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Making your way through the Web of travel sites
Our list of Web travel resources grows every year -- and with good reason.
According to the Travel Industry Assn. of America, 56% of all travelers in the U.S. use the Internet to plan trips. Of that group, 6 in 10 actually made reservations online, and 4 in 10 booked all or nearly all of their travel on the Internet.
We writers and editors in the Travel section are no different. We're continually scanning for deals, researching dream trips and looking for Web sites that can make traveling cheaper, easier and more rewarding.
We have compiled some of our favorites here. We've purposely left out some major sites -- Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline and Hotwire -- and focused on ones you may not know.
Applefares.com, http://www.applefares.com: Europe-bound, budget-minded? This site searches for the Continent's versions of Southwest: no-frills airlines with low fares in Europe.
Babel Fish, http://babelfish.altavista.com/translate.dyn: A language translator that can teach you to say "Congratulations on your Golden Plunger" in French. (See next entry.)
The Bathroom Diaries, http://www.thebathroomdiaries.com: Some good bathroom reading. Includes the Golden Plunger awards for "the world's nicest public restrooms."
Bidding for Travel, http://www.biddingfortravel.com: Crafty Priceline customers share information on their winning air, hotel and car-rental bids. Some users have better luck accessing Bidding for Travel information through a different URL, http://pub109.ezboard.com/bpricelineandexpediabidding.
Caltrans, http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo: Caltrans reports of car accidents, bad weather and other potential hazards.
Cybercafes, http://cybercafes.com: Need to check e-mail? This site can tell you where to find a cyber cafe in practically any corner of the world.
Digital City, http://www.digitalcity.com/travel: For a list of low air fares to destinations worldwide, bookmark the bargains page for your home city.
EmbassyWorld.com, http://www.embassyworld.com: A bonanza of maps, visa requirements, international dialing codes, embassy locations and more.
FlightArrivals.com, http://www.flightarrivals.com: Is your flight leaving on time? Find out here.
Go-Today.com, http://www.go-today.com: Good prices on vacations, many combining air fare, hotel and tours. Don't expect the detailed, personalized help a travel agent can offer.
Hotelres.com, http://www.hotelres.com: Bay Area bound? Check this site for discount rooms in San Francisco, Marin County, San Jose and environs. The site is free of booking surcharges and follows the cancellation policy of the hotel you choose.
International Assn. for Medical Assistance to Travellers, http://www.iamat.org: A nonprofit group that advises members about "health risks, the geographical distribution of diseases worldwide, immunization requirements for all countries" and that makes "competent medical care available to travelers by Western-trained doctors who speak English."
Johnny Jet, http://www.johnnyjet.com: A 747-size compendium of travel-related Web links.
LastMinuteTravel.com, http://www.lastminutetravel.com: No direct booking; refers you to discounts offered on other Web sites, though not all are for last-minute travel.
Maps.com, http://www.maps.com: Guides to even the most obscure places. Political and physical maps too. Another option, http://www.mapquest.com, can help you calculate the distance between two places.
Mass Times, http://www.masstimes.org: Look here to find a Catholic church and the schedule for Mass away from home.
Nettravel.com, http://www.nettravel.com: Helpful Web sites compiled by Michael Shapiro; his "Michael Shapiro's Internet Travel Planner" is in its second edition (Globe Pequot, 2002).
Oanda.com, http://www.oanda.com: Our currency converter of choice.
Quikbook, http://www.quikbook.com: This easy-to-navigate hotel site gives a prompt, complete list of prices. It has improved the way rates are displayed and expanded the number of cities it serves. Cancellation policies are fair, booking surcharges are nonexistent and customer service is remarkably strong.
Radio-Locator, http://www.radio-locator.com: This site lists U.S. radio stations' signal strength and programming format.
Roomstar, http://www.roomstar.com: Formerly www.savecash.com. The name changed but the specialty hasn't: low hotel rates for Palm Springs, San Diego and Arizona. For other destinations, use other Web sites.
Sidestep, http://www.sidestep.com: A favorite among the Travel staff for searching air fares because, unlike competitors', Sidestep's search includes Southwest Airlines. Hotel searches can yield good rates too. Requires users to download free software.
Site 59, http://www.site59.com: Sells budget-minded vacation packages departing in the next two weeks. Best suited for two people traveling together.
Skyauction.com, http://www.skyauction.com: Die-hard users have developed fierce strategies for this site, where travelers place bids for plane tickets and vacation packages. Use it only if you're a flexible traveler willing to invest time and energy in learning tricks of the game.
Smarter Living, http://www.smarterliving.com: A clearinghouse of travel discounts.
Steve Kropla's Help for World Travelers, http://www.travel-advisor-online.com/dialcode.htm: For international dialing codes.
Time and Date.com, http://www.timeanddate.com: Find the local time anywhere in the world.
Travel Advisory News Network, http://traffic.tann.net/Frame05.html: Color-coded maps showing congested freeways and roads in Southern California.
Travel Zoo, http://www.travelzoo.com: The weekly top-20 list has alerted us to many deals. Check the list early and act quickly.
The Weather Channel, http://www.weather.com: Monthly averages for temperature and rainfall can help guide your travel dates. Alternatives: http://www.accuweather.com or http://www.intellicast.com.