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From Portal to Port

February 08, 2001|MICHELLE MALTAIS | michelle.maltais@latimes.com

Dreaming about warm, tropical climes as you try not to run up the heating bill? Try surfing the Web for leads on your upcoming travels. You'll find sites that cover everything from picking locations, packing tips and reservations to travel warnings.

In addition to better-known sites such as Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com) and Expedia (http://www.expedia.com), Airlines of the Web at http://flyaow.com is a clearinghouse for airline information and a one-stop shop for air travelers. It offers details on transportation, accommodations and online discount fares.

Another familiar name, http://www.fodors.com, offers full-service online planning. You can look up a location, get an overview of the culture and look at specific activities and restaurant reviews. You also have the option of accessing the content on your hand-held computer through a wireless connection or via AvantGo (http://www.avantgo.com).

Fodors' site features mini-guides for more than 200 destinations with travel tips, activities and hotel and restaurant recommendations. Fodors also has late-breaking bargains and news.

The Lonely Planet site (http://www.lonelyplanet.com), like its travel books, provides down-to-earth travel information.

There are several other sites that can help plan your trip:

* http://www.concierge.com offers destination guides, weekly travel deals, advice, photos and maps.

* http://www.planetrider.com has maps, weather reports and Web links specific to your destination.

* http://www.mytravelguide.com, in addition to destination guides, provides online travel planning and flight-booking.

* http://www.travel.org offers worldwide guides.

* http://www.soulofamerica.com lists African American cultural and historical sites, resorts, spas and events. It also features details on black colleges and towns and Caribbean islands.

For those who just can't bear to leave the four-legged family member at home, http://www.petswelcome.com lists more than 25,000 pet-friendly hotels, resorts and bed and breakfasts. It includes tips for traveling with pets.

Going to a good-time spot might be high on your priority list. You can check out http://www.partytowns.com, which provides guides and reviews of international spring break-style locations.

Similarly, you can find out where the party is if you've already got the vacation location picked out at http://www.pubclub.com. The site is a guide to night life, pubs and clubs in major cities around the world.

PlanetOut (http://www.planetout.com) focuses on domestic and international travel with details on gay-friendly accommodations, restaurants, bars, health clubs and events.

For folks who prefer to travel with their knapsack on their backs, there are numerous helpful sites. Among them is http://www.crazydogtravel.com. It offers a wealth of information for those dreaming of backpacking across Europe. The site includes links to hostels, travel agencies and travelogues.

Two similar sites are http://www.etravel.org, with news and advice for backpackers and independent travelers; and http://www.packback.com, an interactive travel guide.

Another way to connect with fellow travelers is at http://www.igougo.com. IgoUgo lets you look at travel journals of fellow tourists and professionally written content.

If language is likely to be an issue, you can brush up on some key words and phrases at http://www.travlang.com.

Maybe your plans don't include anything as exotic as foreign lands, say, just a weekend in Santa Barbara. There are a number of sites to help with finding the perfect place to lay your head.

* http://www.weekendguide.com is a guide to lodging and vacations in the U.S., Canada, Britain and Germany.

* http://www.theinnkeeper.com includes photos and descriptions of the properties with links to them.

* http://www.bedandbreakfast.com provides details for more than 25,000 B&Bs worldwide.

* http://www.bbonline.com lists more than 3,000 inns in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

The Web also is, well, flush with travel tools to help make your excursion more enjoyable.

The ever-popular http://www.besttoilets.com is a guide to U.S. public toilets; http://www.thebathroomdiaries.com has an interactive travel guide to free public facilities all over the world.

To avoid arriving at a bank with nothing but lint in your pocket on a national holiday, you might want to check out http://www.national-holidays.com first.

*

Michelle Maltais is a broadcast producer and copy editor at The Times.

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