Sunday, October 28, 2007

Online Traveler Tools

This is a pretty straight-forward post. No hidden agenda or ideologies. In this column I'll list the web sites that make my traveling life easier.

Information, tips, guides and predictions - all are out there on many sites, but these few - some have been around for years - serve me the best:
  1. Weather - Accuweather provides worldwide weather predictions, for up to 10 days ahead, in Celsius and Fahrenheit. Add to that the fact that it can be neatly integrated into Firefox using an add-on called ForecastFox.

  2. Currency - XE.com will provide currency conversion, between any two currencies, with up-to-date rates. As an addition, you can use their conversion service to your site or app (as a web service).

  3. Time - until recently, I've used The World Clock, now I've switched to Time Zone Check (I just like the Flash interface). However, if you need to access from a mobile device, definitely go with the plainer site.

  4. Electricity - this site will tell you what current is used anywhere around the world and what shape of socket to expect. Used it first on my trip to Australia and it served me well since.

  5. Plane Seats - ever wondered which seat you should try to grab on your next flight? Look at SeatGuru to find the seat configuration, on any plane, of every airline. Also, you'd find great tips and recommendations, like which seats are too close to the restroom, which have the video equipment stowed under them, and which can't recline. (Here's one tip from me: if you ever fly in those tiny regional jets, like the Embraer, skip the window rows A and C. The plane is so narrow that the curvature will make seating uncomfortable. Try for the B aisle row. And on international Continental flights, go for rows lower than 23, if you'd like a power socket for your laptop).

  6. Maps - while Google Maps and Live Maps are great in US and Canada and both have mobile versions, 3D versions and satellite imaging (useful if you intend to bomb your destination). But they are a bit thin on Europe and Asia.
    Streetmap
    is great for the UK, especially within London. Map24 - great for Europe and Asia, with a nice Java animation that will show you your route and expected turns (notice that by default it will show you a map of the country you are browsing from).

  7. Travel Guides - for travel guides for my destinations (if I have some free time, otherwise I just whisk in and out, never bothering to smell the roses) I use Fodor's Travel Guides, or the old favorite Lonely Planet.

  8. Trains - not so common in the US, trains are considered a major form of transportation in Europe. In the past I've used this site for trains in the UK, this site for trains in Germany and this site for trains in Austria. Since many European countries allow train travel to one another, the sites usually cover travel between major capital (i.e., I've used the Austrian site to book a travel from Vienna to Prague to Budapest and back to Vienna).

  9. Itineraries - this site was pointed out to me by a couple of my colleagues (hey Ryan!). World Mate Live works in a unique way: you add a plugin to your Outlook mail client and download an application to your Blackberry. By selecting certain email in your mailbox (those you receive from your travel agent, containing your air, hotel and car bookings. It will even parse PDF files - like the ones you may receive from American Express travel), the site collects all the information and builds and maintains an itinerary for the trip. The mobile app means insures that this info (including dates, addresses and phones) is always available. The client also shows time and date for multiple locations, weather and limited currency conversion. This service is free. For a $100 a year, you'll get real live alerts about delayed or canceled flights, or severe weather conditions at your destination.
    I've just started using the service and will give it a try.

  10. Airlines and cars - I have plenty of bookmarks to all the airlines I use - and probably so do you, so I won't bother listing them here. What I did want to mention are Orbitz and Expedia, 2 sites I use to find all the available flight alternatives between me and my destination, so I'll know which flights to book. I do the same for cars.

  11. Hotels - I usually book directly with the hotel sites and I try to stick to chains that allow me to collect points (no need to pay for any vacation hotel). But to compare prices or find availability, I use Hotels.com and Travelocity.
I hope you'll find these sites helpful. Drop me a comment or email with any suggestions for sites you use. I'll either add them to this post or to a future list.

2 comments:

Allen Eps said...

I'd suggest http://www.faremax.com. Expedia and Orbitz can'e even compare with what Faremax can offer in terms of airline tickets to Europe. Otherwise very nice list. Thanks

Traveling Tech Guy said...

Thanks Allen! I'll be sure to give it a try for my personal travel. I did not mention pricing sites like priceline.com or hotwire.com, ecause, as mentioned, I only use Orbitz and Expedia to find available flights/cars/hotel. I then have to go to my corporate site to book them.
Thanks for reading!