Web site that can track fares on specific routes and dates for you, added a new feature this fall that can alert you when airlines make new seats available at the lowest-priced frequent-flier award levels. Even though you may find a certain flight unavailable for the cheapest frequent-flier awards, the inventory can change, and if the flight sells slowly and empty seats are available, airlines often open up frequent-flier seat inventory. Unless you constantly check, you'd never know. But now Yapta can check for you.
The service, now in beta testing, is available on Yapta's free Web site. So far it works only with United, Delta, Continental and Alaska airlines, as well as US Airways. Use Yapta's regular "Plan a Trip" function and the Web site finds prices and recommends flights, based on your preferences. If you "tag" flights that interest you, Yapta will track pricing changes, sending email alerts. With itineraries on those five major airlines, Yapta offers a box to check to include airline award tickets in those email alerts for price changes. When seats open up at the minimum mileage possible, you get an email alert.
a subscription Web site favored by hard-core road warriors who mine the intricacies of airline fare codes and upgrade rules, has a more sophisticated "Award and Upgrade Availability" search function. You can search for coach, business-class or first-class awards at different price levels on different airlines, and search for upgrade opportunities as well.
a useful fare-search site that checks lots of different vendors, from airlines themselves to online travel agencies like Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com, offers some handy tools to refine your flight searches.
Has a couple of useful tools to help make smarter ticket-buying decisions. One option shows historical graphs of the lowest prices offered on a route, looking back at what airlines offered over the past seven days all the way out to the past two years. If you can see that the price hasn't been below $200 over the past two years, you may be foolish to hope for a $150 ticket on a particular route. (Then again, with traffic sagging, airlines have been slashing prices lately.)
Another useful FareCompare function: A search for discounted first-class seats. Just enter your departure city and FareCompare can show you discounted first-class seats to hundreds of different destinations. Some are coach prices that include instant upgrades, called "Y-Up" fares, and some are just advance-purchase discounted first-class tickets.
If you're after the cheapest possible coach ticket, consider buying from a "consolidator." You can find offerings through AirlineConsolidator.com and usaca.com. Consolidators take seats that airlines don't think they can sell and offer them at very steep discounts. Moving the seats out of regular inventory means airlines don't have to slash their posted prices and trigger fare wars with competitors. But the distressed inventory gets sold, much like a retailer dumping excess inventory at the outlet mall.
offers a handy map with current information about the status of major airports, such as ground-delay programs in force that will delay your takeoff.
Always sign up for flight alerts from your airline or FlightStats.com so you get early notice of cancellations, gate changes or delays. Flight alerts are also helpful when picking people up at airports, too.
If you're planning a cruise in 2009, three Web sites can be a big help. CruiseCritic.com offers reviews boat-by-boat and port-by-port, evaluating cruise lines and itineraries and offering recommendations for cruises suited for families or couples or adventurers or mature adults. It has a fairly large database of cruise reviews from travelers, and you can pick up a lot of tips, especially if you aren't an experienced cruiser.
offers links and reviews of shore trips offered by local firms, sometimes a better value than the shore excursions offered by cruise lines. Prices can be cheaper, and the trips may be longer than what the companies linked to the cruise-line offers.
is a Web site that will take all your travel confirmations and compile one detailed itinerary, even adding directions to hotels or appointments, plus weather forecasts and other local information. Sign up with your email address and send TripIt your airline, hotel, car rental confirmations and even appointments or events. TripIt puts all your confirmation numbers and details in one document. (Of course, some may not be comfortable sharing travel information, despite TripIt's assurances of security.)
a handy way to find a restaurant in a city you're visiting (or even at home) and quickly booking a reservation. Even if the air travel is a nightmare, at least you can eat well.