An island getaway, mountaintop retreat, or metropolitan odyssey: whatever you want from your next vacation you can get, using the Travel Web Guide as your planning and booking companion. This Guide provides top-notch destination information, expert reviews, and access to competitively priced vacation packages next to convenient tools for booking all phases of your trip. Need a hostel in Kuala Lumpur? A spot on a Serengeti safari? A plane ticket to Iceland? Become your own travel agent; let the findingDulcinea Travel Web Guide show you how.
If the city streets seem more crowded, the roar of traffic louder, and the walls of your office tighter, you're feeling the unmistakable itch of wanderlust. The remedy? Vacation time.
But with the world as your oyster, where will you go?
- Most destinations have official tourism bureaus whose Web sites offer comprehensive information.
- Anyone interested in a specialty vacation will find great ideas and information on a number of specialized sites. Such sites cover topics as varied as adventure, family, all-inclusive, and golf travel.
- Online community travel guides encourage the sharing of tips, recommendations, reviews, media, and more.
- Tour groups operate independent Web pages with information on their tour packages, prices, and booking.
- Browse the list to the right for more specific findingDulcinea Travel Web guides like adventure travel and business travel.
For official tourism resources ...
Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory
contains links and contact information for nearly every governmental tourism office, chamber of commerce, and visitor bureau in the world. Since the sites operated by these organizations are also propaganda tools, you can't expect to find unbiased perspectives on the destinations; regardless, they do provide solid information, ideas, and links.
For general travel information ...
is the central site of the massive Away Network. Its partner sites include Gorp, Orbitz, Cheaptickets, and Outside Online, to name a few. Its destination guides have useful feature reports, trip ideas arranged by activity or interest area, and overviews. Away also has specialized resources for family and golf vacations.
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When you think of online travel booking, the first thoughts that come to mind may be the Travelocity gnome or William Shatner pushing Priceline. What the Web's biggest booking agents offer (aside from entertaining advertising) are convenient, all-in-one resources for buying airfare, booking hotels, renting cars, and scoring deals on vacation packages.
- Not all sites provide the same information. Airlines negotiate deals that permit specific booking agents to offer the lowest fares for specific flights. Hotels do the same thing for specific dates. Occasionally the airline or hotel offers its best price on its own site, so be sure to shop around.
- Some agents advertise "huge savings" when you book a flight, hotel room, and rental car as a package. Before you get too excited, check the fine print to see what conditions apply. Generally you'll need a minimum number of travelers and nights, and specific destinations and dates. If you meet the criteria, be sure to compare the price of booking each separately.
- If a Web site has a "discount" or "deals" section, take a quick look through it: you may find a cheap room or flight that matches your criteria.
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is an online travel agent that offers consistently competitive prices for domestic and international flights. It has a variety of online booking services, including an extensive last-minute vacation section with great deals. For accommodations, it has detailed descriptions of the many hotels listed, and its site's design gets high marks for looks and usability.
has a clean look, simple navigation, and offers solid prices on airfare, accommodations, car rentals, cruises, bus trips, and rail passes. When comparing hotel rates it provides a handy map so you can easily reference the locations. A cool feature on Orbitz lets you explore its many package deals by destination or activity.
is another huge travel agent with similar services to those previously mentioned. You'll find extensive route coverage, low prices, a simple interface, and a convenient "flexible date" option to help you find the lowest prices. There are detailed descriptions of hotel amenities, rooms, dining facilities, and policies, accompanied by user reviews, ratings, and photos. The substantial "Deals by Destination" section is definitely worth a look.
's "name your own price" feature allows you to ask for a specific price for hotel rooms and airfare. The catch is that you don't get to choose a specific airline or hotel. For hotels, simply choose where (geographically) you'd like stay, how many stars you want your hotel to be, and what price you would like to pay, and Priceline will either accept your offer or reject it. Unfortunately, you must enter your credit card number to see whether your price is accepted. If it is, your card is immediately charged without the option of canceling. Similar conditions apply when booking airfare. A good technique for budget-minded travelers is to visit Priceline and "name a price" that's considerably lower than the offers you've seen. It doesn't hurt to try, and you might end up with a great bargain.
For a customized itinerary ...
provides a free online service to help streamline your travel plans. Forward your electronic flight, hotel, and car rental booking confirmations to the site, and you’ll receive a custom itinerary, complete with maps, directions, weather updates, and city guides. Incorporate notes and reminders, or add photos of your destination. You can also get your friends involved by sending emails inviting them to view or contribute to the plans. Tripit also has a search engine that trawls many flights and hotel sites; bookings automatically appear in your itinerary. View the excellent demo before you get started
Where you choose to spend your nights can be the most important part of your vacation. Whether you're looking for a room in the Ritz, a night on a ranch, or breakfast in bed, the Web has all the resources you need to make locating and booking quality accommodations a seamless process.
- Community travel sites have unbiased hotel reviews for a level of insight that standard guides and hotel advertisements don't reach.
- Niche accommodations like B&B's, hostels, and luxury hotels are poorly covered (if at all) by the big booking agents. Check out individualized search and booking resources instead.
- No single Web site will always offer the best deal. To find the perfect room at the perfect price, have patience and shop around!
- When checking out of a foreign hotel you may be asked if you'd like to pay in your native currency. Resist the urge, because the conversion rate at the hotel desk is generally much less favorable than at an ATM.
For a hotel search engine ...
directly searches through 45 independent Web sites, including travel agents and hotel chains, to find the lowest hotel prices in the cities of your choice. Results present hotel names, their rating, price, and provider in an extremely user-friendly way. Mobissimo's coverage is extensive, but it excludes the Web's largest travel agents.
For general booking agents ...
Accommodation Search Engine
has 150,000 hotel listings worldwide—perfect if you're looking for hotels in obscure places. This site's primary drawback is the generally skimpy hotel descriptions, which often include nothing more than contact information.
Places To Stay
is an Irish site that personally evaluates and certifies hotels with their “3Vs Quality Mark”—visited, vetted, and vouched for. The listings are lacking in depth for American cities but cover European cities rather well. The simple design and commitment to quality and customer satisfaction make it a site worth visiting.
is a simple and user-friendly way to search for hotels around the world. It's affiliated with Priceline.com and offers the same “Name Your Own Price and Save More” feature for hotels.
For a hotel search with real traveler reviews ...
ranks listed hotels according to real traveler ratings, so the most popular hotels appear at the top of your results. Other resources include access to Frommer's travel guides, a central listing of travel deals by destination (from sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire, and Hotels.com), and extensive traveler reviews of local attractions.
For the budget traveler ...
is an answer to the lack of coverage given to hostels by the major booking agents. Hostels.com lists thousands of hostels worldwide, with user ratings for many, and booking options, addresses, and descriptions for all. Their hosteling FAQ section is useful for newcomers.
's database has an even larger listing. Access descriptions, reviews, and contact information for over 18,000 hostels in more than 5,000 cities.
For a B&B ...
exclusively lists country and urban B&B's, inns, guest houses, lodges, home-stays, cabins, ranches, and farm-stays from around the world. Not all listings have detailed descriptions and some aren't bookable online, but even the most basic listings still provide contact information.
For the lap of luxury ...
Leading Hotels of the World
offers listings for five-star hotels and spas from around the world. The site includes photos, brief descriptions, and, in most cases, booking options. You can also plan a luxury vacation using their online vacation planner.
is another site that deals exclusively with the higher end of hotel accommodation. If you're a luxury traveler who still has your eye on the price tag, you'll likely find this site to be more helpful than LHW.
For odd accommodations ...
Unusual Hotels of the World
features listings of only the most odd and wacky hotels. At this site you'll find rooms underwater, in castles, tree houses, igloos, and train cars. Each listing has detailed descriptions, a "WOW rating," and booking information.
For the Last-Minute-Lorenzos (or Lucindas) ...
is for those who need to book last minute, or who are flexible and waiting for the perfect deal. Capitalize on their crazy rates, like rooms starting at $25 a night in Las Vegas and $51 in Los Angeles. If a hotel is looking to fill unused rooms at a discount, there's a good chance you'll find them listed here.
is another option for the last-minute vacationer. This UK-based company is a database where member hotels (luxury hotels, guest houses, and country B&Bs) post their empty rooms at discounted rates.
So by now you're probably imagining yourself reclined in a chaise lounge, a drink in your hand, and the Mediterranean at your feet. Or maybe in Germany, cycling through a landscape of wildflower-dotted fields, evergreen forests, and mountain peaks. Then you snap groggily back to reality, and realize it's time to negotiate through the paperwork you need to get you there.
Luckily, the agencies responsible for issuing travel documents and enforcing immigration have Web pages with information to make travel safe and easy.
- On the Web you can research how to obtain the following:
- a valid passport
- an appropriate visa, if required
- the necessary vaccinations
- knowledge of local health issues
- a list of banned substances for air or rail travel
- knowledge of what substances can legally enter a country
- an understanding of the political and social issues facing your destination
- travel insurance
- Most embassies and consulates maintain Web sites with useful information relating to the logistics of foreign travel.
- If you have any questions or doubts prior to a trip overseas, contact your embassy abroad for additional information. This may be particularly important if your trip has special circumstances, like an extended stay or business.
For passport and visa info ...
The U.S. Department of State
's travel portal should be your first stop before traveling abroad. Learn how to obtain a passport and visa, locate a U.S. embassy or consulate, access government travel warnings, get travel safety tips, and access foreign embassies' Web pages. This site is particularly useful for questions about documentation and foreign entry requirements.
For an embassy's Web site ...
has a searchable directory of contact information for every diplomatic office in the world.
For health and safety info ...
The Center for Disease Control
's travel department is a great source for reliable, travel-specific health information. Get info on international health concerns, outbreaks, health warnings, and safety advice. Learn about required and recommended vaccinations by region—essential for Third World travel.
offers a wide array of specialized insurance policies for different kinds of travelers. Choose from coverage for vacation and trip cancellations, travel interruptions, emergency medical and health, lost baggage, and more.
For air travel info ...
The Transportation Security Administration
has info for anyone with air-travel concerns. They address travelers with medical conditions or disabilities, traveling with children, and transporting special items. Keep on top of the ever-changing list of prohibited substances.
For info on countries ...
The CIA World Factbook
is a quick-reference resource for facts, stats, and overviews of countries around the world and is updated every two weeks. Get info on geography, population, economy, communications, transportation, and transnational issues.
For foreign exchange rates ...
is one of the premier providers of foreign currency information on the Web. Their FXConverter provides up-to-date conversions for all world currencies in an extremely user-friendly format.
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