Online Travel Agents – List of Best Sites

The online travel booking industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and that fact alone means there are many sites vying for your travel booking business.  The online travel industry is evolving quickly, and there are new competitors with new business models appearing every year.

In this article we will focus on the largest and best online travel agencies.  These are sites that can book you with all the well known airlines, hotels and car rental companies.  These sites can also book travel for cruises and vacation packages worldwide.

Largest Online Travel Agents: The Big 3

Expedia

Expedia is the largest online travel agency in the world.  Quantcast estimates 10.2 million visitors in January 2009.  Expedia has been around since 1996 and can meet most of your travel booking needs.  Expedia also offers a low price guarantee on any travel booked through them.  Expedia also offers a rewards program.

Travelocity

Travelocity is the second largest of the big 3, with a Quantcast estimated 6.1 million visitors in January 2009.  From a features and price perspective, Travelocity is very similar to Expedia, and they too offer a guarantee.  In addition to a low price guarantee, Travelocity also offers a 24 hour change or cancellation guarantee.  If you purchase an electronic airline ticket and notify them of a change to the dates, names, or flight times within 24 hours of your purchase, they will cancel your airline ticket without charging you a fee.

Orbitz

The smallest of the big 3, Orbitz was originally established through the partnership of various airlines in an effort to compete with Expedia and Travelocity.  As of January 2009 Quantcast shows a visitor count of 5.4 million.  Functionally, Orbitz is the equivalent of Travelocity and Expedia, and as you might expect, they too offer a airfare price guarantee.  Orbitz also offers guarantees on hotel and car rentals.

Online Travel Agency Contenders

There are litterally thousands of online travel agencies, with each one trying to distinguish themselves in some way.  Some of these sites use technology as a differentiator, some use customer service while others book travel in a particular niche.

www.cheaptickets.com

Cheap Tickets is owned by Orbitz, so you are not likely to see much difference in the price between what you find on Orbitz and what you find on Cheap Tickets.

www.priceline.com

Priceline is the leader in truly discounted travel rates with a Quantcast estimated 4.8 million visitors in January 2009.  Priceline’s unique offering is their “Name Your Own Price” model, where you can place a bid for what you are willing to pay for airfare, hotels and car rentals.  It takes a little practice to understand the nuances of travel price bidding, but the results can be dramatic.

www.hotwire.com

Hotwire is the number two player in the discount travel agency industry.  Hotwire lets you search for air travel, hotels, and car rentals, but they don’t show you exactly which airline, hotel, or car rental agency you will be booked with.  This model allows the travel companies to discount their rates without publishing the discount.  Great deals are often available through Hotwire.  Be aware though that, similar to Priceline, their cancellation policies are usually more restrictive than the full service travel agencies.  Hotwire is owned by Expedia.

www.hotels.com

As their name might suggest, Hotels.com focuses on booking hotels.  They offer very competitive rates and are a good option for booking hotel travel.  Hotels.com will also allow you to book flights and vacation packages.  Hotels.com is owned by the same company as Expedia, so expect the same rates on air travel as you would get with Expedia.

www.cheapoair.com

Another full service online travel agency that allows you to book air, hotel, and car rentals.  CheapOair also has a price guarantee.  CheapOAir has struggled in past years with customer support.

www.onetravel.com

Yet another full service online travel agency that allows you to book air, hotel, and car rentals.  OneTravel also has a price guarantee.  There are no special features at OneTravel to distinguish them from the rest.

www.booking.com

This site is focused hotel bookings.  Booking.com is owned by Priceline.  They offer a low price guarantee and all their hotel bookings are free.  They boast access to 57,000 hotels worldwide.

www.cheapair.com

CheapAir.com is primarily focused on air travel.  They attempt to distinguish their offering from others through their intuitive interface.  Their air travel rates are competitive with the leaders in the industry.

www.smartfares.com

Smartfares.com is a very vanilla looking online travel agency.  There is really nothing about their site that distinguishes them from the competition.  You can book air, hotels and cars on Smartfares.

www.bookit.com

A relatively new entrant in the online travel agency market, Bookit.com certainly has a website that looks distinctly different than many of the others.  The one thing that distinguishes them from the rest is their aggresive use of their trademarked FROM technology.  Once you tell them where you are travelling from, they customize the site to show you deals and offers from that departure point.

www.lastminute.com

Lastminute.com is number one for sites that focus the user experience and their offerings on last minute travel.  You can book air, hotel, and cars through LastMinute.com.  LastMinute.com is owned by Travelocity.com, so expect their pricing to be the same as Travelocity’s.

www.applevacations.com

Apple Vacations is number on for sites focused on providing vacation packages.  They focus on travel to the caribbean and mexico.  They try to distinguish themselves with competitive rates and superior customer service.  The say, “Apple Vacations employees will greet you at your departure airport in more than 20 cities; and will meet your flight in our charter destinations.”

So Who’s the Best Online Travel Agent?

You simply can’t go wrong by using one of the top 3 travel agencies.  The top travel agencies have own many of the other travel booking sites that have different business models and have incorporated their technology and relationships into their sites as well.

If you want the best deal, you are going to have to visit them all – no one site has the best deals all the time, which these articles illustrate: Caribbean Vacation Package Deals,

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous March 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

good stuff – …bookmarked it myself

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