Michael Shapiro's Internet Travel Planner

Overview

Michael Shapiro's Internet Travel Planner is your shortcut to online travel planning. Packed with insider know-how, step-by-step instructions, and shrewd travel advice, this guidebooks will help you save both time and money by using the Internet to plan your next vacation or business trip. Learn how to find the best travel bargains, take advantage of exclusive online deals, compare ticket prices and make reservations, check schedules for delays and changes and all without leaving your house. Discover how to join ...
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Overview

Michael Shapiro's Internet Travel Planner is your shortcut to online travel planning. Packed with insider know-how, step-by-step instructions, and shrewd travel advice, this guidebooks will help you save both time and money by using the Internet to plan your next vacation or business trip. Learn how to find the best travel bargains, take advantage of exclusive online deals, compare ticket prices and make reservations, check schedules for delays and changes and all without leaving your house. Discover how to join online discussion forums to connect with others who have been there, plug into restaurant reviews, newspapers, and weather forecasts, create your own custom guidebook using free online resources and stay connected while on the road. Whether you want to be your own travel agent or simply learn more about your destination, this guidebook gives you everything you need to become a travel expert.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A travel and Internet journalist contributor to and helps trip planners become their own travel agent through savvy tips on locating bargains online and even sushi or kosher restaurants worldwide. A companion web site offers updates. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762705795
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2000
  • Edition description: 1ST GLOBE
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.03 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


DESTINATION ANYWHERE


CREATING a CUSTOM GUIDEBOOK


The Internet Travel Landscape


    One of the first questions many travelers ask about using the Net is, "Where should I start?" Given the thousands of travel sites out there, it's a fine question. If Lao-tzu were alive today, he might say, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one click." One way to begin is by starting with brands you know and trust. Established travel guide publishers, such as Lonely Planet, Frommer's, and Rick Steves, have put a remarkable amount of valuable information online—free to any and all comers. And though this may be hard to believe, Rough Guides, a big guidebook publisher based in London, is placing the full texts of its more than one hundred guides on the Net.

    These online guides alone could keep you busy for hours, but the Net offers much more to help you learn about destinations: magazines such as Salon Travel (salon.com/ travel/index.html) that take you to the ends of the Earth with just a click of your mouse, online forums that allow you to chat with others from around the world, irreverent self-published "zines" that offer insightful if sometimes quirky perspectives, and links to online versions of print newspapers, where you can take the pulse of the place you're about to visit.

    If you already know what you want to do and where you want to do it, search directories such as Yahoo (yahoo.com) let you pinpoint information to get going. And these search sites are ideal for browsing categories that interestyou; for example, skiing in the Rockies or diving in the Caribbean.

    But let's be honest—the Net isn't the eighth wonder of the world. It's wild and woolly, an ungoverned and unsettled frontier, which encompasses a sometimes overwhelmingly chaotic assemblage of information. Of course, that's part of its charm—just about anyone with a Net connection can become a publisher, and those with a passion for the places they love are providing insights unavailable in mainstream guidebooks. The aim of this book is to help you make sense of this new medium and enable you to use it to enhance your travels in ways you might never have imagined possible.

    Just as television isn't simply radio with pictures, the Net isn't just a convenient way to snag information that's available in other forms. The Internet is a medium unto itself with extraordinary advantages—such as Web-based freemail—that would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago. Michael Shapiro's Internet Travel Planner will cover many of these amazing new tools in later chapters—here we'll focus on compiling a custom guidebook, perfectly tailored to your interests and needs.


Guidebook Publishers Get Online


    The popularity of print guidebooks has boomed over the past couple of decades. And for good reason: The guides provide nuts-and-bolts information that help travelers decide what to see, where to stay, and when to go. These books are indispensable, but they have some drawbacks. By the time they're printed, some of the information is inevitably out of date.

    Online guides can remedy this. With timely updates, Net-based guides can be more current than their print counterparts. That doesn't mean they always are, just that the Net gives them the capability to be. Among the other advantages of online sites are the following:


* They're free. This may be obvious, but for short trips it's easy to get the basics online. This could mean finding an affordable hotel in the Hamptons for a weekend getaway or getting restaurant advice for a Dallas business trip. Of course, if you're planning a three-week trek through Nepal, it makes sense to buy a guidebook, but for a quick getaway why not save $20.
* You can pinpoint the information you want. If you're looking for a hotel under $100 in downtown San Francisco, or a Greek restaurant in Philly, just enter these preferences and in a few seconds, an online guidebook or dining guide can produce some recommendations tailored to your desires.
* Discussion forums let you post a question and get answers from fellow travelers or sometimes from a guidebook's author.
* You can contribute to online guidebooks. If you get to Nepal and find that a hostel recommended by Lonely Planet [www.lonelyplanet.com) has closed, you can drop LP a line, and they might include it in the online updates. And you may be rewarded for your help with a free guidebook or T-shirt.


    Like their print counterparts, each travel Web site has its own personality and strengths. In the following section, we'll take a look at some of the best online guides and the features that make each one unique. And throughout the book—in "Siteseeing" features—we'll look at some sites in more depth.


Rough Guides Puts It All Online


    Rough Guides (travel.roughguides.com) took a bold step in 1995, when the company put the full text of some of its most popular titles online. Some observers thought the company was nuts, but the strategy proved sound. From 1996 through 1998, Rough Guides' sales grew at the healthy rate of at least 20 percent a year, partially due to the company's profile on the Net.

    In 1998, after piggybacking on Wired's site for three years, Rough Guides launched its own site with magazine-style features and search tools that home in on thousands of destinations. Although the magazine offers some thought-provoking features (a comparison of coffee houses in Seattle and Boston, for example), most visitors zoom in on their destinations.

    Rough Guides says its site covers more than 4,000 destinations, with up-to-date information. Although it's hard to imagine RG's staff keeping current on thousands of destinations, Rough Guides offers much of the same, and in some cases updated, information that you can find in its print guides. But remember, just because a site can be updated doesn't mean it will be. Some guidebook travel pages are no more current than print guides.

    To get started, simply type your destination—whether it's a city, country, or state—into the search box and click on the "Search" button. Or use pull-down menus to see what cities, countries, and states Rough Guides feature. The headings typically correspond to the titles of RG's print guides: for example, "London" or "Thailand." Another section called "Rough Guide Recommends" has guides to alluring destinations, ranging from Italy's Amalfi coast to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

    There is another search box below the pull-down menus for more advanced searches. If you were looking for a place to eat in San Francisco, you could type in "San Francisco AND dining" to take you to a list of links, including restaurants in the city, watering holes, cafes, and even quick lunch places. Click on the link of your choice to get the listings you want.


Lonely Planet's Online Upgrades


    When they were in their twenties, Tony and Maureen Wheeler figured they'd travel for a year through Asia and then settle down. But after the trip, their friends kept asking for advice, so they wrote up a little guide for backpackers who wanted to follow in their footsteps. "It was totally an accident," Tony has said. "People were asking us questions, and we decided we should do something about it."

    More than 400 titles later, Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) covers almost every inch of the globe and is widely recognized as a source of authoritative information. The series has matured along with Tony and Maureen; although the guides are still a bible for shoestring travelers, they offer more mainstream information for those who are willing to spend a few bucks (or bhat) for a comfortable room with a private bath.

    Unlike Rough Guides, Lonely Planet doesn't try to put all its content online; instead, the site provides an overview of destinations and has well-trafficked forums where users can interact. One of the most valuable areas of this site is Upgrades, which are staff-written updates to dozens of its guidebooks (more on this later). Because the print guides are typically published every couple of years, the idea is to offer updates that can be printed out and carried along with the book, bringing the text up to date.

    Highlighted in the Siteseeing feature on the next page are the key elements of Lonely Planet's site, with excerpts that offer a flavor of what's going on there. (Note: Siteseeing features appear throughout the book, taking an in-depth look at key Web sites.)


Outspoken Opinions from the Budget Travel Guru


    Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Online (www.frommers.com) is another hugely popular Web travel guide—and for good reason: It offers a wealth of ideas for budget travelers. Arthur Frommer, who still maintains a travel schedule that would wear out most people half his age, has created a site that reflects his unique blend of honesty, insight, and passion for affordable travel. Unlike some other guidebook writers, Frommer will tell you if he doesn't like a destination, hotel, or attraction. In fact he's probably the only author who ever wrote a travel guidebook telling people why they shouldn't visit a destination (if you're wondering, it was the country music mecca of Branson that sparked his ire).

    Frommer's travel content was available only on AOL through the mid-90s, but in 1997 he opened shop on the Web, calling his guide Arthur Frommer's Outspoken Encyclopedia of Travel. Although that title suited, he changed it to match his Budget Travel magazine. So what does Frommer's offer its online visitors? Everything from honest cruise reviews to timely travel specials:


* Research Destinations: Use the pull-down menu to select a region and drill down until you find what you want. To get rates for New Orleans hotels, select "North America" and click "Go." A click on the link for New Orleans leads to a nice introduction to the city with a link to "Lodgings." This page provides an overview of lodging in New Orleans and has subcategories for budget rooms, moderately priced places, top hotels, and bed-and-breakfast inns. It sounds like a lot of clicking but, with a decent modem, it only takes a few seconds to get from page to page.
* Daily Newsletter: Chock full of bargains, this daily list of specials focuses mostly on package deals, such as a winter week in Paris with airfare from the East Coast for $569. Subscribe and you'll get the newsletter in your e-mail box each day. (More on e-mail newsletters in chap. 13, "Online Discussion Forums.")
* Advance Features from Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel magazine: Subjects for a recent month included "100 Money-Saving Tips That Can Change Your Travel Life," "Budget Honeymoons," and "Hosteling the California Coast."


siteseeing


    Lonely Planet


* Destinations: Click this link on LP's home page and you'll arrive at a page with a colorful world map. There are three ways to get where you want to go: Click on your destination on the map, choose a region and country from the pull-down menus at the top of the page and then click "Go," or type a destination into the search box near the bottom and then hit the Return or Enter key on your keyboard. Choosing the second method, I tried selecting "Americas" for region and "Guatemala" in countries. Clicking "Go" led me to LP's Guatemala page, which included information on the country's climate, geography, history, and leading attractions, as well as photos and maps. The destination pages also offer some stunning photos and insightful commentary. Here's a snippet: "The government has both touted and tortured the Maya—sticking pictures of them on its tourist brochures while sticking guns in their faces."
* Thorn Tree: Those ratty bulletin boards at hostels and cafes, with their clusters of pushpins and thumb tacks, are called "thorn trees." LP has taken this idea online, with interactive forums by destination (Africa, Central Asia, etc.) and by subject (Women, Gay and Lesbian, Kids, etc,). Perhaps most interesting is the travel companions forum, which makes it easier to hook up with like-minded globe-trotters. Each post has an e-mail address (not shown here) so if you find someone you'd like to meet, you can send e-mail to that person.


Here's an excerpt:


Cycle Ireland Created by: Vanessa [Timestamp: Fri 19 Feb, 0:14 Tasmanian Standard Time] I am keen to find someone (m or f) to join me for some or all of the trip as I cycle Ireland. I am planning to set off from Dublin on 14/15 April and heading south. I have to be back in Dublin 12 June. I have no set route or itinerary. I am a 29 yr old Australian female. If you are interested, I would love to hear from you.


* Postcards: Veteran travelers know that fellow explorers are among the best sources of current tips and advice. In Postcards, LP offers dispatches sent by travelers from around the globe. Here's how LP describes this zone: "We get a mountain of mail from travelers on the road, covering everything from how to get a summer job in Guatemala to how to find a cold beer in Timbuktu. We want to share this stuff with other travelers ASAP, so in most cases we haven't checked the facts (letters in red have been verified, although not necessarily by Lonely Planet). The letters make great reading, but be smart and treat tips with caution until you suss things out for yourself."


* Upgrades: "Borders open, hotels close, and currencies crash—the world can change a lot in one day," says the intro to Upgrades. So LP's writers and editors provide this updated information to dozens of its guides, and they verify these reports, making them more reliable than the dispatches in Postcards. The Cambodia Upgrade, penned by the author of LP's Cambodia guidebook, says, "For the traveler, Cambodia is safer now than at any time for about three decades." Although Upgrades are relatively current, LP still advises its readers to check with an embassy or consulate if there's any doubt about safety or health conditions.


LP's other sections include Scoop, with worldwide travel news; Comet, where you can sign up for a monthly e-mail dispatch of international travel news; and subWWWay, which offers links to top travel sites. It's true that all this stuff is no substitute for a handy little guidebook, but LP Online is an amazing resource in its own right.

    Among other offerings are Frommer's Tip of the Day, reams of advice for savvy travelers, cruise reviews, discount booking, and online forums. (We'll revisit Frommer's in greater depth in chap. 7, "Budget Travel.")


Fodor's Custom Miniguides


    In 1936 Eugene Fodor wrote, "The joy of travel should not be derived solely from seeing the sights, but from mingling with peoples whose customs, habits, and general outlook are different from your own." Fodor's Travel Online (www.fodors.com), launched in 1996, carries that philosophy onto the Net. Fodor's site understands the medium, giving travelers the opportunity to state what they're looking for (a Santa Fe hotel for under $100) and get listings with just a couple of clicks. The following are its key features:


* Create your own miniguides: This is one of the coolest features on the Web. Start by choosing one of the hundred or so destinations (Santa Fe, for instance) and then click the boxes (Where to Stay, Eating Out, etc.) for the information you want. The next page lets you refine your search. For example, select centrally located hotels under $100, Italian and Mexican restaurants under $20, and tips for getting in from the airport. Click "Create My Miniguide," and you're set to jet. In seconds Fodor's produces a guide tailored to your preferences, with a concise introduction to the town and hotel listings, such as Alexander's Inn, "a 1903 two-story, Craftsman-style house in the lovely Eastside residential area, only a few blocks from the Plaza." The little red star next to the listing means the inn is recommended by Fodor's. For more information, you can call the toll-free number listed for the inn or see if Alexander's Inn has its own Web page. (We'll discuss search strategies later in this chapter.)
* Fodor's Hotel Finder: There are two ways to search, by name or by criteria. If you're a member of a chain's award program (such as Hilton HHonors), you might try to search by name. However, if you're looking for the ideal location or best deal, try searching by criteria: price range, location, and amenities (a pool and health club sure sound nice). Fodor's also features a restaurant finder that works in a similar way.


Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door


    In 1969, when Rick Steves was fourteen years old, he visited Europe for the first time, with his father, a piano importer. A few years later he returned, paying his way by giving piano lessons. Today, his Europe Through the Back Door and the many country and city guides it spawned are the insiders' guides to Europe, giving travelers a chance to discover intimate places that more established series sometimes overlook. Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door (www.ricksteves.com) has brought much of this advice online.

    Here are the highlights:

* Country Information: This link leads to a page of fourteen European flags. Clicking on the Italian flag, for example, leads to dozens of headings, such as Italian Riviera: Top Hideaways, where you can learn about remote vacation spots, such as the Cinque Terre. Steves also recommends his favorite hotels here.
* Back Door Travel Tips: Steres shares much of his hard-won wisdom here, from how to avoid theft and tourist scams to strategies for coping with summer crowds: "The beaches of Greece's Peloponnesian Peninsula offer the same weather and water as the highly promoted isles of Mykonos and Ios but are out of the way, not promoted, and wonderfully deserted."

    Among the other nuggets on this site are Travel News, with Steres' latest dispatches from Europe and excerpts from his most recent books; Graffiti Wall, an open forum where visitors can chat; and Railpasses Revisited, where Steves helps travelers choose the most suitable rail pass for their trips. And, of course, you can buy Steves' books through the site.


For AOL Users:

TRAVEL GUIDES

With almost 20 million subscribers, AOL has become a dominant Web presence. Throughout this book you'll find inserts discussing AOL's essential features.

Destination Guides (keyword: destinations): Featuring in-depth destination information from Fodor's and many other services, this is the place to start planning your trip. It also includes official tourism info from over 5,000 destinations worldwide.

Travel File (keyword: Travel File): Find events calendars, discounted vacation packages, tourism offices, and more. The lists of restaurants and hotels are short as only paid advertisers seem to be mentioned.

Lonely Planet Guides (keyword: Lonely Planet): You'll find many of the same features here that are available at LP's Web site (see earlier).

Travel News and Features (keyword: News & Features): Consumer and budget advice, seasonal features, and travel lit from Salon Travel.


Search Engines Become Portals


    During the infancy of the Web, a site called Global Network Navigator (GNN) organized links by subject, reviewed leading Web sites, and recommended top picks to its readers. Though it never called itself a portal, it certainly could have. GNN was the first real window on the Web, a perfect starting point to launch a journey through cyberspace. Sadly, GNN no longer exists (it was gobbled up in 1995 by AOL), but it has been succeeded by a new generation of portals. And though you may never have heard of GNN, you're probably familiar with Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and others.


Points of Embarkation


    Today's portals are more than windows on the Web—they include such features as stock quotes, people finders, and news headlines. Among portals' most visited areas are their travel pages: These sites within sites offer destination information, ticket sales, and even flight tracking to tell you when a flight is due in. You can also get weather forecasts, maps, and trip directions, and even register for free e-mail services that will help you stay in touch, without having to carry a laptop, while you're on the road.

    All the big portals started out as search engines and added commodities (weather, stock quotes, sports scores) and features (Web-based e-mail, news headlines) as they evolved. They've also dedicated pages to specific topics, such as travel, sports, and personal finance. Much of the information on a page such as Yahoo Travel comes from partners who specialize in this information: Yahoo teamed up with Travelocity for bookings, Excite chose Preview Travel, and so on.


Yahoo Travel (travel.yahoo.com)


    Yahoo, Earth's biggest portal, makes it easy to find what you're looking for. You can search by destination (North America) or interest (Cruising). Most portals have partnered with top travel publishers. Yahoo has selected Lonely Planet, National Geographic Traveler, and Travelocity (for bookings), so you can count on getting useful information. Yahoo also lists Net events, such as an online discussion about planning the perfect romantic vacation. (We'll cover chats and forums in chap. 13.)


Excite Travel (www.excite.com/travel)


    In the early days of the Web, a simple site called city.net was a great place to begin a travel search. Although city.net didn't prepare travel features, it listed excellent links for learning more about thousands of destinations. Today, city.net is part of Excite Travel and has lost much of its value: You can still go directly to city.net if you like, but that link now leads straight to Excite's travel page. On a random winter visit, features included up-to-date ski reports, frequent flyer tips, restaurant reviews, and a guide to renting cars. Of course, if you don't see what you're looking for, you can use Excite's search engine to find more.


Go Travel (www.go.com/Center/Travel)


    Until purchased by Disney, this site was known as Infoseek Travel. As part of Disney's Go Network (go.com), the site now focuses on tools for travelers, such as flight booking and hotel reservations. Like many other portals, Go has teamed up with well-known partners. Its travel reservations services are handled by Microsoft's Reservation Desk, and its currency converter is provided by Xenon.


Lycos Travel Guide (www.lycos.com/travel)


    If these travel guides seem to look the same, that should be no surprise, portals are famous for adopting one another's innovations. Though similar to the other big guys, Lycos Travel Guide has some nice features, such as the Lycos City Guide. Drill down from region (Europe) to country (Greece) to city (Rhodes—okay, so this is an island; it still works). This leads to a short-but-sweet introduction to the place and a selection of links, organized by headings, such as Visitor's Guide and News and Weather. Lycos Travel Guide also features trip booking, discussion forums, and a rotating list of top travel sites.


Snap Travel (www.snap.com/travel)


    The nice thing about the Snap Travel page is that it's more than a list of links combined with travel services. Snap's editors have focused on key travel categories, such as business travel or B&Bs, and selected top sites in each of these categories. The downside is that these listings aren't easy to find unless they're featured on the main Travel Reservations page. To get from Travel Reservations to the B&B page, for example, you have to plunge into Snap Categories and click the "Lodging" link. This leads to a page listing the Bed-and-Breakfast Guide among other categories.


About.com (www.about.com)


    Though About.com (formerly known as Miningco.com) doesn't offer all the portal services of Excite or Yahoo, it can be an excellent jumping-off point for excursions through the Web. `A few years ago Mining Co. recognized that some of the best pages on the Net were created by hobbyists who had tremendous interest in their topics. So they invited these people to create their own pages (called Resources) on Mining Co., for example, a guide to Las Vegas or to active travel. Each resource provides short features, extensive lists of links, forums, and the opportunity to send e-mail to the site's guide. Now that's a feature you won't often find at the biggies.


Effective and Efficient Searching


    There are tens of thousands Web sites that can help you plan a journey—that's the good news and the bad news. The good part is that the information is out there; the bad news is you may have to sort through a lot of chaff to find the wheat. Sometimes, it can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. But take heart: Once you find a couple of sites that fit the bill, these will probably lead to other useful Web pages on the same subject, and you'll be off and running.


LookSmart


    A good place to start, especially if you're new to the Net, is LookSmart (www.looksmart.com). This is a classic drill-down directory, meaning that you can start with broad categories and bore down until you get to a specific subcategory. To find packing tips, start by clicking on "Travel," which leads to about a dozen subcategories, including Travel Essentials. From here select Packing and Preparation and up comes a list of about fifty packing sites. And because you've been drilling through the travel category, you won't end up with, say, a link to a meat-packing facility in Iowa.


Searching at Yahoo


    Yahoo (yahoo.com) is really two search tools in one first, a directory where you can drill down by subject (Travel > Budget Travel > Courier Flights), and second, a search engine, where you can input keywords and see what comes up. To drill down, visit Yahoo's home page and click "Travel" (tucked under the Recreation & Sports heading). This leads to dozens of subjects, from Air Travel to Virtual Field Trips. Selecting one of these topics leads you to a page with more specific subheadings and some links to Web sites.

    By starting a search at Yahoo's travel page (rather than the main Yahoo page), you can limit your search to Yahoo's travel category. Just use the pull-down menu at the right of the search box and select "just this category." You can try this method in all Yahoo subcategories to refine your queries.

    Searching the travel category for "amazon adventure" yields forty-four sites on this topic. You don't need to use capital letters for proper names, in fact it may limit your search if you do, so it's better to just use all lower case. Also, it's better not to use the plural in most cases because a site listing an "Amazon adventure" might not appear if you search for "amazon adventures."

    At press time, Yahoo cataloged more than 500,000 sites, organized into 25,000 categories by Yahoo editors, only a small percentage of the millions of sites on the Web. So if Yahoo doesn't have what you're looking for, you can click "Web Pages" or "Go to Web Page Matches" at the bottom of the Yahoo search results page. Doing this rolls the search over to an even larger database of sites, cataloged by automated "bots" that incessantly search for and catalog millions of sites.


Focusing Your Search


    To refine a search, Yahoo and the other search engines employ sophisticated tools. For example, if you put a term in quotation marks ("whitewater rafting"), Yahoo will search only for Web pages that include the phrase "whitewater rafting." Without the quotations, you may get sites with just "rafting" or just "whitewater."

    Using the word AND (in all capitals) will ensure that you get pages with both terms listed; for example, you could search for "vermont AND foliage" to get listings about seeing the brilliant fall colors in the Green Mountain State. You could also try searching for "vermont OR foliage," but this will produce a much longer list: sites with either the word Vermont or foliage listed. At many sites (though not at Yahoo), you can use NOT (for example "cycling NOT motorcycling").

    The best way to learn how to use a search engine is by getting online and doing it. Search for topics that interest you, and when you reach a site that appears promising, have a look around. Each of the major sites has its own quirks and personality. Try a few and see which feels best for you.


The Big Crawl


    Unlike Yahoo, AltaVista (www.altavista.com) and HotBot (www.hotbot.com) don't have thousands of sites selected by editors—they have millions of Web pages cataloged by bots. They are search engines, not directories. So they'll usually offer more matches for your queries, but many of these matches may not be relevant to your search. The best advice is to try each of the major search engines and see where you feel most comfortable. Another good reason for trying more than one search engine is that each will yield different results. And because you can get thousands of matches for your query, a valuable site that's buried at one search engine may surface near the top of the list at another site.

    Another option is to search most of the biggies with one click at a relatively new site called Metacrawler (www.metacrawler.com). What makes Metacrawler unusual is that it searches the search engines, compiles the results, and lists them according to relevancy.

    Like other search engines, Metacrawler has a travel channel, which is the best part of this site. By starting your search from the travel channel, Metacrawler combs through a small selection of excellent online travel publications (Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, Frommer's, and others) and comes up with a valuable—and rarely overwhelming—set of links. It's best to search for more general terms, such as "Maui" or "Disneyland," rather than highly specific queries, such as "Alaska summer cruises." Try your query both on Metacrawler's main page and its travel channel: You'll get different results for each search.

    Though Metacrawler usually does a nice job, you'll probably want to check other search engines. Each has unique features. For example, Excite has links called "More like this," so when you find a site you like, click "More like this" and some similar sites should turn up. Like most search techniques, this one is inexact, so it pays to explore the many avenues available for finding what you want.


Book(mark) It!


    Though the sheer number of Web pages out there can be daunting, you'll soon become highly adept at identifying valuable sites. When you come across one of these, use the Bookmark feature if you're using a Netscape browser, or Favorites if you roam the Web with Internet Explorer. By doing this, you'll save the Web page's address in your browser, so later you can go back to your Bookmarks (or Favorites) and go right to the page.

    You can also divide your favorite Web sites into subcategories in your Bookmarks or Favorites. If you're using Netscape, go to the Bookmarks file, click on "Item," and scroll down to "Insert Folder." In Explorer, click the "Favorites" menu at the top of the page, click on "Organize Favorites," and


A New Wave of Search Sites


    As this book went to press, several new search sites came online, each with an innovative strategy to simplify or streamline the search process. The following is a brief description of them:


* Google (www.google.com): Google ranks search results according to how many sites link to it. In other words, if you search for "india travel," the site that includes the search term and has the most other sites linking to it will come up first. A button called "I'm feeling lucky" takes you directly to the top match, which works well for company names. So if you're looking for "United Airlines," Google will link you straight to United's site, rather than make you to wait for a list of search results and then click on the link to United's site. For a more detailed explanation, see Why Use Google (www.google.com/why_use.html).


* Direct Hit (www.directhit.com): Direct Hit tracks the amount of time spent at sites that people select from the search results list. By analyzing the activity of millions of previous Internet searchers, Direct Hit attempts to determine the most popular and relevant sites for a search request. In simpler terms: Direct Hit tracks sites people select from lists of search results; the ones people visit most often are listed at the top.


* GoTo.com (www.goto.com): Some sites use cagey strategies, placing their advertisers' sites on top. GoTo.com doesn't play any of these sneaky games: They blatantly sell placement to the highest bidder. So if you search for "airline tickets," the first site to come up is Trip.com, which at press time paid 67 cents for each person who clicks from GoTo.com over to Trip.com. Because the site lists only companies that pay for placement, results are limited, but at least they're not overwhelming.

(Continues...)

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Table of Contents

Introduction v
1. Destination Anywhere
Creating a Custom Guidebook
The Internet Travel Landscape
Guidebook Publishers Get Online
Search Engines Become Portals
Effective and Efficient Searching
Online City Guides
Newspapers on the Net
Magazines Get Online
2. Booking Flights Online
Become Your Own Travel Agent
The Online Booking Revolution
Finding the Best Deals
Using Leading Online Travel Agencies
Buying Directly from Airline Sites
Not for Booking Only: More Online Tools
3. A Room With A View
Comparison Shop & See Hotel Images Online
Hotel Directories on the Web
Bed-and-Breakfast Inns: Homes Away from Home
Stay for Free with Home Swaps
Hostels: Wired Travelers' Picks & Pans
Camping: Where to Pitch a Tent or Park the RV
4. Online Dining Guides
Find Reviews, Menus, & More on The Net
Restaurant Guides on the Web
City Guides & Online Newspapers Go Deep
Specialty Dining Guides
Using Search Sites to Find Dining Guides
Word of Mouth: Online Forums
5. On The Road
Rent a Car Online & Map Your Route
Renting a Car Online
Using Online Classifieds to Buy Cars for Long Trips
Motorcycle Rentals
Customized Maps and Trip Directions
The Great American Road Trip
RV Travel on the Information Superhighway
6. Tracking Trains
How to Find Schedules, Fares, & Rail Passes
Finding Fares and Schedules
European Rail Sites
Choosing the Right Eurail Pass
North American Rail Travel
Navigating Subways
Rail Tours for Train Lovers
More Sites for Finding Terrific Train Trips
Virtual Train Trips
7. Budget Travel
Cashing In on the Net's Best Deals
Can You Get the Best Deal Online?
Net-Only Airfares & Weekend Deals
Eleven Top Budget Travel Sites
Online Travel Auctions
Staying Informed with E-mail Newsletters
Courier Flights: Fly for Almost Nothing
8. The Ultimate Adventure
Find an Outfitter or Plan it Yourself
The World's Largest Adventure Travel Catalog
Finding Adventure Tours Online
DIY: Do It Yourself
Adventure Travelogues
Around the World in Eighty Clicks
9. Cruising the Net
Choosing a Voyage That's Right for You
Surveying the Field
Cruise Line Web Sites
Online Reviews
Seeking Advice from Fellow Travelers
Finding Cruise Deals
10. A Perfect Vacation
Use The Net to Find the Ideal Trip
Vacation Packages and Tour Directories
Family Vacations
Honeymoons in Paradise
Seniors: Special Trips and Discounts
Sites for Disabled Travelers
For Women Only
Especially for Gays and Lesbians
Studying, Working, and Living Abroad
11. Taking Care of Business
Plan Trips & Manage Frequent Flier Accounts Online
Business Travel Resources
Eleven Leading Business Travel Sites
A Brief Guide to Airport Services
On the Road, but Not Out of Touch
Managing Frequent Flier Programs
12. A Traveler's Toolbox
Essential Online Resources & Advice for Staying Healthy Abroad
Finding ATMs around the Globe
Weather Forecasts Worldwide
Foreign Languages for Travelers
Passports and Visas Online
Travel Advisories and Warnings
Staying Healthy Wherever You Go
13. Online Discussion Forums
Web-Based Bulletin Boards, Newsgroups & E-mail Lists
The Value of Online Forums
Web Site Bulletin Boards
Deja.com: Gateway to Usenet Newsgroups
Advice for Using Newsgroups
Conversing on E-mail Lists
Live Chats and Online Events
14. The Connected Traveler
Staying Online Wherever you Go-- With or Without a Laptop
Free E-mail: Logging on Without a Laptop
Traveling with a Laptop
Laptop Tips for Mobile Professionals
The Promise and Perils of Documenting Trips Online
Miles from Nowhere, Minutes from Contact
Appendix A Glossary 243
Appendix B AOL's Travel Channel: One-Stop Shopping for Booking, Destinations, & Chat 245
Appendix C Travel Agents in the Internet Age 250
Appendix D Travel Web Sites by Topic 257
Appendix E Web Sites by Destination 265
Index 273
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