Sidestep, the online travel search engine, is now hunting for hotel and air vacation packages the same way it scours the Web for price comparisons involving individual flights, cars and rooms.

The new search function holds great promise for consumers looking for the best package deal, but it's facing opposition from some travel companies fearful of seeing their unique hotel and air packages sold as commodities.

The online travel agencies Travelocity and Expedia, two of the biggest package vendors, are refusing to participate, which means Sidestep isn't yet able to offer a comprehensive search.

Phil Carpenter, vice president of corporate marketing for Sidestep, said consumers are hungry for an Internet search engine that can help them narrow the field of options, whether it's a flight, a hotel or an entire vacation package. He said packages are among the most time-consuming travel searches of all.

Consumers on average visit 5.8 Web sites before selecting a vacation package, Carpenter said, citing data from the Gartner Group, a Connecticut research company.

That's well above the 4.1 Web sites most consumers visit before selecting a hotel or the 4.2 Web sites visited before selecting a flight.

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