From the Kenosha News on 3-27-05

Find Vacation Planning Resources On-line

      One of the best uses of the internet is vacation planning.  Whether you're flying, driving, cruising, staying in motels, or camping, you can benefit from on-line research.  Two web sites that are indispensable for travelers are Weather.com and Mapquest.com.  Weather.com will tell you the average temperatures and forecasts for vacation destinations.  There are specific options for people interested in recreation from golf outings to skiing.

      Mapquest.com provides maps, driving directions, and distances for your destinations.  Keep in mind that the routes provided are selected by a software program and aren't always the way that seasoned travelers would recommend.  For example, Mapquest uniformly maps routes through Chicago to points in the northeast (even Mackinac Island) when I think that going north through upper Michigan would be much more enjoyable.

      Next week's column will discuss using the major on-line services for researching and booking flights, hotels, rental cars, and so on.  This column focuses on the destinations.  To read reviews by "regular people" of attractions and hotels, the best resource is Tripadvisor.com.  If camping is your goal, get campground reviews at Rvparkreviews.com or join the Trailer Life forum at http://www.trailerlife.com/cforum/ and select the Campgrounds, Resorts and Attractions forum to ask your questions or search the archives.  If renting a vacation home or condo is more your speed, try Vacationrentals.com. 

      When planning what you will see and do at your destination, the internet is full of information sometimes too much.  The best approach is to use a search engine like Google and type in search words for what you're interested in, e.g. "Hoover Dam tours", "Las Vegas shows", "ATV rental Colorado", etc.  In 2002, I surfed the web and compared hot air ballooning choices in Colorado until I found the one with the best price and options.  Searching for tourism sites with search terms like "Texas tourist information" will help you find ways to request tourist brochures or talk to a real person on the phone.

      Some specific sites that I've found useful include:

bullet www.americasroof.com High points in each state
bullet www.nps.gov National Parks
bullet www.recreation.gov Recreational activities by type or location
bullet www.factorytoursusa.com Factory tours
bullet www.sixflags.com Six Flags theme parks around the country
bullet www.legendsofamerica.com Quirky roadside attractions in some states
bullet www.roadtripamerica.com For people who want to take the slower route
bullet www.stadiumsofnfl.com All about the NFL football stadiums
bullet www.ballparksofbaseball.com All about the major league baseball parks
bullet www.terraserver.com/special/sports.asp - Sports venues of all kinds
bullet www.themeparkcity.com/USA_index.htm - Theme parks, amusement parks, waterparks, and zoos by state

      If your travel plans include Europe, one of the best resources around is Rick Steves' Europe through the Back Door at www.ricksteves.com.  For reviews of European lodgings, consult www.venere.com.  You can even check currency exchange rates on-line at http://www.x‑rates.com/calculator.html.

      To easily access any of the above links without having to type them in, go to my web site at sabbarpublications.com, and click on the Links button then choose "Travel Links."  Bon Voyage!       

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 3-27-05