Most leisure travelers have embraced their own favorite travel sites, but savvy business travelers have different, more immediate and often more specific needs. Information needs to flow quickly and timely updates mean everything.
Following are my ten favorite Web sites for planning travel, anticipating changes, and getting the best experience when you arrive.
1. Flightstats - Track your flight status in real time, as well as airport delays, weather and traffic conditions around the airport.
2. Room77 - This brand-new site uses Google Earth and other technology so you can actually see the real view from specific hotel rooms. That means you can figure out which rooms actually have ocean views, versus the ones that require you sticking your head out the window to catch a glimpse of the water. They day before you check in, or even on the same day, call up the front desk and ask for one of those rooms.
3. Hotel Tonight - If you're not an advance planner, and very few road warriors are, there's a new smartphone app called HotelTonight lets you book hotel rooms at the very last minute for a discounted rate. Every day at noon, it releases three hotel deals in several different cities, and you have until 2 a.m. to book.
4. Kayak - This meta-search engine has now become an old favorite of mine, providing lots of options by scouring the Web to search both airline sites and other booking engines like Priceline, Hotwire, Expedia and Travelocity so you can get true comparison. While they recently began selling tickets, Kayak also will direct you to other appropriate sites. Its interface is especially user-friendly, with bonus items like a calendar that shows how prices fluctuate each day in case your travel dates are flexible. Just remember, meta-search engines won't include Southwest fares.
5. Mobissimo - This is another handy meta-search engine that is especially helpful if you're searching globally. You have the option of comparing prices between Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, and Hotwire, as well as the airlines themselves.
6. Momondo - This is a search aggregator based in Denmark that actually scours 700 different sources to try and find you a deal. So there's still hope to be a comparison shopper!
7. Bing Travel - Microsoft is making a name for itself in the travel sector, but for me, its best feature is still the Farecast function which it acquired a few years ago. This tells you whether fares are expected to go up, down or remain steady based on historical data. Watch this space as Bing has announced it has partnered with Kayak to improve its search results, and will soon feature an auto-suggest price-predictor tool that anticipates the lowest-priced flight on your route over the next 90 days.
8. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics - The DOT compiles data from the airlines every month in its Air Travel Consumer Report. Want to know which airline was the worst offender for mishandled bags? The one with the most passenger complaints? And most important for business travelers, it relays the most routes with the most delays each month.
9. Weather.com - It's not just about the weather in my destination, but Weather.com has come up with a very helpful list of the worst-weather airports in the country. What I like about this list is that there are some surprises: Sure, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and Boston have problems in the winter, but San Francisco International? That's right, it's the moisture, low clouds and fog that causes delays here, which is why I prefer to fly in and out of Oakland. Even warm-weather destinations can have problems. Atlanta, America's busiest airport, has to deal with thunderstorms, rain and low-cloud delays.
10. Shazam - Last, but certainly not least, is an app that I've mentioned before: Shazam. For me, it's become a cultural lifesaver. Hear a song being played at an airport, in a store at a mall? Just hit the Shazam app on your iPhone, and voila, within 30 seconds the name, artist, song, album are displayed.
What are the top travel Web sites that you can't live without?