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SITE REVIEW: Tripping.com

What Kayak does for airlines and Trivago does for hotels, these guys do for vacation rentals, let you check multiple sites at once.

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Vacation rentals, short-stay apartments, homestays — by any name you call them, these lodgings are growing in popularity as alternatives to the traditional hotel, especially for groups or families traveling together. That growing popularity shows up in the multiple Web sites that offer travelers a staggering selection of vacation rentals year-round, around the world.

A cursory scan of search engines for “vacation rental Web sites” will yield at least 30 in as many seconds, and that’s only counting the global sites. Throw in specialized and regional vacation rental sites and that number easily doubles.

This is an evolution we’ve seen from the earliest days of online travel planning. Somebody creates a site making something available on the Web — airline bookings, hotel reservations, cruises, rental cars — and it almost instantly spawns a digital horde of imitators and rivals.

Result: a lot of different Web pages that you have to wade through to find the best deal. And while the number of online travel sites may have exploded like weeds in my backyard, the number of hours available to us in a day remains stuck on 24.

Eventually, smart Web programmers starting finding ways to pull all this information together and allow us to check multiple sites and compare multiple prices for things like airfares, hotels and car rentals on a single Web site.

That trend now comes to vacation rentals with Tripping.com. Basically, Tripping is to vacation rentals what sites like Kayak are to airfares, Dohop to hotels and Car Rentals to rental cars.

Enter your destination city and choose the dates you want. Tripping scans seven major vacation rental sites — HomeAway, FlipKey, Wimdu, roomorama, Bed y Casa, Way to Stay and Gloveler — for the best deals.

If some of those sites don’t sound familiar, it’s because they’re not American sites. Wimdu and Gloveler both are based in Germany, Bed y Casa in France. Just for grins, it also will simultaneously scan Hotwire and HotelsCombined on your behalf and show their results on separate screens.

You can search for vacation rentals across the United States or around the world. Search results are virtually instantaneous.

In addition to Home Rentals, it also, if you like, will search for Free Homestays in your destination city. You read that correctly — free homestays.

There’s a third search category that separates Tripping a lot of other similar sites — “meet locals.” This features pics and profiles of residents who express at least a willingness to meet out-of-towners.

Those who’ve experienced the frustration of trying to connect with locals, especially in a foreign country, might find this feature interesting. Others might find it unsettling. Caveat User.

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Next week on Travel Tech Thursday, we’ll examine the best sites for finding deals on rental cars, and deal once and for all (we hope) with the issue of whether to buy the rental company’s supplemental insurance.

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