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Browse Before You Go

By CYNTHIA BOAL JANSSENS

© St. Petersburg Times


A couple of weeks ago I needed to book a plane ticket for my daughter between Michigan and Chicago. But rather than pick up the phone, I did what I've come to do with more frequency: I turned on my computer and went to the Internet.

There I went to the Travelocity home page (http://www. travelocity.com), where I was able to check out the flights between my destinations for that date, select the ones I wanted, price them, book the reservation and pay for the tickets. All from my desktop. The ticket was mailed to my home.

About a week later, we were to leave for a cruise in the Baltic and we wanted to know the weather forecast for that part of the world. I went to CNN's weather report (http://www.cnn.com) and was able to get daily reports from Stavenger and Oslo, Norway, from Stockholm and St. Petersburg, Russia -- key ports along our route.

Later this year we are heading for Thailand, and I checked out the Official Airline Guide site (http://www.oag.com) for international routes and fares. I discovered that I could download a software program called OAG Online, which enables me to plan trips from start to finish. There is a free trial period after which OAG charges by the minute for online time.

If I want to check out last-minute deals, then I go to the travel auction at http://www.etauction.com and see what's posted.

The age of doing travel research on the Internet is definitely here. Many folks now agree that they use the Internet most to check travel ideas.

So far, nothing can replace the expertise of a competent agent when you are putting together a complicated trip. Also, they can often find great packages and air fares that you don't know about. But savvy agents use the Web, too.

But it certainly is to your advantage to use the Internet to research your travel plans. You can go to the Net through America Online, CompuServe or Prodigy. Or, you can access directly through a local Internet service provider (some folks call that an ISP) using either Netscape 3.0 (recommended if you intend to use credit cards to book any travel) or Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0. If you do not have a home computer, you can usually find access through schools or libraries.

Once on the Net, I suggest that you organize your travel sites by bookmarking your favorites. In Netscape, you do this by clicking on "Add Bookmark" whenever you are in a site that you like.

I further organize them by putting all travel bookmarks under the heading "Travel Sites." You do this by going to "Bookmarks," then "Go to Bookmarks," which provides you with a list of all your bookmarks. Then, under "Item," you choose "Insert Folder," name the folder "Travel Sites," then drag-and-drop your sites into this folder.

Travel sites on the Web vary from those that offer booking capabilities, to those created by airlines, resorts, states, provinces, visitors bureaus, etc. Typically, once you enter any travel site you will find plenty of links to other sites.

There is also much travel writing on the Web. Don George, former travel editor of the San Francisco Examiner, edits a travel literary magazine called Wanderlust (http://www.salonmagazine. com/wanderlust). Check here for fine writing; the stories change weekly.

And Microsoft's unusual travel Web site is Mungo Park (http://www.mungopark.com). Here, reporters are sent to unusual destinations such as Nepal or Cuba, They write daily reports.

Here is a sampling of the many Web sites to check out. Some are a bit offbeat. Some may require that you register; you will be provided a password for access. Be sure to keep track of these passwords in a reliable place.

Sometimes sites are down for maintenance or not available for other reasons. Keep trying. Cynthia Boal Janssens is a former travel editor and is a freelance writer living in northern Michigan. Travel sites of interest AIRLINES:Air Canada: http://www. aircanada.com American: http://www.americanair.com British Airways: http://www.british-airways.com Continental: http://www.flycontinental .com Delta: http://www.delta-air.com Northwest: http://www.nwa.com Reno Air: http://www.renoair.com Southwest: http://www.iflyswa.com United: http://www.ual.com US Airways: http://www.usair.com CRUISE LINES: Reviews: http://www. cruiseopinion.com American Hawaii: http://www.cruisehawaii.com Bergen Lines: http://www.bergenline.com Carnival: http://www.carnival.com Delta Queen: http://www.deltaqueen.com KD River Cruises: http://www.rivercruises.com NCL: http://www.ncl.com Premier Cruises: http://www.bigredboat.com Royal Caribbean: http://www. royalcaribbean.com Windjammer Barefoot Cruises: http://www.windjammer.com Windstar: http://www. windstarcruises.com WEATHER:http://www.www.cnn.com http://www.www.weather.com TRAVEL BROCHURES:http://www.www.wwb.com RAIL/BUS:Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com ViaRail: http://www.viarail.ca Rail Pass Express: http://www.eurail.com Rail Europe: http://www.raileurope.com Eurostar: http://www. eurostar.com/eurostar Greyhound: http://www.greyhound.com TOUR COMPANIES:Abercrombie & Kent: http://www.abercrombiekent.com Globus/Cosmos: http://www. globusandcosmos.com Elderhostel: http://www.elderhostel.org ECO-TRAVEL:http://www.ecotourism.org http://www.teleport.com/earthwyz/ http://www.learningvacations.com HEALTH/IMMUNIZATIONS:http:// www.cdc.gov/travel/travel.html http://www.tripprep. com/index.html http://www.medaccess.com BUSINESS TRAVEL:http://www.biztravel.com http://www.thetrip.com ADVENTURE:American Wilderness Experience: http://www.gorp.com/awe OnSafari: http://www. onsafari.com Backroads Touring: http://www.backroads.com Mountain Travel/Sobek: http://www.mtsobek.com Eldertreks: http://www. eldertreks.com Bareboat yacht charters: http://www.bareboat.com Scuba: http://www.csn. net/rmdc Nudist travel: http://www.skinnydip.com River rafting: http://www.raftidaho.com LITERARY/VIRTUAL TRAVEL:http://www.salonmagazine. com/wanderlust http://www.mungopark.com http://www.terraquest.com PRACTICAL ADVICE/BOOKINGS:http:// www.travelocity.com http://www.travelquest.com http://www.expedia.com http://www.travelweb.com http://www.mcp.com /frommers http://www.travelwiz.com http://www.itn.net http://www.wtgonline.com http://www.savtraveler.com http://www.fodors.com http://travel.epicurious.com/ http://www.bigyellow .com/btrhome.html http://www.travelution.com http://www.sys1.com http://www.ypn.com/ living/travel http://www.americanexpress .com/travel LAST-MINUTE DEALS/AUCTIONS/COUPONS:http://www.etauction.com http://www.go2whatsnew. com/idc/travel.idc http://www.firstdiscountravel.com http://www.hotcoupons .com http://www.1travel.com U.S. PASSPORT FORMS:http://www.tiac.net/ users/passport /getforms.html http://www.americanpassport.com BED & BREAKFAST INNS:http://www.innsandouts.com CAMPING:http://www. campnetamerica.com http://www.cfw.com/benz/camp.htm GUIDEBOOKS:http://www.moon.com http://www.lonelyplanet.com http://www.gold.net/ users/ ds87/travshop.html HONEYMOONS:http://www.honeymoons.com TRAVEL COMPANIONS:http:// www.3wave.com/companions http://www. companions2travel.com MAPS:http://www.southtrek.com http://www.lib.utexas.edu/ Libs/PCL/Map_collection/ HOTEL BOOKING SERVICES:http:// www.quikbook.com http://www.180096hotel.com http://www.hotelbook.com RESORTS:http://www.resortsonline.com Disney: http://www. disney.com Club Med: http://www.clubmed.com Sonesta: http://www.sonesta.com Jack Tar: http://www.jacktar.com Allegro: http://www. allegroresorts.com DESTINATIONS:Italy: http:// www.dolcevita.com Singapore: http://www. singapore-usa.com Alaska: http://www.alaskanet.com Great Britain: http://www.bta.com Middle East: http://www.arab.net Israel: http://www.infotour.co.il Hong Kong: http://www.hkta.org New England: http://www. newengland.com Bermuda: http://www.bermudatourism.org Jamaica: http://www. jamaicatravel.com CARIBBEAN: http://www. where2stay.com/islands http://www. caribbeantravel.com http://www. smallhotels.com MEXICO: Cancun: http://www.yucatanweb.com/ siegel/welcome.htm EUROPEAN TRAVEL:http:// www.eurodata.com/ev1.htm http://www.wrld.com http://www.ideamerge.com/ motoeuropa1/index.html GOLF:http://www.golfgetaway.com THEATER TICKETS:http://www. theatredirect.com http://www.intercharge.com COOKING SCHOOLS:http://www.shawguides.com CERTIFIED TRAVEL AGENTS:http://www.icta.com AIR COURIERS:http://www.aircourier.org http://www.courier.org

Originally published August 17, 1997



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