For the last three years, I've spent a frightening percentage of my waking hours staring at travel websites. As the travel consultant for Consumer Reports WebWatch, I've closely analyzed more than 200 sites and I've overseen extensive testing projects that encompassed searching for thousands and thousands of online rates. Now when I see the words, "Where would you like to go?" I'm sometimes tempted to respond: "Offline." But all those hours have paid off, because I've certainly learned a few things.

Whenever I'm at a party and I explain what I do, it's inevitable that someone will ask me, "So which is the best travel site for good deals?" Apologies to Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. And Hotwire and Priceline. And Kayak, Mobissimo and SideStep. And Opodo and Zuji. And all the rest. There's no one single source for the best travel bargains on the Web.

No one site provides all the exclusive deals, all the up-to-the-minute revisions, and all the travel supplier inventories (particularly if you're looking for low-fare airlines such as Southwest and JetBlue). So a little time spent surfing could pay off for any given itinerary on any given day. Here are some lessons I've learned along the way.

Get the full story at USA TODAY