|by Jason Steele|
I am not a weekly road warrior; I do not actually hold “status” in any frequent flier programs (but don’t tell the line police at Denver International Airport). Maybe it is because I do not travel every week that I try to make the best plans and score the best deals when I do get to travel about every other month.
I am also a person who spends a good eight hours a day at my computer, and I try to organize all my Internet resources in bookmarks. Recently, I organized all of my most indispensable travel resources I use into one folder. Now, I though it might be helpful to share with you the resources I rely on to plan my travels:
I use Expedia primarily for researching and booking hotels. With airlines, I like to directly from the site of the carrier I wish to fly. Because I so strongly prefer non-stop flights, I usually do not have to compare more than two or three carriers for any particular route. I also don’t find them to be exceptionally useful for booking rental cars either. When it comes to hotels, Expedia’s Best Rate Guarantee is unbeatable. Let’s just say that I always have a few of their $50 off coupons ready for use.
Once I have found some reasonably priced hotels, I will not book them without consulting Trip Advisor. It takes a while to learn how to disregard extremely positive and negative reviews or irrelevant criticisms (complaints about no air conditioning when looking for a ski lodge). Yes, it can be a little time consuming to sift through the reviews of a few candidate hotels, but you will soon be glad you did when you find otherwise attractive hotels that get dozens of horrible reviews.
Even though I book my air directly with the airlines, I will not select a seat and confirm a flight unless I have consulted Seat Guru. For those of you who have not used this site, it rates every seat in every aircraft on nearly every airline. It will tell you which seats do not recline, which seats have extra legroom, and other peculiarities. All you have to do is match up the aircraft type and seat map on the airline’s web site, with the corresponding seat map on Seat Guru. Just mouse over the seat you want and you will be told about any unusual features.
Flight Aware is really more for the pilots and aviation geeks than travelers, as it shows the flight path of any airplane under United States air traffic control. It is a great tool when you are timing your departure to pick someone up at the airport, as the estimated time of arrival here will be the most accurate. You can also use it to track the inbound aircraft that will be used for your flight. If your inbound flight is delayed, there is a good chance your flight will be delayed too.
I always try to get as many points and miles as possible when I travel, but the downside is that I have eventually joined a confusing array of loyalty programs. Award Wallet allows me to keep track of my status in almost all of my programs, and I can use it’s dashboard to help me find awards possibilities for future travel.
Great Circle Mapper
The biggest problem I have with this planet, and planets in general, is it’s spherical nature. It turns out that it is dang near impossible to represent a spherical body on a two dimensional medium such as paper or a computer screen. Until that changes, there will always be the great circle mapper that can be used to calculate the shortest, great circle distance between any two points. Why do you need to know this? First, this will determine about how many frequent flier miles you will get for any given flight. It will also help you to compare the length of one flight to another. As much as I love traveling, I really would prefer to spend the minimum time in the air. It is also a great way to settle bets and impress people with your geographic knowledge.
If you learn to use these tools as I have, you too can master the art of infrequent travel. If you think I am missing something, let me know.