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Michael DevittVirtual Vacationing: Travel Pages on the Web May is a time when many people are making plans for summer vacations. Whether you're going on a month-long trip overseas, or just a little getaway for the weekend, the World Wide Web can help make your vacation that much more enjoyable.
General Travel Information
One of the more interesting travel web sites is the World Travel Guide (www.wtg-online.com), which reviews holiday attractions and vacation spots in more than 220 countries. The best feature on World Travel Guide is its free A-Z country fact finder. With this program, you can find out whatever information you need on a specific country. What's the weather like in Kenya in December? How's the nightlife in New Delhi? The fact finder makes it easy.
Fodors, the company known for its popular travel guides, has a web site (www.fodors.com) that contains extensive indices on hotels and restaurants, which you can customize by location, price, and other criteria. You can also purchase copies of Fodor's publications, or even listen to their weekly radio show online.
Fodor's web site contains two other features that both deserve mention. The "Know Before You Go" section provides essential information that will prepare you for your trip, including a currency convertor and health and travel advisories from the State Department. The "Personal Trip Planner" lets you build a printable travel guide. Simply choose a destination and click on the type of information you want, and the planner will provide you the details on accommodations, local cuisine, customs, and expenses, among other items.
While most people enjoy the aspect of a vacation, many do not care for the amount of planning involved. Booking an airline flight or hotel room can be a frustrating experience, particularly over the telephone. With the advent of the World Wide Web, you no longer have to deal with pesky desk clerks or travel agents.
If there's one place that can take care of most of your needs at once, it would be Travelocity (www.travelocity.com), a site that would take an entire article to review. In short, Travelocity offers a wide range of features and articles for the do-it-yourself traveler. For instance, by clicking on the "Travel Reservations"page, you can book a flight, reserve hotel/inn accommodations, and have a rental car waiting when you arrive at your destination. You can also subscribe to a number of free services, such as Travelocity's free e-mail newsletter, and a program called FareWatcher that monitors the price of your airline tickets and notifies you when a fare changes. There's even an online travel merchandise store, which offers discounts on more than 30 products and services.
For those of you who prefer an ocean voyage, Captain Cook's Cruise Center (www.800-800-cruise.com) is the place to go. This site, recently selected by PC Novice Guide as "the only cruise site in your top 100 travel sites on the World Wide Web," contains descriptions of more than 200 ocean cruises and river trips; you can make reservations for many of those excursions online. The page also have a "Specials" section which lists bargain cruises and tours, and a "Cruise Lines" page which provides links to each of the 143 cruise lines currently on the Internet.
Interesting Vacation Spots
There are literally thousands of vacation sites and spots that you can research on the Internet. Adventure Center (www.adventure-center.com) offers more than a thousand trips and expeditions to more than 80 countries. You can explore vacation spots and tours geographically, or you can read some of the online brochures that describe the tours and areas in detail. There's also a Special Offers page for discounted tours, and a collection of links to other travel resources and organizations.
A little closer to home, the National Park Service's ParkNet page (www.nps.gov/index.html) provides information on hundreds of parks, monuments, and other historic sites throughout the U.S. The site features travel tips and directions to each location, plus information on numbers of visitors, operating hours, admission prices and local tours. Locations can be searched alphabetically or by state, and there's even a guide that will explain how you can become more involved in archeological park exploration.
Other Useful Resources
For international travelers, getting a good exchange rate can make a substantial difference in the amount of money you have available. Olsen & Associate's Currency Converter (www.olsen.ch/cgi-bin/exmenu) provides a program that shows you the current exchange rate for more than 160 types of currency. And it doesn't just convert dollars to another type of currency. With this program, you could exchange any currency with any other currency (e.g., schillings to lira, francs to yen, etc.).
Another solid resource for international travelers is The Embassy Page (www.embpage.org). Besides containing links to nearly 200 embassies and consulates worldwide, there are additional hyperlinks to site like the U.S. Department of State and the International Affairs Network.
Finally, if you're running low on cash on your vacation, the Visa Online ATM Locator (www.visa.com) can help get you out of a financial jam. Simply type in a street address, and the database will give you the location of the three closest ATM machines. Currently, this site provides information on addresses in the United States only, but other countries are being added and updated.
In upcoming issues, we'll be reviewing sites about chatting on the Internet, education, and plug-in programs like Pointcast. As always, we welcome any comments or questions you may have. If you're planning a vacation to a place we didn't cover, or if you want further information on sites we've reviewed, please contact us.