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Your Guide to Going Places

Road Maps to the Information Highway

Internet: A sampling of the Web's most useful destinations to help you streamline your trip planning.

March 30, 1997|LAURA BLY | Bly writes The Electronic Explorer, which appears in the L.A. Times Travel section monthly

As any traveler who's slogged through the World Wide Web can affirm, a scouting trip down the information highway invariably leads to a lot of back roads and dead ends. But for every live cam shot of an empty ski lift, there are plenty of practical, service-oriented sites that can streamline your summer vacation planning considerably.

A sampling of the Web's most useful destinations:

Flying high: You've got to hand it to Bill Gates and company: Microsoft's Expedia (http://www.expedia.com) has managed to streamline considerably the often-byzantine process of buying airline tickets online. One of the site's snazziest features is Fare Tracker, which e-mails you with the best deals to as many as three destinations.

Parlez-vous Internet? Downloading a sound clip of "where is the nearest bathroom?" in French may not prepare you for a week in Paris, but Michael Martin's winsome Foreign Languages for Travelers (http://www.travlang.com/) is a perfect example of the Web's capacity for both useful and entertaining information. The site provides basic terms and travel-related phrases in 32 languages (about two-thirds of which include sound clips by native speakers), plus online translating dictionaries and links to related language sites.

Passport, please: The U.S. Department of State's extensive site (http://www.state.gov) includes entry requirements for foreign countries, the latest travel warnings and consular advisories, and a primer on how to obtain or renew a passport. You can even download a passport application form online, though you'll still need to mail or deliver it to a passport office for processing.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 6, 1997 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Travel Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Web sites--In the same tabloid section, an incorrect computer address was given for the Cruise Review Library ("Road Maps to the Information Highway.) The site is at http://www.pagesz.net/~jbdavis/rtc/rtc.html.

To your health: Like the State Department's site, the Centers for Disease Control's informative section on travel health (http://www.cdc.gov/travel)provides heartening evidence that "efficient" and "bureaucracy" aren't mutually exclusive concepts. Check here for vaccination requirements and recommendations, advice on preventing common travel-related ailments, and an updated summary of sanitation inspection scores for cruise ships that call at U.S. ports.

Adding it up: Olsen & Associates' scroll-down currency converter (http://www.olsen.ch/cgi-bin/exmenu) lets you calculate the greenback's buying power against 164 foreign currencies. Numbers are updated daily, and a nifty feature tracks previous exchange rates back to Jan. 1, 1990.

What's cooking: While not as easy to use as its paperbound parents, the Web edition of Zagat's 1996 "Survey of America's Top Restaurants" and "Survey of America's Best Meal Deals" (http://www.pathfinder.com/travel) is free--and a terrific resource if you're headed for one of the 30 U.S. cities included on the site. You can search for possibilities based on type of cuisine, food rankings, popularity and price.

Rain or shine: USA Today's colorful, crisply organized weather site (http://www.usatoday.com/weather/wfront.htm) provides current and five-day forecasts for hundreds of U.S. and foreign destinations. You can click on a map of 15 interstate highways to get the latest reports for cities and towns along your intended route, or link to monthly temperature and rainfall averages for 275 U.S. cities.

Are we there yet? MapQuest (http://www.mapquest.com) supplies detailed driving instructions between 150,000 points in the United States and border areas of Canada and Mexico, door-to-door directions for 34 U.S. metropolitan areas, and street maps for 78 countries and 300 destinations around the globe. You can even check for nearby hotels, automated teller machines and other points of interest.

Is it midnight in Moscow? You'll know in a mouse click at this handy site (http://www.hilink.com.au/times/), which calculates local time for all of the world's countries and many of its islands.

Anchors away: Whether you're still wet behind the ears or a veteran of two dozen sailings, chances are you'll find something of interest at the Cruise Review Library (http://www.pagesz.net/~/jbdavis/rtc/rtc.html). The heart of the site is a collection of cruise reviews written by fellow passengers for rec.travel.cruises, an Internet discussion group. You'll also find links to cruise line Web sites, phone numbers and addresses and a thorough FAQ ("frequently asked questions") for first-timers.

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