Nov. 9, 2011 at 10:50 AM ET
As the competition heats up between travel sites, everyone's coming out with new booking, reviews, and rewards tools to win your trust — and transaction. But which ones make your life easier? We name a few that solve common travel problems in a way other, better-marketed websites don't.
The problem: Sure, the discounts on sites like Jetsetter and LivingSocial are solid (50 percent off is common), but how good are the actual properties?
The fix: Incorporate real-world ratings. A year ago, TripAdvisor launched an invitation-only sale site, SniqueAway, that only promotes hotels with a minimum four-out-of-five-star TripAdvisor user rating. Each week, three new hotels are typically offered at discounts of up to 65 percent. A recent example: The Restoration on King, a luxury hotel in Charleston, S.C., had rooms at $189 a night, up to 43 percent off regular rates.
The problem: You trust your friends' opinions on restaurants, hotels, shops, and more. So what are their favorites and how can you find them easily?
The fix: Enable like-minded linking. One-year-old Hotpot, by Google, is a mapping tool that combines the best of Yelp, Facebook, and Foursquare. Rate the places you've recently visited on a scale of one to five, and then invite your friends to do the same. When you next trawl Google, the site uses your network as a filter, retrieving related results from the Web and putting the most relevant recommendations first.
Getting trustworthy travel advice
The problem: Reviews are only as useful as the users who generate them. And who knows who they are?
The fix: Amp up reviewer transparency. The dozen-year-old travel community IgoUgo isn't new — and its 1 million user reviews don't come close to TripAdvisor's 35 million — but a new interface emphasizes trustworthiness. Reviews are written only by IgoUgo members (with clickable profiles) or come from larger online travel agents such as sister site Travelocity, which allows posts only by hotel guests, not anonymous commenters.
More from Budget Travel