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Websites offer luxurious options to the armchair traveller

March, 2011

With so many travel websites, it’s hard to find the exceptional. So I would like to share some of the more captivating websites enjoyed by the armchair traveler as well as a few aimed to stretch and safeguard your traveling dollar.

One of my dream sites is smithsonianjourneys.org. Smithsonian describes itself as a “museum-based educational travel program” that designs enthralling itineraries for the well heeled and the mainstream. Here’s an example of one of my favourite dream vacations:

How would you like to take a private Boeing 757 to seven World Heritage sights? For a mere $56,000 you will have hired an expert staff and flight crew for 23 days as guides to such exotic places as Yunnan Province, which contains the fascinating stone forest and is home to the Naxi people.

You will fly to Mongolia to meet a nomadic tribe and enjoy their unusual throat singing. A mere hop and you will find yourself in Papua New Guinea to spend some quality time with three tribes whose culture reflects the distant past. Then, over to Java in Indonesia to experience the world’s largest Buddhist temple and briefly live with a Javanese family.

Since Bhutan is a mere few hours away, you’ll visit the national treasures of this last independent kingdom in the Himalayas, where happiness ranks as the highest form of domestic product. Then to the relatively banal Wadi Rum in Petra, and then to the Disney-like landscape in Cappadocia, Turkey. If you don’t like this private jet itinerary, there are eight others.

Now you know how the rich spend their money.

Down to Earth for a moment. One website you might enjoy surfing is airbnb.com, a practical site for travelers seeking inexpensive stays at the homes of people who are away. Plug in a city you want to visit and up pops a number of very attractive apartments, homes or villas reasonably priced on a per-night stay. A New York City stay can be found for as little as $69 a night or a “spacious” bungalow in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, will set you back $30 a night.

Canada.com/travel curates travel news assembled by its parent company, Postmedia, owner of The Gazette and many other Canadian newspapers. The site focuses not only on Canadian destinations but also provides sidebar notes such as an American cruise that offers three Canadian stops. Subjects include those of a more practical vein such as how travelers can avoid diarrhea, and includes destination guides.

Gypset.com (gypsy+jetset) is a wonderful site for the young at heart who like to combine the “chic speed of the jetset” with “the alternative, anti-commercialism and nomadic life of a gypsy.” Gypset posts member blogs from out-of-the-way places and provides “approved” accommodations at destinations you might have never heard about.

Travelalerts.com is great for retirees who can take their vacations outside of high season and who want ideas for short-hop vacations at reasonable prices. The same can be said for dohop.com for cheap flights, hotels and cars in Canada and Europe.

Flybudget.com provides interesting travel destinations as well as articles about the budget airline industry that act like a Consumer Reports for travel. One article warns travelers about the “tricks” used by the low-budget travel industry. Wegolo.com, whichbudget.com and kayak.com bill themselves as sites where you can compare hundreds of other travel sites and promise to display the most economical choice.

Momondo.com describes itself as a search engine, which leads you to the airline offering you the cheapest flight, but does not sell you the seats directly. Ontheglobe.com is a great site for armchair travelers providing a compendium of engaging travel articles and video travelogues by Montreal-based site publisher and “cultural navigator” Andrew Princz.

Featuring arts and culture schedules to plan your vacation, it provides short Twitter-like information from readers called “straight talk.” A remarkable aspect of this site is its integrity. It doesn’t try to sell you to advertisers and relies on a reader’s love of travel and donations.

Cruisecritic.com—though somewhat overly commercial—is a good site to get the lowdown on what’s happening in the world of cruises. It lists available cruise deals from almost every line in the world, as well as reviews, forums and messages from the site’s 50,000 members. It provides information for first-time cruisers, how to plan a cruise, and up-to-date news articles and cruise guides, especially useful for first-time cruisers.

But for now, an el-cheapo, all-inclusive Cuban vacation with my love is the best ticket of all.

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1 Comments:

At March 20, 2011 at 5:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great fan here of On the Globe!

 

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