I’m an Internet junkie. Chances are during the course of the day I’m using it for 7 out of the 10-12 hours that I put in on a daily basis. This week, I’m going to start the process of giving you a list of my favorite websites and what I use them for.

The granddaddy of all my favorite websites is Google. For those of you that don’t follow business and tech, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are the Superstars of Search, and you can read their story here. Google has now become a verb in my house, and a much used one at that. Go ahead, try it…

Do you still use a travel agent? They can be great for advice on picking a vacation spot, but I find that I can save time and money by being savvy about the travel sites that I use.

Business Travel

My top business travel sites are based on two things –

  1. ease of use and
  2. their ability to save my company and me some $$$.

My all time favorite is Hotwire. I like this for hotels and cars (but never use it for flights). You can often get Starwood properties in markets like Chicago for under $100 in the city. In fact, I use this for downtown Chicago all the time and end up in the Sheraton Water Tower most of the time. (Although I HAVE gotten the Hyatt on Wacker as well.) It’s really a way to make sure that you’re always staying at a 3-4 star hotel that’s convenient to where you’re doing business, while still staying within corporate budget.

If you use Hotwire for car rentals, 90% of the time you’ll get Avis, at prices a fraction of what you can get elsewhere – even through the company’s website. I will caution you, however, DON’T – I repeat, DON’T – get Avis’ poor excuse for a GPS. If you have to have a GPS, rent a Hertz car with “Never Lost”, or bring your own.

The only disadvantage to Hotwire? It doesn’t allow you to see the name of the property while you’re booking. It does give you their star rating, and comments from other guests though, which is usually enough for you to make an informed choice.

Lastly, I get a kick out of telling people “I Hotwired a rental car this morning”… it’s fun to watch them think for a split second about what you just said.

If I’m going to book a flight, I always start with Expedia. It’s easy to use, has (on average) very competitive rates and, well, I’m just used to it. A nice alternative is Kayak. Slightly more powerful, and slightly less friendly, it lists all airlines, including JetBlue (aren’t their commercials awesome?) and Spirit.

My airline of choice right now happens to be NWA, mostly because of the quality of their terminal at my home airport (DTW). However, I have to say that I really enjoy Delta and United airlines for the sheer friendliness and helpfulness of the staff.

It’s also important to understand your own seating preferences. For me, an aisle seat close to the front of the plane wins the race every time (unless I’m flying first or business class, in which case, window is better). But there are some hidden gems in different airplane classes that can help make your flight MUCH more comfortable. Seatguru gives you detailed seating information and a guide to in-flight amenities for various airlines.

Want to know what to do with your frequent flyer/frequent stayer miles? Check out Flyertalk. Their forums, FAQs, and information are invaluable as you seek to make the most of your points.

Leisure Travel

If you want to really pick that special vacation spot, or perhaps just read about how the other half lives, Conde Nast’s online presence at Concierge has some fantastic tools to research destinations, come up with ideas, and plan vacations.

For leisure travel deals, one of my favorite sites has become Travelzoo. It is a collection of deals that the editors of the site have found on other internet travel sites. If you have some flexibility in your schedule and destination, this site is great for you. There’s no better way to add some spice to your life than to find a deal, take advantage, and let the stress roll off.

If your weekend just opened up and you want to find a deal for the next few days? There isn’t a better site for that than Site59. It has an easy to use search engine, and some fantastic deals, all within the next few days. Another great one is 11thhourvacations, where you can get “travel priced to go”. This site is a little more geared towards cruises and resort travel, and has the look and feel of a “traditional” travel website.

Novelty Travel / Light Reading

Robert Young Pelton has gained some notoriety for his books Comebackalive on adventure travel. If you just HAVE to get a thrill, if you’re bound and determined to go someplace TRULY dangerous, you must hop over to his DangerFinder and dial up a vacation not for the faint of heart. There’s some great reading entertainment here as well…

Need an adventure in your own city, in your own backyard? Well, I certainly don’t advocate using the strategies found here, but infiltration.org has some interesting stories about the author exploring churches, steam tunnels, tunnels and abandoned buildings.

Last, but not least, bookmark this site Sleepinginairports. It’s a travel guide for sleeping in airports. With today’s crazy air travel delays, you never know when you might need it…

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