IF you require proof that there really is a Web 2.0, you aren't looking hard enough. For travelers, anyway, the internet couldn't look more different than it did a couple of years ago.
Remember when Expedia.com used to be exciting? Today, we're booking our trips using sites that cull the best of not only Expedia, but hosts of other sources, helping us to get the best fare possible, even if it means going directly to the airline.
We're checking in on the web, picking a hotel using a user-review site, mapping an itinerary using a message board, and then, back home, posting our videos to You Tube, our photos to Flickr, leaving our own hotel reviews at Tripadvisor or adding more tips to the pile on those message boards.
It's a freaking revolution, it is only going to get bigger, and that, friends, is a good thing. Here, the sites to know before hitting the road in 2007.
BEST NEW WEBSITE
It's like talking to your broker - "Buy!" "Don't buy!" - but about airfares. Punch in dates, destination (there are now 40 airports) and find out how the market's been doing over the past 72 days and, based on that, what you might expect in the future, and whether or not to buy now.
COOLEST NEW GADGET
The man at the Delta Connection counter at LaGuardia was engaging the ticket agent in one of those conversations that you hear all too often at the airport: "So, can you tell me how often this flight is actually late?" The agent couldn't. "I'm not sure we have that kind of information." Too bad they didn't know about this handy site, which not only tracks arrivals and departures for airports all over, but also has trend data so you can find out if that flight you're on tomorrow has a habit of being early or late.
Less than two years old, this not-abooking engine quickly became a favorite for finding hotels, rental cars and plane tickets.
It moves fast, too, which is great when the boss calls and says, "I want to go to Honduras. What's it cost?" We can get them the answer in 30 seconds or less, and pretend we had that information right at our finger tips. Day saved.
The sky appears to be the limit for this user-driven hotel-ratings site that just gets better with time, simply because the longer it exists, the more travelers like you find out about it.
Meaning more posts, meaning a more accurate picture of what the hotel is actually like based on scrolling through the reviews.
Sure, the folks at this suburban Boston-based hotel ratings site have added bells and whistles over the past 12 months, but the real improvement has come thanks to users like you.
BEST NEW GUIDE SITE
We haven't even begun to see the potential of this Wikipedia spinoff, which offers mini-travel guides to destinations ranging from Santa Fe to Singapore.
There are more established sites that right now might offer more comprehensive information, but this one's the future.
It's easy to navigate, and a snap to update if you feel like participating.
Sample posting: "Finnish speeding tickets are based on your income, so be careful. A Nokia VP who'd cashed in some stock options the previous year was once hit for $204,000!" Now you know.