Internet start-ups like Tripmates, Gusto.com and RealTravel.com are looking to tap into the resources of user-generated content that have propelled advertising-supported networks like MySpace. Established travel sites, like Yahoo's Trip Planner, also are building social-networking features such as profiles into their sites so that travelers can read about reviewers. Such sites also offer online communities where members can meet traveling buddies.

Travel tips from family and friends can be among the most effective resources in influencing itineraries, and the new sites exploit that desire for first-hand, word-of-mouth reviews. Customized recommendations also are a big draw. "People are going to be able to find out things like where is the best place to go with a 2-year-old child, or with my dog," says Diane Clarkson, an analyst at market researcher Jupiter Research.

Tripmates, which was launched in August and has about 2,500 members, markets itself to younger travelers who want both inside advice and the chance to meet, or date, fellow travelers or locals. Jodi Nelson, 35, an actress and filmmaker in Los Angeles, is using the site to plan trips to Paris and Italy's Tuscany region, where she has found members who have offered to take her to dinner.

Gusto, which went online in June and has 2,000 members, targets a wider age group and puts less emphasis on the social aspects of its community, instead highlighting insights from fellow travelers. "I would give more credence to what 'Joe Smuckey' in Midwest America had to say than any travel experts in the guidebooks," says Gini Briggs, 43, an air-traffic controller in Marshfield, Mo.

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