A COLLECTION OF ESPECIALLY HELPFUL, EYE-OPENING OR JUST PLAIN FUN WEB SITES DEVOTED TO GETTING YOU THERE
16 march 2012 — MANAGE YOUR AIRLINE MILES
Make the most of your frequent-flier miles. Keep them organized and keep them from expiring.
23 april 2010 — VOLCANO TOURS
If you’d like to get your own look at a volcano — and live to tell about it — here are some tours to consider.
InfoHub…This specialty travel site has four pages of volcano tours on offer worldwide.
19 april 2010 — TRAVEL INSURANCE
If you need to choose a company from which to buy travel insurance, these sites will help you separate the wheat from the chaff — and believe me, there’s a lot of chaff in the insurance business.
U.S. Travel insurance Association…Trade association that vets travel insurers.
AmBest…They rate insurance companies.
Insure My Trip…They sell travel insurance, from multiple vendors. You screen, you choose.
Trip insurance Store…They lets you compare travel insurance policies head to head.
Quote Right…The 4-1-1 on multiple types of travel insurance.
1 April 2010 — ENDANGERED PLACES
These sites have lists of locations in the United States or abroad that all have two things in common: They have a reason to fascinate us and they are not long for this world. One or more of them might well provide the basis for a great trip.
The Watch…The World Monument Fund’s list of 100 Most Endangered Sites. Everything from ancient Afghan cities on the old Silk road to our own Route 66.
EcoSalon…These guys have put together a list of 15 important sites of great natural beauty or ecological importance around the world being lost to manipulation or pollution by Man.
26 March 2010 — TRAVELING WITH KIDS
Nowadays, traveling can be challenging enough for adults. Bringing the little ones in tow across the country or around the world is unthinkable, right? These folks don’t seem to think so. And they’ve got lots of ideas and suggestions for you to make traveling with your little ones less of a nightmare and more of a dream.
Backpacking with Toddlers in Tow…For those whose idea of a five-star hotel is a tent with a door on it.
Flying Rugrats…Lots of information and good advice, but let’s face it — I’d have included this site for the name alone!
Rick Steves…Mr. European Travel himself tells you how to make Europe bearable for you and your kids.
Transportation Security Administration…The folks who make you take your shoes off in the airport offer their advice for easier travel with your little ones.
Beyond these sites, lots of individual travel providers offers their own guidelines and helpful hints. Just combine the terms “travel with kids” with the name of your favorite airline or hotel, even destination country, in an Internet search. You’ll find lots of help.
30 Nov 2009 — ROAD TRIP!
When you’re ready to heed the call of the open road — and you have gas money — these sites can help you plan your journey. Choose routes, add up distances, calculate travel and arrival times, estimate gas and other costs, pick interesting-looking spots for potential detours. Best of all, nearly all such sites are free, although some may throw in an added bell and/or whistle for their “pro” version.
Some sites I’ve chose not to list here because they’re beta versions. I have nothing against beta sites per se, but I’m loathe to encourage people to risk their vacations on one.
When it comes to deciding the “shotgun” issue, however, you’re on your own!
GOOGLE Maps…This video shows you how to use Google Maps for trip planning. Another free and handy service from The Search Engine That Swallowed The Earth.
RAND McNALLY…Before there was GPS, there were these guys. The map people. If your destination isn’t on one of their maps, you may not want to go there!
FreeTrip…Well, at least the planning part is free on their Web site, anyway!
TripWiser…This one offers some trip planning beyond the continental United States.
MapsInBox…Custom-make your own route maps and more with their software.
DumbLittleMan…Don’t trip over the title. Not much on route planning, but good, practical tips from Tara Waechter on “on how to plan a kick-butt road trip” that doesn’t end up leading to thoughts of murder or suicide. She has an entire site devoted to this topic, which she calls…
Planning Fun Road Trips…If I need to explain to you what this site is about, you haven’t been paying attention!
27 Nov 2009 — LAST-MINUTE TRAVEL
These sites offer potential bargains for trips booked well within the usual 14-day minimum booking window suggested by airlines, travel agencies, cruise lies and so on. But booking this late is always a risk, so be careful!
lastminute.com…Some of their late package trips to Europe are a quarter of what you’d pay for the airfare alone.
Last Minute Travel…Their sites would seem to emphasis the full range of last-minute bookings, including cruises.
CheapOair…With a name like that, how can you not check them out?! Their focus is mainly on flights in the continetal United States.
SmarterTravel…A worthwhile all-around travel site, with their own last-minute flight locator that’s more international than CheapOair.
Travelzoo…They give you the option of checking U.S. or international editions of their site, so you can literally search the world for last-minute bargains.
13 Nov 2009 — PICKPOCKETS, and how to deal with them
These links have some great detailed tips on pickpockets and how to beat them at their game:
23 Sept 2009 — CRUISE TRAVEL
One of the world’s most popular forms of vacationing, and a lot more diverse than many folks realize. Below is a partial list of the world’s cruise lines, as well as independent sources of information about cruising, crise lines and their ships.
Disney…Family-oriented cruise vacations.
Norwegian Cruise Lines….Emphasis is on casual atmosphere at sea.
Princess…the people who brought you the Love Boat (and I swear, if I hear that @#*&O%#!! song one more time….!).
Royal Caribbean…One step up from Carnival. Largest cruise ships on the planet.
American Cruise Lines
American Canadian Caribbean Line
Small Ship Cruises…Just what the name implies. Comprehensive list of small-ship lines, with links to equally comprehensive descriptions of their ships, passenger itineraries, destinations.
SmallShips.travel…Definitely catering to the higher-end luxury side of small-ship cruising.
CruiseCheap.com…Cruises large and small.
Cruise West…More to the exploration side of small cruisers.
Vantage…These guys put the “luxe” in luxury small-ship cruises. What the hell, it doesn’t hurt to dream!
Cruise Critic…Just what the name implies.
Cruise Deck Plans….Compare cabins and staterooms of different ships.
CruiseMates…reviews, message boards, photo galleries, the works.
28 Aug 2009 — SINGLE TRAVEL
Traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to go it entirely alone. These sites can help find you a travel partner, or help you get by without one.
Social Jane…A social networking site for single women who travel.
Suntrek…their focus is outdoors/adventure travel.
TravBuddy…A social networking site for single travelers looking for a travel partner.
Travel Chums…Another social netowkring site for traveling singles.
Women Traveling Together
Ladies Away…Their focus is aiding the single female business traveler.
Loners on Wheels…Oriented toward single owners/travelers with recreational vehicles.
Global Safe Haven…Security alerts and other information to help single travelers stay safe wherever they are.
15 Aug 2009 — TIPPING THE BALANCE
Not sure how much to tip, or even whether you should, when you travel abroad? These sites will put you on the knowledge tip when it comes to gratuities.
How Stuff Works…Just as the name implies.
Tipping Etiquette…Fromthe folks at FindaLink.net. These guys get into the whole range of tipping — not merely at restaurants, but cabbies, skycaps, cruis ships, barbers, even the funeral directors and the Maytag repairman.
The Tipping Page…The page design is almost as confusing as the practice of tipping itself, but worth fighting through.
Wikipedia…A good starting point, especially for international tppng practices.
9 Aug 2009 — VENICE PHOTO TOURS
Venice is one of the most photographed cities on Earth, and for good reason. A photo tour is a good way to get quickly to the best views for the photographer who may have tons of talent and enthusiasm, but perhaps not a lot of time.
What’s more, as relatively compact as it is, Venice is a VERY easy place to get lost. Roaming the narrow passageways in the company of a local who knows their way around can save you time, spare you aggravation, and turn your Venetian visit into the ultimate “photo-op.”
The photo tours below are a small sampling of what’s on offer in Venice, selected at random. Some are simply walking tours (in Venice, where motor vehicles are banned, anything not in a boat is a walking tour), led by knowing locals and/or expert shooters. Others are full-fledged workshops or classes which teach you how to get the most out of your camera — and out of Venice — at the same time.
As with everything else in travel, you get what you pay for, so it pays to shop carefully.
Venice isn’t the only city offering photo tours. Do an Internet search on the city of your choice and the term “photo tour.”
Then get out there and start shooting!
2 Aug 2009 — JOGGING TOURS
These are a few of the sites where you can begin to explore a relatively new phenomenon in travel, jogging or running tours through some of the world’s great cities. don’t forget to look up from your heart monitor and take in the views! If you come across any other candidates, give me a shout and I’ll post them here.
Buenos Aires Running Tours…For $50, will organize a running tour of This Argentine capital’s colorful and fascinating neighborhoods, or design your own custom course through the city.
City Running Tours…New York, Washington DC and San Diego, perhaps the best place in the world for joggers.
Global Running Tours…Just what their name implies. Links to jogging tour outfits around the world.
Quebec Jogging Tours…They also cover Montreal. Vive les joggers (or something to that effect)!
Sightjogging…Berlin running tours
6 july 2009 — WALKING TOURS
Organized tours of friendly locals will show you the hidden jewels of life in the cities they love, for a surprisingly reasonable fee or even none at all. But be decent and buy your guide a drink, at least!
AllGetaways…a comprehensive list of walking tours and city walks in American cities.
ARCE…the American Research Center in Egypt. May be willing to arrange walking tours of Cairo and elsewhere.
Walk Hong Kong
AITAI…Association for Independent Tourist Assistance. Japan-based group provides interpreters to aid the linguistically overwhelmed, and volunteer guides. A great idea.
Tokyo City Guide Club…free walking tours around Tokyo
Thailand for Visitors
5 july 2009 — LUGGAGE DELIVERY
For a fee, these folks will pick up your luggage, check it in for you at your departure airport, pick it up at the other end and deliver it to your destination. That’s right, door to door luggage service. If you have to pay the airlines for overweight or oversized baggage, anyway, you might consider outfits like this as an alternative.
Be sure to find out beforehand what your options are in the unlikely event your luggage is lost or damaged.
The Luggage Club
Sports Express…as the name implies, they speialize in shipping sports gear.
Carry My Luggage…this is a British outfit. They serve the US, UK, Europe and the United Arab Emirates.
Yamato Transport…A Japanese company that also operates in the United States. Very popular with some US-Japan travelers.
Nippon Express…Another Japanese freight forwarder, similar to Yamato Transport.
4 July 2009 — HOW TO SURVIVE AIRLINE FOOD
These are the sites where frequent air travelers offer up their opinions on who’s food is the best — or more often, the worst — in the air. Passengers are only too glad to pass on to you their experiences with airline meals. And why not? There’s something therapeutic about shared suffering…
If you’re ready to take matters — and your flying meals — into your own hand, these sites can help.
Lunch In A Box
2 july 2009 — HOW TO PACK LIGHT
These folks will tell you — and thanks to the wonders of YouTube, even show you — how it’s done. Your travel budget and your back will thank you for it. If you’re wondering why, check this out. Then check out these links:
OneBag.com…How to pack everything you need — and only what you need! — in a single carry-on bag. Anything to avoid looking like the poor sap on the home page!
Rick Steves…this guy travels light for a living. Words to the wise.
more Rick Steves
CareerIntelligence…vacation intelligence, too.
BootsnAll…and no, that’s NOT a suggestion on how to pack!
Traveling Light…Their name tells you what they’re about. What to do, how to do it and what to do it in.
2 July 2009 — HOW TO GET A GOOD AIRLINE SEAT…
Time was, it didn’t matter where you sat. There weren’t that many seats and only one aisle. Legroom was decent. So when the airline assigned you your seat, you were cool with it.
To say the least, things have changed.
Over the years, one aisle became two, one deck became two. The aisle and window seats became three on the side and God-knows-how-many in the middle. The airlines started cramming so many rows so close together that they transformed coach into Sardine Class. If you’re tall and sit in front of a bulkhead, you may not be able to extend your legs because your feet have nowhere to go; your toes are pressed against th wall. Sit all the way in the back and your seat may not recline.
Nowadays, unless you have enough bank to fly First or Business Class in these aerial cattle cars, where you sit matters. That means you need to take as much control as you can over choosing your seat. And control begins with knowledge.
These Web sites give you that knowledge. They’ll show you seat maps of the planes your airline uses, often right down to the specific type of plane scheduled for use on a given flight on a given day. You’ll learn why arcane terms like “seat pitch” matter to your comfort. Then you can pick exactly the seats or even the airline you want — or at the very least, identify the ones you don’t want!
Already have seats assigned? You can now see exactly where these seats are and decide for yourself if they’re okay, or if you need to change them.
After that, it’s on you and the airline. Negotiate. Haggle. Wheedle, if need be. But get that seat!
1 July 2009 — GETTING THERE
On a train from Santa Barbara to San Diego one summer, I started looking up airfares on my laptop for a winter flight from Los Angeles to Paris. Air France was more than $2,500 for two on Expedia. Ouch! The Air France web site had the same trip at $2,300. Still not good. Then I remembered that airlines making transcontinental flights often make refueling stops — and sell seats on those stops at a lower fare.
Air Tahiti Nui flies from Papeete to Paris, via LAX. I went to their site: $2,100. Better. Then, on an impulse, I looked up Air Tahiti Nui on Expedia. Same trip, same days…$1,680! Booked it on the spot, still on the train. Next day, it had gone up to $2,200.
The moral: Shop hard, but when you find a really great fare, don’t dally. Indecision can cost you.
Anyway, here are some sites that will help you travel-shop. If you know of others, why not hook up your fellow travelers and suggest them in a comment!
LESSER KNOWN BUT WORTH A LOOK
Vayama…international trips are their focus
Mobissimo…an international travel search engine that also features its own online community of fellow travelers, which you can join.
These let you simultaneously check not only multiple airlines, hotels and rental car agencies, but multiple sites for the same trip in a single search, opening each in its own window. A definite timesaver.
Put in the info on where you want to go, and they’ll track the fares for you across a broad spectrum of airlines, hotels and the like. When you see the rate you want, pounce.
Yapta…if the price of your ticket drops below what you paid, these guys will let you know when you’re entitled to a refund from the airline.
Bing Travel…Formerly Farecast. Microsoft’s challenge to the big boys in travel. They claim to actually predict airfares, as well as letting you choose among multiple routes for the same trip — and of course, booking.