Caught in the Web

Vacation Planning with the World Wide Web

by Laura Emery, Field Editor

We all love vacation, but most of us wish we could skip the headaches, hassles and hindrances often encountered en route to that picture-perfect getaway. You can reduce pre-vacation headaches by using the World Wide Web to help you plan a trip filled with “Kodak moments.”

For starters, you need to find the ideal vacation destination. For the best beaches, surf on over to Surf-sun.com (www.surf-sun.com). Check out Getaways and Great Vacation Destinations (www.virtualcities.com/ons/getaways.htm) for dude and guest ranches, places to ski or fish, country inns and small hotels, or historic villages and towns.

If you can close your eyes and imagine a snowy-white-sand, coconut-palm-fringed beach stretching as far as the eye can see, then visit Tropical-Island-Vacation.Net’s featured island getaways (www.tropical-island-vacation.net/exotic-beach.html) without further ado.

One of the best vacation-oriented attributes of the Web is comparison shopping among airlines to find the fairest of fares. Microsoft’s Expedia Travel (www.expedia.com), Travelocity (www.travelocity.com), and Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) are the “big three” of online travel agents. Compare fares, schedules and availability, and book hotel rooms and rental cars — all with a few clicks of the mouse. Or, there are smaller travel Web sites like www.BookIt.com, www.VRBO.com (for vacation rentals), www.cheapoair.com, www.travelguide.com and www.travelbyjen.com. At www.tripadvisor.com, you can read reviews about hotels, restaurants, and specific locales.

Cruise Lines International Association’s Web site (www.cruising.org) applies the deep-database concept to the world of big-boat fun with ship profiles, worldwide destinations, a cruise finder, and vacation planner.

AmusementPark.com is sure to make you dizzy from delight at the never-ending collection of links to Amusement and Theme Parks with stomach-sinking, pocket-emptying, lip-flapping, hair-raising rides fit for a wild vacation experience.

Want to learn the inns and outs of the greatest places to stay during your vacation? Somewhere out there is a cute inn cradled in a meadow, nestled between towering peaks or surrounded by burbling brooks, forests, and lakes — just waiting for you. Visit Inn Finder (www.innfinder.com) or go to www.bedandbreakfast.com, which lists more than 11,000 B&Bs and inns across North America and around the world.

“Mi casa es su casa” is the concept behind the International Home Exchange Network (www.homexchange.com) Web site. Cut lodging costs by swapping your residence with a traveler who wants to take a trip at the same time as you and visit your town. For a small fee, you can be eligible to trade lodging with other members of the network. For the skinny on street fairs, carnivals, and circuses, stop by Festivals.com (www.festivals.com).

Not only is it the Boy Scout’s mantra, it’s the difference between sitting on the beach during a torrential downpour and getting a sheltered tour through an indoor attraction. You guessed it — always be prepared. For travel tips about everything from bracing for unexpected weather to flying FYIs, visit Weather.Com’s section on travel tips. Also, toss those crumpled road maps and get step-by-step directions from MapBlast (www.mapblast.com). 

If you need to stay in a hotel during your trip, get a lower rate by visiting Priceline.com (www.priceline.com) or the Hotel Planner.com (www.hotelplanner.com), which has access to blocks of rooms purchased in bulk.

Quelle heune est-il? If you don’t know what this says and you’re planning a trip to France, then you’re in big trouble — but there’s no need to worry because you can take a crash course in French, along with roughly 70 other different languages, at Travlang (www.travlang.com) by listening to the pronunciation of exotic words in RealAudio, or looking up words in the translating dictionary.

Regardless of where your vacation destination happens to be, make sure to stop by these recommended Web sites. When the luggage is unpacked and the miles are traveled, you’ll appreciate the convenience and ease of having planned your postcard-perfect vacation online. 

 

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