Expedia has the most expansive online toolset and handles some less-common foreign routes (including flights within China, India and Africa). Some airfare and hotel deals are available only on Expedia. Deals are prominently displayed. Expedia also offers a no-blackout-dates rewards program. The appealing, easy-to-use home page and tools make this our favorite of the Big Three sites - if only it offered flexible-date fare searches.

Founded:

1996.

Sells:

Flights, hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, activities in your destination. Users can search by destination or interest (family, adventure, beach, romance, luxury, Walt Disney World, ski, golf/spa, all-inclusive).

Does not include:

Some low-cost carriers, such as Southwest and Easyjet.

Booking fees:

$5; in some cases free.

Deals by e-mail:

By free subscription.

Last-minute deals area:

Yes.

Fare alerts:

Download a widget that alerts you when prices drop on a specified city pair. Drawback: Only specific U.S. airports are included.

Phone support:

1-800-397-3342, open 24/7, with no additional booking fee. During regular U.S. business hours, staff typically is U.S. based; during other hours, may be offshore. Doesn't reveal the number of phone staffers.

Price guarantee:

Find a better price online for the same trip within 24 hours, and Expedia will refund the difference plus a travel coupon for $50.

Flexible date searches:

No, but it does offer a "flight fare" calendar that helps you see cheapest times to fly.

Rewards program:

Thank-you points are awarded at one point per dollar spent and may be combined with other thank-you points and awards through the Citibank network.

User-generated hotel reviews:

By travelers who stayed at the hotel in the last six months.

Cool tools:

Online toolset (Click "See all tools" under Plan Your Trip) includes airport guides, alerts when your flight is delayed, driving directions/mapping, gas station finder, group bookings for hotels and cruises, split payment (in case you and your companion are buying your air separately), limited seat alerts that let you know when an airfare is selling out, and a cruise calendar (not very detailed).

Check out:

Insider Selects, a ranking of the world's top hotels determined by a matrix based on consumer reviews, a value model and Expedia's experts.

SOURCE: Expedia, Miami Herald