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October 22, 2017
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Web search travel destinations internet Online Escapes Booking a last-minute weekend away is easier than you think -- if you take the information highway

Getting away for the weekend often requires too much preparation. We all know the routine: A few days before leaving, you find yourself on perpetual hold just to reserve a car for two days or endlessly calling long-distance to find the right bed and breakfast -- with a vacancy -- in the area and somewhere between work, sleep and the airport, you're ransacking desk drawers for maps and old brochures. It's enough to make you stay home.

Believe it or not, all this pre-travel stress might have been avoided had you used the Internet. Not only can you find all your basic accommodation, weather and activities information, but you can also book hotel rooms, airline tickets and rental cars online. And many places offer a significant discount to people who book online.

To do this you'll need the usual equipment -- a computer, a modem and an Internet connection. You'll also need a credit card for most applications, such as reserving a room. Make sure you also have a recent version of

a web browser, either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. Some sites might ask you to download an "instant confirmation" program, which lets you instantly have your reservations confirmed. Just follow their instructions and everything will work fine.

YOUR DESTINATION
If you have a destination in mind and want to learn more about what's there, there's no better resource than venerable web-guide Yahoo! Yahoo! indexes millions of sites geographically, so a search on "Stowe, Vermont" will bring up not only motels and BBs, but also a regional guide including shops, tourist attractions and weather forecasts. Most American cities will have a local Yahoo! dedicated to them, making it even easier to research your getaway.

Using Yahoo! to find info on your would-be vacation spot is easy. Just go to the website and enter the name of your destination into the search box. For most American cities there will be a link to a local or metro Yahoo!, which indexes local points of interest and also lets you search for things like "toy shop" or "museum," but is confined to the area of your destination. You'll find links to hotels and BBs under Lodging, and the category Local Guides will link you to tourist info Berlitz probably can't tell you.

Yahoo! also has a tourism site called Yahoo! Travel. It works in much the same way as the regular Yahoo! site, but the bulk of its content comes from travel guides like Lonely Planet and The Rough Guide series of books. Like other sites, Yahoo! Travel offers weather forecasts and links to tourist attractions, but also has several special features which may interest travellers.

Many larger destinations' pages have a travel advisory from Kroll's Travel Watch, the well-respected authority on travel safety. Did you know that auto theft is widespread in Montreal? Or that you shouldn't wear flashy jewellery in Detroit, where street crime against tourists is commonplace?

Sites to see: www.yahoo.com Yahoo!, the best web guide out there. http://travel.yahoo.com Yahoo!'s travel site, a great resource on its own. http://kins.kroll-ogara.com Kroll Information Services, home of Kroll's Travel Watch.

GETTING THERE
Since going away for the weekend doesn't normally involve a great deal of travel, there are two main options for getting there: driving or flying. Both can be made easier, as well as cheaper, by using the Net.

One of the most frustrating elements of any road trip is figuring out exactly how to drive there. No one likes going the wrong way, backtracking, frantically opening and folding maps in the car or asking for directions by the roadside. Many websites offer free, point-to-point directions for anywhere in North America, and are often able to direct you from your door right to your destination, complete with speed limits and ETA.

Two of the best map sites, www. maps.com and maps.yahoo.com, don't include Canada in their database, and so only offer driving instructions from locations within the United States. However, both will generate detailed driving instructions from the Canada-US border, so if you know how to get to the border, the map can take over there.

Another handy feature of www.maps. com is its ability to generate maps of the area surrounding any address in the US. Just type in the street address and you'll get an instantaneous map of your exact destination. When driving through unfamiliar territory, a small stack of map printouts can save a lot of time and aggravation. If you're flying and renting a car, these maps prove just as useful for getting to and from local points of interest.

Sites to see: www.maps.com The most comprehensive map resource on the Web, with point-to-point driving directions for most of the continental US. http://maps.yahoo.com Another map site to check which might be more to your liking. www.indo.com/distance/ How Far Is It? is a simple little tool that lets you find out just how far apart any two places in the world are. Good for calculating how long a drive will be, or planning that epic journey you've been pondering.

 

AIR TRAVEL MADE EASIER
Finding inexpensive airfare can be a frustrating process. Phoning numerous airlines to determine whose fare is the lowest is time consuming, and navigating the maze of voice-mail options downright annoying.

With this in mind, numerous websites entice you to use their service by not only doing the legwork of booking airline tickets for you, but by offering the lowest rates. One of the best of these sites is Travelscape, which not only offers cheap airfare and hotel rates, but packages guaranteed to be the lowest available. The only downside is that Travelscape doesn't serve every city.

To find your ideal package, enter where you're leaving from, your destination and the dates of your departure and return. Travelscape will then present you with various airline and hotel options, which you can combine to your liking, and then purchase your tickets and hotel. You can also rent a car through Avis, with a preferred rate.

For the more adventurous, a site like 11th Hour Vacations posts special discounted travel close-outs on its site daily. While you may not have the time to plan in the same way you would with normal vacations, you can see some very interesting places for much less than you'd pay with a travel agent.

Sites to visit: www.travelscape.com Book airlines, reserve hotel rooms, and rent cars at discounted rates with this major online ticket agent. www.cheapfare.com Online ticket agent that offers premiums in addition to very low rates on airlines and car rental. www.avis.com Website of Avis, a major auto rental chain. You can reserve a car online or just compare rates. www.11thhourvacations.com Providers of highly discounted last-minute travel plans. http://help.yahoo.com/help/trav/tres/tres07.html Yahoo! Travel's tips on getting the lowest fare.

A PLACE TO STAY
The big airfare sites may offer discounted hotel rates for big cities, but if you're taking a trip into the country, choosing your own inn or BB can be part of the experience. Again, Yahoo! is a great resource for finding the right place to stay. Many BBs in tourist areas have websites where you can learn about their location and what they offer, as well as browse room rates. Many also let you reserve a room online, or provide a phone number to make a reservation.

Hotels in larger cities will often let you choose between the different rooms available on the date of your arrival as well as prepay online at a discounted rate. For example, the Holiday Inn On King in Toronto doesn't take reservations online, but offers a special price to people who mention their website when reserving by phone. Even if you don't register online, the information gleaned from the Web can save you much time and money.

When in doubt, try Yahoo! Travel or the Rough Guide for some opinionated commentary on where to stay and at what price.

Sites to see: www.pixsell.bc.ca/bcbbd.htm BC Bed Breakfast Only is an excellent and thorough guide to British Colombian BBs. Search by town, and for criteria like credit cards, children and pets.

www.hiok.com Website of the Holiday Inn On King in Toronto. http://travel.roughguides.com The Rough Guide to Travel provides insider info on cities all over the world, and even some close by. Check it out for a very opinionated look at your accommodation options.

A CAUTIONARY NOTE
Although booking your travel on the Internet can save you time and money, you still have to be vigilant to make sure that the people you're dealing with are who they claim to be. Although sites like Yahoo! and Rough Guide can be trusted completely, individual sites they link to cannot necessarily be trusted in the same way. If you have any qualms, phone and ask questions. On the Internet, the customer is king so there will always be options to choose from. Never go for the first site you see. Shop around and not only will you get a great deal, you'll most likely get a great vacation, too.

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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