Just because I write about deals doesn't mean I always get the best one. Occasionally, I make the same mistake as many others: I stop searching too soon. For example, my son and I recently booked a weekend in Chicago centering on a Cubs-Red Sox game. We had a great time, and I was feeling pretty good about the trip -- until a casual conversation led me to discover that had I booked with a different agency, the hotel and amenities would have been the same or better, but the price would have been $150 per person less. Had I extended my Internet search -- or perhaps asked a reliable travel agent about lower-cost alternatives -- we would have saved enough for a couple of steak dinners each at Shula's. (Well, just barely.)
Fortunately for you -- and me -- more websites that help you find good prices and save time are springing up or being revised. Here are some of the latest:
Travelzoo's SuperSearch uses more than 650,000 consumer ratings and its own expertise to identify sites that may mesh with your needs. Entering trip details brings up links to airlines, travel agencies, and other relevant sites. A couple of caveats that apply to any website you search: Do the tedious job of checking the privacy policies and terms and conditions to see if they suit you. If you're looking for flights, also check Southwest (www.southwest.com), which flies out of Boston and Providence and often has low prices but is seldom listed on websites other than its own.
If you're thinking of vacationing in the Gloucester area, Cape Ann Vacations is a new site representing Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Accommodations, listings of attractions and events, and a link to discounts are available.
Yet another place to look for deals is the website of Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel magazine, which has a new address and new features. Especially impressive are the Snap Guides, downloadable five- to 10-page city guides for popular destinations worldwide.
Go to www.budgettravelonline.com.
The arrival of travel blogs was as inevitable as sunrise. One of them, IgoUgo, lets travelers share their wisdom and experience, but also gives bloggers a chance to earn Go Points, good for frequent-flier miles and gift certificates. The website promises a section on travel deals soon.
Many travelers work so hard at finding a cheap flight that they don't pay enough attention to hotel prices, which usually make up a bigger portion of their travel costs. CheapAccommodation.com is a new site claiming over 35,000 deals worldwide for everything from five-star hotels to hostels.
Log on to www.cheapaccommodation.com.
MyLeisureTravel.com helps you plan a last-minute getaway to a New England or Mid-Atlantic destination. Travelers can plan based on how far they are willing to drive, their interest in a specific destination, or the availability of a particular leisure activity.
New bike tour Peace of Mind Guaranteed Bike Tours of Vermont (photo above) has added two- and three-day Stowe weekends to its lineup. Bikers stay at the Stowe Inn. On Saturday they cycle through backroad farming communities such as Cambridge, Waterville, and Hyde Park. For the daring, there is an optional hill climb at Smugglers' Notch. On Sunday, they ride north toward Morrisville, visiting Moss Glen Falls, then checking out the vistas atop Stagecoach Road; there are several options as well. Remaining tour dates are Aug. 26-28, Sept. 16-18, Sept. 30-Oct.7, and a three-night tour Oct. 7-10. Prices are $395-$485 for the two-night tours, and from $595 for the three-nighter. Bike rental is $50.
Visit www.pomgbike.com or call 888-635-BIKE (2453).
Pick your accent What will it be: French or English? New Brunswick is proud of both its dominant cultures, and there are self-drive packages that highlight either. ''The Acadian Adventure," beginning at $1,069 with air fare from Boston, visits Bouctouche, Caraquet, and Miramichi, exploring Acadian culture, entertainment, and food. ''The Fundy Adventure," at $1,129 from Boston, goes through Saint John, St. Andrew's, and Fredericton, and is highlighted by the natural wonders of the Bay of Fundy. Both itineraries begin and end in Moncton. Departures are daily to Oct. 31.
Call 800-567-6666 or visit www.maxximvacations.com.
Wine and adventure Here's one for those who love adventure, music, and a good glass of wine. On a rafting trip along Oregon's Rogue River, Sept. 16-20, participants gaze at stars, observe the flight of raptors, and listen to guest violinist Shira Kammen around the campfire. After a day running the rapids, the adventurers will sample hors d'oeuvres and the products of the Ravenswood Winery. The adult and youth fare of $925 includes all on-river meals, services of professional guides, oar and paddle rafts, inflatable kayaks, and round-trip transportation from Galice, Ore. Call 800-786-1830 or visit www.riverjourneys.com.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Contact Richard P. Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.