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SITE REVIEW: travelmath

This site can help with everything from trip planning to ensuring that airlines credit you correctly for frequent flier miles — and sometimes, it can be just plain fun. But you may have to put up with some annoying marketing tricks.

Have you ever found yourself wondering how far it was to your dream destination, or how long it would take to fly there?

It’s natural for folks to wonder how long it would take yo fly from Point a to Point B.

Especially when “B” is somewhere on the opposite side of the world.

Well, this is the Digital Age — which means, quite naturally, that there’s a site for that. Several, in fact. They’re called online travel calculators, and they can be designed to be local, regional, national or global.

This is one of the global ones:

I’m so allergic to mathematics that the very name of this site — travelmath — almost caused me to look elsewhere.

I’m glad I didn’t. These guys can give you all manner of information connecting almost any two locations on the planet.

What’s COOL: Want to know how long it takes to fly from San Francisco to Washington DC — or say, from DC to Dakar, Senegal? Just go to the Travel Calculator on travelmath’s home page, plug in the name of the departure (From) and destination (To) cities, select “flight time” from the “Get” pull-down menu just above them, then click on the big orange “Calculate” button.

You’ll automatically be taken to another screen that will give you your answer.

But these guys give you a lot more than just flight times. That “Get” pull-down has a dozen different search categories you can apply to any destination:

  1. driving distance
  2. flight distance
  3. closest airport
  4. hotels in the area
  5. time difference
  6. drive time
  7. flight time
  8. major cities
  9. airlines flying
  10. fuel cost of driving
  11. flight emissions
  12. latitude/longitude

If the Travel Calculator can’t seem to find the city combination you’re looking for, try using the three-digit IATA airport codes instead of the actual city names; it seems to work better in general using airport codes, anyway.

Don’t know the airport codes? No problem. Just do a search on the term “airport code,” along with the name of the city. It’ll come right up.

You don’t even have to leave the site to do this. travelmath provides a handy Google search box in the toolbar. Overall, a pretty good experience.

Then, they promptly go and spoil it.

What’s NOT COOL: Let’s say you’ve checked the flight time between Washington Dulles (IAD) and Dakar (DKR). travelmath says it’s seven hours, 58 minutes. Sounds doable, you think. But you’re on the West Coast. How long will it take you to get from, say, San Francisco to Dulles?

There’s a seaerch box right on that same page with the answer to your original question, so it’s a simple matter of plugging in your new combination of cities (or airport codes) and run your new search, yes?

Uhh, nope.

What will happen when you click on the orange Search button is that you will be directed to yet another screen designed to take you to BookingBuddy.com (which, in turn, is owned by Expedia) to actually book flights.

Whether booking is you actually had in mind at that moment or not.

If you want to run another flight time search on a different city pairing, travelmath will make you double back all the way to their home page to start over. Not cool.

At best, it’s annoying. At worst, it makes you wonder if the site is trustworthy. You feel as if you’ve been hijacked.

It would’ve been a lot better to provide a link on the answer page saying something like, “Would you like to find airfares for this flight?” When I click on that, then you can take me off to BookingBuddy or wherever.

travelmath has the potential to be one of the more helpful and useful travel aids out there, but they need to revise their Web design to make them look a little less desperate — and make their treatment of users a little less arbitrary.

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