Looking out the window of a Boeing
767 at 41,000 feet near Sisters,
I like to travel to varied places (please, no places below 60 degrees F!) and seldom use a Travel Bureau to book anything. With the WEB you can visit travel firms and see what they offer to get ideas as to what you would like to and maybe even book something from them.
I went to Europe for the first time in 1982 long before the Internet as we know it know existed so I had to learn as I went and from the few people I talked to before going.
Traveling over these past 35 years I have come up with a page of Tom's Travel Tips. It is a page that offers tips to people as to what to do when they travel. I also have a travel checklist page.
The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality,
and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.
Other resources of course exist on on the Web. Microsoft's Expedia.com is a full Web based travel agency. Going there is very useful. Microsoft® really wants you to go there so much that some installs of some MS products override URLs to other sites to take you to Expedia.com even though you did NOT want to go there!
A web site that is well suited for European travel needs is the Michelin site. They have been around since the early 1900s with travel books — The Michelin Guide — for each country. They are so good in fact, that during WWII some troops in General George Patton's army used them to help them fight across France when they had run off their Army maps!
"What do we want?" "Time Travel!" "When do we want it?" "That's Irrelevant!" -- Koushik Dutta
A new site called Pages Juanes it helps you find your way around some of the major cities in France. (Google, MSN, or A9 search site also recently launched a service like this.) In addition to maps like in MapQuest, Yahoo Maps and others, it has pictures of the streets as they look to a person! This allows you to actually see how it looks when driving / walking around the town!
There a lots of options for getting an airline ticket now-a-days:
Plus a host of others.
You can always go to each airline's own site and look for tickets. You must keep in mind all the foreign (to you) airlines and search their fares also! It can take a lot of time.
However, like anything Internet, you are trading YOUR time to do the research in finding a ticket and navigating the itinerary versus paying a travel agent to do the research and find the best flight, connection, hotels, and other details that meets your travel needs. Most often, the $50 to $200 you saved is not really worth the 2 to 20 hours you spent finding the flight and hotel bookings.
Now if you want to find out what food is on your flight then check Airline Meals web site will help you see what is being served on various flights around the world.
Cancun Mexico, March 2005
Thatched roofed B&B. I plan my trips with these specifics: fly out of airport X, fly into airport Y, get back to airport Y, fly home to airport X. As for what happen in between I book and stay as I go!
There are always Tom's Travel Tips which I have used over the years in my travels - but each person / group is always slightly different and so your tips may vary.
It is really best to book a place to stay before leaving when there is no a reasonable chance of finding someplace to stay upon arrival. In Europe I like staying at B&Bs (Bed & Breakfasts) which are not the same as they advertise them to be in the states. The B&Bs in the States tend to overcharge for the "atmosphere" and not give you a good value as they were originally designed to be for the traveling public.
Now, before you go off to England you can get a grip on the language by going to Old English Sayings. I think most of these are true, if you can find an etymological dictionary that would help. Course, that does not help much if you go to Wales - completely different language.
Booking ahead was necessary when I went to the D-Day commemoration in France in 1994. I booked a B&B (that B&B was more like a hotel than a true B&B) for arrival in London via my travel agent and also for my week in France. Once I arrive in Europe, I usually re-book the same place for the stay on the way back or find someplace better. You NEVER quite know what the place really is like till you stay there. I find that B&Bs provide great food, good rest, good conversations and are NOT expensive and "trendy" in Europe as they are in the USA.
When I went to France the 2nd time in 1983 I traveled to Marseille. Being on a very tight budget I never stayed in any fancy hotels such as this one outside Marseille http://www.hotel-louisiana.com. I instead went to Cassis and stayed in a hotel I found along the beach.
When we were in Paris in 2004 we stayed in the convention district in a timeshare. No A/C in it and it was around 95 degrees F outside all that week - so it was quite warm inside too! We could see the Eiffel Tower from our room. To get there required a 10 minute walk to the Metro then three trains to get there - around another 20 minutes. It is a tradeoff of time vs. convenience. Staying at a hotel like Hotel Albert Monceau means you are only 10 minutes from the Arc de Triumph but you pay 65 Euros or more a night to do so. Which still is a VERY good deal in Paris. I have not stayed there myself, but at least they have a secure car park if you need that and they take pets.
Other alternatives to B&Bs are timeshares and house exchanges. Timeshares are problematic. You must book at least 10 months in advance in order to have any chance to get anything since the demand is so high. Also, some resorts join timeshares but out of the 20, 50, 100, 200 or whatever rooms they have to rent weekly they have reserved all but 10 to their in-country members - and then everyone else competes for those 10 that are available for those 50 weeks a year! They get listed, sell timeshares, but are very hard to get into as a result.
Another option is house exchanges. This is where you join an organization that lists members who are willing to exchange houses for a vacation. You stay in their house, they stay in yours (and you must do all the normal house things, cut grass, feed the pets etc). I have not done this yet. I'd say this is only good if you plan to stay in an area for two or more weeks. Some places on the net that does this I found were http://www.intervac.com, http://www.homelink.org and http://www.homeexchange.com
Harlech Castle, Wales (26K). When traveling you get to see various old historical sites that you can tour. Finding castles are easy since they are so big and always built on top of a hill. Harlech was built in the 12th century and is very impressive.
Blanenau Ffestuniog RR. If you get tried of walking you can take a ride on restored steam trains. This trains runs a regular schedule from Porthmadog up to the slate mines 15 miles away. This engine runs on a narrow gauge track. It is one of the newer engines having been built in 1898.
If you go to Lincolnshire in the UK on their web they have a section on the military airfields that were built around Lincoln. How to get to Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center at East Kirby airfield (A Lanc taxis around on Sundays), RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at Coningsby, 617 Squadron Museum and lots of others.
The Imperial War Museum now sells a Map of USAAF airfields.
I will be posting pages around specific cities, countries, trips as I get a chance. Usually i have a mixture of pictures from many travels on a single page since photography, travel, and history are all intertwined with me.
Ceiling glass art of flowers at the
front desk of the
Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.
Every country, city, village or even hamlet will have their own flavor of local art and the artists who work around them.
A tour group, by design and necessity, does not allow you to find these unique and off the beaten path people. Whenever possible, it pays to hunt them out. One artist that we found on Maui in Lahaina on the northwestern side is Ellen Levinsky. She creates pictures out of bird feathers. If you have your own bird she can then create an image using your bird's own feathers (send a pound or more).