For better or worse, a lot of the mystery of travel has been eliminated by the internet. Google Street View allows us to experience new places without standing up from our computers and websites like Tripadvisor and Yelp tell us what to expect when we do. We're grateful, however, for the following sites that help us avoid the not-so-happy surprises that come with travel. These sites focus on travel planning at the micro level – one airplane seat, one amenity, or one hotel room at a time...
Hold it! Is that bargain airfare you are just about to purchase really such a good deal? Most booking websites don't take into account the extra fees, like baggage and WiFi, that are a reality of modern day flying. Before hitting 'book,' check out how your airline stacks up against its competitors when it comes to baggage, snack, meal, and pet fees with this handy chart from Kayak.
Now that you have picked your flight, you want to ensure the best possible flying experience. Not all airplane seats are created equal, so Seat Guru offers detailed, color-coded seat maps of more than 700 aircrafts from 95 different airlines to help you avoid the unpleasant experience of being wedged into a non-reclining seat with no leg room for 10 hours.
Not planning on ponying up for a hotel for your overnight layover? Many a traveler has camped out in the airport overnight. Sleeping in Airports features guides to the facilities and comfort levels of all major airports, as well as an annual list of the best and worst airports to sleep in.
Hipmunk not only features a hotel search filter based on "Ecstasy" and "Agony" ratings (a mix of price, amenities, and reviews), but it also displays "heat maps" to show which hotels are closest to food, shopping, and nightlife, as well as editorial content and city guides from partners such as Eater.
Room 77's search function compares prices across all major travel sites but its most attractive feature is that it takes away that agonizing moment when you cross your fingers and walk into your "deluxe" hotel room armed with only the hope that it lives up to its description. Room 77 eliminates the guesswork by trying to match guests with rooms based on their personal preferences. It provides digital floor maps and allows you to virtually see your hotel room before booking. The site also offers insider tips (from hotel staff) on which rooms, floors, and vantages to pick.