Finding the fares: Orbitz.com. Click the “flexible dates” link on the home page and use the “bonus days” feature, which provides fare quotes for three days before or after the prospective travel dates. Orbitz then generates an array of possible fares that can differ by hundreds of dollars.
Choosing a seat: SeatGuru.com. SeatGuru recommends seats based on their ability to recline, under-seat storage space, and even proximity to galleys and lavatories. Glide your cursor over the illustrated seating charts to generate specific, seat-by-seat reviews for hundreds of aircraft operated by dozens of airlines.
Checking for airport’s timeliness: FlightStats.com. Check out the site’s “time period” feature, which shows how well a particular airport functions within a given three-hour window. Example: You may have a 90% chance of arriving on time at LaGuardia International Airport between 6 and 9 am, but only a 50/50 chance if you’re landing between 9 am and noon.
Searching for a lodging bargain: Quikbook.com. If you’re open to staying in boutique or independent hotels, the site can track down terrific deals. Best feature: Most Quikbook rates do not require prepayment. Make your reservations online and pay when you check in.
Eating out: Chowhound.com. More timely than Zagat, Chowhound has a bulletin board filled with comments from in-the-know, food-loving diners. It’s particularly useful when you want to know more about little-noticed or brand-new eateries.