How to book online without getting caught in a Web

It's not quite as easy as point, click and fly, but buying airline tickets on the Web can save both time and money.

If you've only used the Internet to send e-mail or check stock prices, making a big purchase on an airline ticket or resort package can be intimidating. But with a few simple steps, travel via the Internet's World Wide Web can be convenient, cheap and safe.

Here are some suggestions:

*Shop around. If you know what airline you want to fly, check its Web site for deals. Try any of the larger sites listed below to compare prices and itineraries. Give yourself lots of time to look around and bookmark sites with the best deals with your Web browser.

*Pay by credit card. Have your card handy and easy access to current billing information. Be sure you are using a "secure server" before giving out card information. Don't give it out over e-mail or instant-messaging systems.

*Print it out. Make a print of your travel information, flight times, and seat information for reference or if you need to make changes. Note on your printout the log-on name you are using and password, plus any reference codes.

*Consider last-minute deals. Many airlines and discount sites offer great prices on last-minute tickets. Check airline sites and prepare to be flexible on departure times and dates.

*Stick to established Web sites, especially with the recent dot-com shakeout.

*Be ready to commit. Many travel deals on the Web also are non-refundable and difficult to change, so make sure you're getting exactly what you want. Waiting a day or so after booking a ticket or package before you pay is wise so that you can review your schedule and coordinate with friends and family.

A good place to start if you're new to Web travel is one of the big all-purpose travel sites like, or

Don't be intimidated by these Web sites' text-packed pages and complicated layouts. Just scan the page for "tickets" or "book fares," and skip the rest.

Travelocity is easy to use and lets you set up your own account with multiple itineraries for one trip. For example, if you're planning a trip from Chicago to Miami, you can check the availability of flights several times during the day. Chances are, if you book far enough in advance, you can get exactly the time and fare you want.

Renting a car or a motel room is also easy on Travelocity. The site asks you automatically after you book an airline ticket if you want a car or room. All of the major chains are represented, and it's easy to compare prices and get upgrades. Sites like Travelocity, Priceline and Cheaptickets also offer inexpensive packages to places like Hawaii, Orlando and the Caribbean.

Travelocity is also good place to start because you can check fares and prices without registering a log-on name or password. If you register at several Web sites, remembering multiple passwords and log-on names can be cumbersome. Also realize that as soon as you register at a site using your home e-mail address, you're likely to get spam or online junk mail. It's a good idea to practice using these sites before buying and print out any itineraries you save to double-check times, dates and prices.

Discount sites like Priceline require a bit more commitment from users but can offer terrific deals. With Priceline, you name your own price, for deals up to 40 percent off the cheapest fare available. But all tickets are non-refundable, non-transferable and can't be changed in any way. Individual airlines also all have their own sites, many of which offer great deals on last-minute travel, senior discounts and packages.

Try these sites for travel deals:

*Cheaptickets (for airline tickets, rental cars, packages, cruises):

*Lowestfare (in English and Spanish, airline tickets, rental cars, packages, cruises):

*Travelocity (for airline tickets, rental cars, packages, cruises):

*Priceline (for travel, new cars, home financing):

*Southwest Airlines (mainly West Coast destinations):

*JetBlue Airways (flies from Oakland to mainly East Coast destinations):

*American Trans Air (mainly Midwest destinations):