Surprise! This trendy social-networking site, best known for its brevity (posts are no more than 140 characters in length), offers a new way to find vacation deals. Journalists boosted the site's popularity, but users now include everyday people and various companies. To find travel specials, first create your own account. Then type a company's name in the site's "Find People" box. Next you'll see the company's username-click on that to check out deals. Bargains can be fleeting, so act fast. Twitter fares from United, such as Phoenix to Denver for $53 one way, last only two hours. Starwood recently featured rooms starting at $69 at its Las Vegas hotels. CruiseSource.us also posts sales, such as a $798 special for a seven-night cruise on Royal Caribbean, with a $150 onboard credit plus $50 toward shore excursions. To subscribe to a company's Twitter feed, just click on the "Follow" link.
This site searches for domestic and international deals—last-minute specials and undersold inventory, from hotels to flights—and posts them in one place. You can plug in an originating city (to learn what's on sale today) or filter searches by dates, hotel ratings, price, or desired experience (a beach or romantic getaway, for example). We recently found a room at the Tropicana on the Vegas Strip for $29 per night.
Yes, lots of airfare search engines are on the Web, but this one has a twist: it rates itineraries on 12 quality factors such as legroom, aircraft age, and security wait times, with each flight scoring up to 100 points. We found a January fare from Boston to Los Angeles, with one stop, for $257 roundtrip and a total of 75 points. But spending $42 more pushed our trip quality to 95 points—pointing us to a nonstop flight with more legroom. (Another website, fly.com, has a similar service; its "Why Me?" feature shows amenities and explains why you may want to choose one flight over another.)
Last-minute planners can access hundreds of the upcoming week's "Hot Deals" at B&Bs, country inns, and historic hotels. Specials posted once a month can include discounts for B&B getaways booked online. If you visit the site in January, you'll find its "Best Deal Ever": make an online reservation that includes a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday and get 20 percent off midweek dates. Sale rates are valid for travel booked from January 1 through March 30.
This is a popular site for traveler reviews—with more than 25 million posted—but it also offers new features to help you book cheaper trips. A "Fees Estimator" calculates the total cost of domestic flights—going beyond base ticket prices from airlines and factoring in baggage fees. And a new vacation-rentals calculator compares the cost of a hotel with a rental. A recent scenario: Two people staying five nights in Miami could have saved as much as $330 by booking a rental instead of a hotel.