Travelers’ Aid: Little-known websites that help you get away from it all

Last modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Even though TripAdvisor is my go-to website when I’m thinking about travel, there are more specific sites that I frequent as well. A quick rundown:First, if you’re trying to figure out the best way to get from Point A to Point B - does it make more sense to drive or fly to Nashville, say? - go to www.rome2rio.com. The site lets you enter your departure and destination cities, along with the dates if you know them, and then presents you with the cost, in money and time, of traveling by car, bus, train, ferry, air or a combination of any of those. (This week it would cost $1,500 and take four days and 22 hours to get to North Pole, Alaska, by bus, and $313 and 17 hours and 17 minutes to get there by train and plane.) The site also lets you buy carbon offset credits to help lessen the environmental impact of your journey.If you belong to a frequent traveler program run by an airline or hotel, check out www.webflyer.com. It’s packed - so densely packed, in fact, that it can be a little daunting - with information about promotions that can earn you bonus miles or points, and information about which airlines have the best track record in letting people redeem those miles or points for travel awards. A couple of years ago my husband and I made our first visit to Key West, where more than one native told us we’d dodged a bullet by scheduling our trip when there were no spring-breakers in town. That was pure serendipity - but when I was booking a repeat visit in 2014, I checked out www.studentcity.com and www.tripsmarter.com to make sure our dates didn’t overlap with popular spring break weeks. If Jell-O shots and wet T-shirt contests aren’t your thing, do your homework before you book a vacation in a college revelers’ hotspot.There is no shortage of websites pitching various travel deals, but I’ve come across a couple that are especially comprehensive. At www.dealbase.com you enter your destination - or even the exact hotel you’re interested in - and the site produces a list of current offers. At www.cruisecompete.com you’ll find similar information about cruises, both river and ocean. If you’re heading to a city where parking costs nearly as much as a hotel room, go to www.bestparking.com to get the lay of the land ahead of time. Often garages that are practically next door to each other will have significantly different rates. The site also displays airport parking prices.Finally, I’m the kind of nervous flyer who frets about where I sit on a plane, which is why I head to www.seatguru.com before I request my seat assignment. It has charts showing the cabin layout for just about every commercial flight, along with notes on why various seats are good (extra legroom) or not so good (next to the galley).