500 hotels in 27 cities, with a new city scheduled to launch each month.

Choose a Hotel by Feature

raveable.com

Click Factor: How has a six-month-old hotel review site already amassed more than 35 million opinions? By collecting them from other sites, such as TripAdvisor, Yahoo!Travel, and VirtualTourist. Raveable aggregates reviews and—even better—uses them to highlight each property’s pros and cons and create roundups of hotels by special feature, such as “Hotel rooms with Jacuzzi.” It also helps your search by separating hotels into categories such as “romantic,” “kid friendly,” or proximity to nearby attractions.

Drawback: Though Raveable’s ratings seem authoritative, don’t forget that they’re based on averages of both biased and unbiased reviews. As you would with TripAdvisor (see below), take the time to read the actual reviews.

Hear What Hotel Guests Really Think

tripadvisor.com

Click Factor: With 100 percent user-generated reviews of roughly 70,000 hotels around the world, TripAdvisor is not only helpful but also highly entertaining. Sure, it’s had its problems with planted posts, but its 11 million members can generally sniff out a rat, and the sheer volume of posts helps highlight the odd fake review. Plus, we love the unvarnished room photos posted by users. Nothing says romantic honeymoon like putting pics of your petal-strewn bed online for the world to see.

T+L Tip: You may know it for hotels, but don’t discount TripAdvisor for flight searches. It now has a fees estimator, which accounts for extra charges for baggage, in-flight headphones, and onboard alcohol and snacks.

Score Last-Minute European Hotel Deals

laterooms.com

Click Factor: Look no further for last-minute bargains on hotel rooms, especially in popular European destinations. We love the deeply discounted rates on four-and five-star properties in the United Kingdom available through the site’s Secret Room (the names of the hotels are revealed only after you book).

T+L Tip: Hold on to the reference code LateRooms gives you; you’ll need it to get the marked-down rate when you call the hotel to book.

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