11th June 1999 at 01:00
MICROSOFT EXPEDIA http:expedia.co.uk

Haven't booked your holiday or arranged a flight yet? Don't fret. Expedia is an online travel bureau, probably better in fact as it lets you compare airfares between companies - not something encouraged in the high street. The site will even send you emails about travel bargains as they become available, although you have to register for this service. A rich site indeed, rich in travel possibilities.

CURRENCY CONVERTOR www.travel-finder.comconvertconvert.htm

Until euro coins are in our pockets, a visit to any country in Europe will still demand rapid mental arithmetic to determine whether a potential buy is the bargain of the year, or will demand a year teaching evening classes on your return. If numeracy is not your strong point - and it isn't for many teachers according to the tabloid newspapers - this site will be a godsend. Simply put the value in pounds in one box, choose the currency of the country you will visit and the site will work it all out for you.

MUSEUMS AROUND THE WORLD www.comlab.ox.ac.ukarchiveothermuseumsworld.html

Not everyone likes museums, but it is handy to know if there is one near where you'll be staying, so at least you have the option of ignoring it. In Queensland, Australia, your instinct for selfpreservation may spur you on to discover the habits of the local arachnids, particularly the infamous Redback spider. Or maybe you will be drawn to Brasilia's National Museum of Information Technology and Telecommunications? In Amsterdam you can avoid more worldly temptations with a visit to the Computer Museum. And who could fail to raise a glass to the Distillery Museum in Poland - winner of the European Museum of the Year Award, by the way.

HOTMAIL www.hotmail.com

If you haven't joined Hotmail or another web-based email service, do so, especially if you want to keep in touch when away from home - they allow access to mail wherever in the world there is a computer with a web browser. The email doesn't have to be sent to Hotmail and you can even access mail with another Internet Service Provider.

TOURIST BOARDS www.tourist-office.org

This site is in French but anyone who sat through five years of the language at school (or has endured a couple of Eurovision Song Contests) should be able to find their way around. It couldn't be simpler; just a list of tourist agencies in various countries.

UP MY STREET www.upmystreet.com

Not a particularly useful site for holidays this one, unless you cannot face a trip abroad or favour daytrips. But it will compare the crime rate in Weston-Super-Mare to that of Southend should you be worried about such things. Just type in a postcode and a stream of data appears - house prices, crime rates, school results - all compared to the national average and which can be presented on a graph. Instant information: just the thing for when you return to school.

GO!EASYJET www.easyjet.com


If Microsoft's Expedia doesn't appeal, airlines Go! and Easyjet have online booking systems - Easyjet even offers a discount if you use its service. Many people are happy for a waiter to disappear into a backroom with their credit card but are nervous about sending card details into cyberspace. Fear not - security encryption means your details are safe at these big-name sites. Prices vary (although only a few are as low as you are led to believe) and can fluctuate wildly even during the course of a day. But the advantages of being able to check flight availability and prices at a glance are huge; you can weigh up the options without pressure from a booking clerk - only this way can you can decide if the cash saving of that early flight truly makes up for the loss of a few hours' sleep.

THE LONELY PLANET www.lonelyplanet.com

This is the online version of the famed guidebooks from Lonely Planet. The site adds information to your guidebook that is bang up-to-date, but it is also good to look around if you can't quite make up your mind where to go. Tourism for people who don't quite approve of tourism.

MAPS ON US http:mapsonus.switchboard.com

As its name suggests, this site provides maps - as long as you want one of an area in the US. OK, so you can't carry a computer around with you but if you know your route you can prepare well ahead. Just fill in an address or even a zipcode (postcode) and the relevant map appears. The site also provides information about what's in the area to help you make the best of the locality. And if distance is an issue, it can calculate mileages from one place to another.

Jack Kenny

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