Booking airfare and hotels online now costs you less

As a sign of just how desperate travel sellers are getting -- or perhaps one of how the Web is turning into a true free-for-all -- the major travel booking sites have been shucking their fees. Last month, Orbitz, Travelocity, CheapTickets, Hotwire, and Expedia all reduced or eliminated the fees they charged for booking airfare through May 31. That eliminates a cost to passengers of about $7 per flight.

Until recently, if you compared a hotel quote on, say, Travelocity and Orbitz, you might see a lower price on Travelocity than on Orbitz, but when you clicked through to make your purchase, suddenly the "taxes and fees" line item that showed up near the end of the process could reverse your good fortune and make the other website the winner. It was time consuming, annoying, and expensive. But the websites make their money out of a portion of those fees (and some analysts think that up to 60% of their income is based off the fees), which can easily mount $25 to $40 on a single night at a standard business class hotel.