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Conde Nast Traveler's Epicurious
This site is devoted to cultivating the difference between being a tourist and a traveler. Sure, content from the ubiquitous magazine is available. What makes this site invaluable is the quality of the "insider" stuff appearing only online. Typical of a package on online hotel bookings: It tells you how it works, reviews Internet reservation sites with brutal candor and offers easy-access links. The only disappointment is the forums -- not for the quality of conversation (which is high) but for the lousy organization, which makes a search an ordeal. If Conde Nast were to review travel forums I daresay its report on its own would be scathing.

Microsoft's entry is the most user-friendly of the many sites claiming to offer easy online travel reservations. Unlike many otherwise similar services, the prices quoted by Expedia are comparable with real-time phoning -- the cost of a round trip ticket to San Francisco via U.S. Airways was $343 using both methods. And its hotel listings feature both unique properties and the obvious national chains. There's additional travel content, some useful. But if you have access to discounts like AAA, you'll still find it cheaper to use the phone.

For simple directions to strange destinations, Mapquest is a terrific resource. A basic approach to interactive road maps, you plug in your departure address and destination and Mapquest spews out a route for you.

This breathtaking page of travel links lets you access airlines, online booking services, budget and business travel, hotels, restaurants, guidebooks, magazine, car rentals, maps and weather. On my quest for San Francisco travel tips, a search yielded 133 Web site reviews along with other features; selections included the San Francisco Reservations Service, alternative bookstores, subway maps and Giants ticket availability.
-- Carolyn Spencer Brown

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