For every problem or question there’s a Web site with good solutions or answers. But it’s not always easy to find the very best sites amongst the internet’s overflowing cornucopia of wacky wonderfulness. Below are the sites that we think provide up-to-date and in-depth, truly useful — and somewhat unusual — tools for travelers.
Your Psychic Friend: Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure out whether you can save money by booking your airplane tickets way ahead or whether it’s better to wait for last-minute sales. Instead let Farecast do the figuring for you. The Web site’s air fare-predictive technology has been certified 74.5% accurate, which is way better than you’re likely to do on your own.
Insider Secrets: Who could possibly know more about avoiding flight delays and airport congestion than The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers? Their Web site for travelers, Avoid Delays, is an easy-to-use treasure trove of information on everything from the best time of day to fly out of a specific airport to the best airports to connect through, plus up-to-the-minute flight delay data.
Sitting Pretty: If you’ve decided that you will never get stuck sitting across from the bathrooms on a cross-country flight again, check Seat Guru before you book your next ticket. You can easily see exactly which seats on a specific plane are, as the site politely puts it, substandard. Most flight-booking sites include at least some of this info, but Seat Guru’s color-coded plane plans make it really easy to spot the seats that you don’t want to sit in.
Getting Your Money’s Worth: How far will your dollar go when it’s converted into pounds, francs, pesos, dinars or any other currency? Find out at xe.com, which provides quick and up-to-date exchange rates for all 170 of the world’s currencies. Budget-savvy travelers can use the conversion rates to pick vacations that provide the most bang for their buck.
Power Up: Before you use electrical appliances outside of the U.S., you need to know what type of electrical voltage and frequency is in place in the country you’re traveling to and what types of plugs and outlets are used there. Find out everything you need to know to avoid frying your gadgets’ innards at Steve Kropla’s exhaustive (but easy to use) site on electrical power around the world.
Geek Approved: Hotels are increasingly providing high-speed internet access in all guest rooms, but such services are not always free or good. If you want or need to get online while you’re travelling and don’t want to get stuck with pricey or barely adequate connections, check out Geektels, a user-reviewed compendium of internet connectivity and other tech services offered by hotels around the world.
Pet Paradise: The four-legged members of your family need vacations too, and Pets Welcome provides extensive listings of hotels, campgrounds, ski resorts, cabins and cottages, bed and breakfasts, amusement parks, beaches, and other fun places that will warmly welcome your fur babies.
See the World: Google Earth puts the entire planet on your computer screen, with satellite imagery, maps, detailed 3-D representations of the world’s most amazing places, photographs, detailed door-to-door driving instructions that you can annotate and save, and much more. If you haven’t given Google Earth a whirl lately, or have never spent happy hours exploring this free software, have a look at what it can do here and then grab yourself a copy.