Check out the source: Some online travel agencies such as expedia.com and hotels.com charge a fee for air travel or hotel buys. You can save the fees by buying directly from the supplier.

Don't count on price guarantees: Most online low-price guarantees must be carefully documented if you're planning to file a claim. Even then it can be difficult to extract the guarantee. Your best bet is to shop before you click so you won't need to make a claim.

All stars are not created equal: A hotel that gets three stars on one Web site may get four on another. If you are unfamiliar with a hotel, it is important to read each site's fine print on what constitutes a star,especially when you are using an "opaque" Web site such as priceline.com or hotwire.com, on which the name of the hotel is not revealed until after you have committed to the purchase.

Take customer reviews with a grain of salt: Web sites that provide reader-generated content are popular, including such sites as tripadvisor.com, among the biggest and most active. Much can be learned from reading the musings of "regular" travelers, but be a little skeptical of the feedback on these sites. Watch for flowery praise; if it reads like a brochure, it very well could be from one.

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