Over the years, I've ordered more plane tickets through Orbitz than through any other online travel site. Why? Because my experience shows that Orbitz often offers the best and cheapest deals. But I've also found that you get what you pay for. In Orbitz's case, that means an overall shopping experience inferior to those on sites like Travelocity.

Overall, Orbitz keeps me coming back because it points to some of the lowest fares around. But it's got some drawbacks that might give pause to those who use travel sites for extras. During my test run, little annoyances started with links that didn't work. That was the case when I tried to look up hotel details and photos. For instance, when I tried to take a virtual tour of Clarion LaGuardia Airport Hotel in New York, the photo slideshow didn't display properly. I'd expect more sophistication from a travel site nowadays.

Orbitz's online customer service could have been better, too. I'm researching a trip to the Galapagos Islands (who doesn't want to see 100-year-old tortoises?). When I sent an e-mail requesting recommendations on that destination, a rep e-mailed me back within 15 minutes. But the e-mail simply provided me with a phone number to call for information on cruises in general. I mean, if I wanted to call Orbitz, I wouldn't have e-mailed in the first place, would I? A similar request of Travelocity produced a suggestion of a specific Galapagos cruise to check out.

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