Story and photos by Bob Schulman
Points on getting points: If you collect frequent flyer points, it's helpful to know which airlines belong to which of the three big international marketing alliances (letting you swap points from one airline to another in their alliance). A quick way to find out is on a travel industry site: www.oagtravel.com (click “Airline Alliances” under “Guides” in the banner running across the page). You'll find a whole lot of other useful info on the OAG sites, such as government rules on benefits for involuntarily “bumped” passengers.
Where's the beach?: You probably wouldn't expect there'd be much of a difference between an “ocean front” room and one with an “ocean view.” Ah, but there is. In hotel talk, “front” means your room looks right out on the ocean. “View” means you might have to crane your neck a bit (or a lot) to see the wet stuff.
Where's my flight?: Check out this little gem of a site: www.flightstats.com.
It not only offers real-time flight tracking at airports all over the world but also links to hundreds of travel-related sites. Among tons of other features is an “airline scorecard” that rates the on-time performance of each airline at their 10 top arrival and departure airports.
Rules of the road: The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, provides country-by-country info on customs rules, currency, airport departure taxes, baggage and ticketing practices, pet regulations and lots of other things you need to know about traveling overseas. Some of the sections are restricted to “VIP members” of IATA, but there's still a wealth of publicly available travel info on the site, www.iatatravelcentre.com.
Rules of the sea: Cruise industry policies on everything from security and sanitation to gambling are listed on the site of the Cruise Lines International Association, www.cruising.org. Click the “regulatory” box.
Here come the super-sites: Booking sites that compare travel info from dozens – some claim hundreds – of other booking sites are popping up all over the place. Some of the most popular super-sites are www.kayak.com, www.lowfares.com and www.skyscanner.com.
Mix-'n-match fares: Not too long ago, the cheapest fares on most airlines required roundtrip bookings on the same carrier. Now, with mix-and-match one-way fares coming into vogue, if Carrier “A” has a flight leaving at a time that works best for you, and Carrier “B” comes back at the best time, their combined fares might be the same – sometimes even less – than the roundtrip tab on either airline. Let the booking sites do the math for you.
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