New Lessons in Online Savings
If you haven't changed the way you book travel on the Internet over the last couple of years, you're probably getting ripped off
Consider opaque sites
They're nothing new, but sites such as Priceline and Hotwire--you don't find out which hotel, airline, or car-rental company you're working with until your bid has been accepted and your credit card charged--remain good money savers.
If you're looking in particular for a decent room for cheap in a big city, Priceline is a fine source. Check out Biddingfortravel.com, a kind of user's guide to Priceline, for help, but be aware that you may not be treated as well at the hotel as someone who's booked direct (see above).
Clean your cookies
Travel sites are engineered to get the most money out of users, sometimes by trickery. Kelly Malasics, of Bridgeport, Conn., wrote to us about her experience locating a great online fare to Las Vegas, only to have it disappear later in the day. "I deleted the cookies for the site and tried again," she said. "Voilà! I found the flight I wanted at the price I wanted."
Pick up a phone
The old standard still works. Consolidator airline tickets, charter flights, and other unconventional resources that a good travel agent would know about can rarely be booked online. A hotel manager will be more willing to negotiate rates with a human voice than with a message on a computer screen. And it's often easier to talk through your options with a car-rental agent than scroll through them in the fine print online.