If you don't think that the online travel portals are doing a bit of spring cleaning before the peak summer travel season, you may be missing the boat.

Yesterday, Sabre's (NYSE:TSG) Travelocity gave its site a colorful makeover. Gone are the old shades of blue and white backgrounds that had become the standard hues of the three major travel sites. To set itself apart from InterActiveCorp's (NASDAQ:IACI) Expedia and Orbitz (NASDAQ:ORBZ), Travelocity bordered its site in bold blue while breaking in a new logo.

The company claims that it's going with hand-drawn stars, though they look to me more like jigsaw puzzle pieces or butterflies in a crayon factory. But if a makeover is what it takes to win over summer travelers, more power to Sabre.

InterActiveCorp isn't sitting still, either. Its Hotels.com site is launching Road Trips as a way to hook folks with short trips closer to home. That's a brilliant move. With gas prices spiking at the worst possible time, here is InterActiveCorp dishing out local alternatives reachable on a single tank of gas. It's also a sensitive approach to marketing to travelers still hesitant about the state of the economy.

The online travel guys have learned to roll with the changes. When cost-cutting airlines started shaving agency commissions, sites emphasized hotels and cruises that provided more flexibility in royalties. As Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN), Cendant's (NYSE:CD) CheapTickets.com, and Hotwire grew into popular discounters, the white and light blue sites turned to complete packages to help blur the perceived piecemeal value.

For investors, the sector has been hit or miss. Travelocity and Expedia soared before being acquired, while Orbitz remains a laggard, trading a few bucks shy of last year's $26 IPO. Then again, we warned you about Orbitz.

Using the Web to plan your next trip is a great idea. Our Travel Center was designed to do just that. Don't let the new features or fancy redesigns run you off. In this industry, it's all about arrivals and departures. Companies know that you've got to show up if you want to take off.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves to travel and reckons that he has used every single one of these sites in some capacity. However, he does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.