Back in November, marketing information company J.D. Power and Associates ranked eight popular Web-based agencies that offer discounted hotel rooms and other travel services. In a survey of 6,800 online shoppers, participants were asked to rate the agencies in six categories: best prices, ease of booking, usefulness of the information on the Web site, availability of booking options, ease of navigation and appearance of the Web site.

In addition to the eight major places to start, new sites keep popping up like dandelions. One, Hotelrooms365, has a rebate program: Guests who book with the site and spend a minimum amount get cash back. Another new site, TabletHotels, has an impressive range of deluxe properties worldwide, many at good prices. And, Pegasus Solutions' venture into consumer travel, features only independent properties.

And the article further suggests, don't forget to check the hotels' own websites. Chains and independent hotels, locked in a struggle with third-party sites, often try to better the rates offered by outside bookers.

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