http://www.city2000.com/ http://www.lastminute.com/ http://www.bargainholidays.com/ http://www.a2btravel.com/
Dying for some winter sun? There are now dozens of online alternatives to schlepping down to Thomas Cook and queuing up for a brochure they ran out of a week ago. On Monday, the latest of them, City2000, launches, offering Internet booking to 500 airlines, plus car hire, hotel reservations and discounted Eurostar tickets. Of the established sites, three currently stand out. For last-minute getaways, try lastminute.com, which also features a theatre ticket booking service and shopping deals. The site claims to be the first to "use the power of the Internet to match last-minute buyers with last-minute sellers", which basically means you type in when you want to go on holiday, where, for how long, and it comes up with a list of what's on offer. Like most such sites, it requires you to register, for free, and in return for booking through lastminute.com, you gain "minutes", which are more inspiring and valuable than they sound, a sort of Air Miles scheme. January special offers have included return flights to Amsterdam for pounds 28 and Prague for pounds 99. For cheap package deals, the luridly designed bargainholidays.com is a good bet. Search options include This Weekend, Holiday Sun, City Breaks, Holiday Flights and Skiing, or you can search by destination, enter the Bargain Basement (pounds 99 and under), check the last-minute deals (seven nights in Majorca for pounds 59), or have bargains e-mailed to you. A rather classier affair (more along the lines of a week's skiing in Val d'Isere) is a2btravel.com. Although it comes from the same publisher as bargainholidays.com, it has a much broader scope, covering everything from flights to airport information, rail services and a booking service for hotels, B&Bs and villas. The site is full of snazzy features, such as a real-time arrivals boards for British airports (so no hanging round at Heathrow for six hours waiting for your New Zealand second cousins to arrive because you didn't know the flight had been cancelled). You can also book UK accommodation by area and price, and see where the accommodation is on a zoomable map. There's also a currency converter, weather forecasting, a mapping service (like an interactive A-Z, in which you simply type in a postcode, or whatever info you have), travel news and useful tips - avoid camping holidays in Yemen, perhaps?