Virtually there - July 09
Iím off! Beijing, Paris, RomeÖ grabbing my last chance to spend my childrenís inheritance before the world economy implodes. Now, Iím a busy person and, though I love the internet, I donít have the time to cruise around in cyberspace looking for the best deals on air travel. That is what travel agents are for. The internet is for researching where you want to go and what you want to do when you get there.
In the olden days, when everything was in black and white, we all rushed out and bought a Lonely Planet or a Rough Guide or even a Fodorís to get the skinny on our destination. Cyberpeasants still do Ė as well as those whose destinations donít involve internet access Ė but the rest of the world uses the websites (lonelyplanet.com, roughguides.com and fodors.com of course).
Itís not quite the same experience as lugging dog-eared tomes around the world, but it is cheaper, up-to-date and interactive. That is, you can actually address questions to people who have been there before you. I am always impressed by the people who take the time to answer the queries posted in these forums. Iím far too lazy and my mother brought me up never to talk to strangers, but thanks, guys, for leaving the chat threads for me to follow.
Tickets booked? Go to the airline website and see what seats have been allocated then flick to SeatGuru.com to make sure they are good ones. SeatGuru has most seating configurations for
Next stop is Travel Essentials (tinyurl.com/cmlox7) to see what shots you need. Follow that with KiwisOverseas (tinyurl.com/cxgq3t), set up by the government to enable travelling Kiwis to register their travel plans in case of unrest abroad. Also a good idea is a quick visit to SafeTravel.govt.nz, just to check where disease and disaster are lurking. There are also handy tips on what to do in the case of kidnapping, arrest, detention and death. (Better book-mark this particular site.)
There are two types of travellers in this world. There are those who have given thought to every detail of their packing, who pick crease-free clothing that will wash and drip dry, not show stains and look equally appropriate whether meeting the Queen or squatting in a yurt. Their carefully selected items are folded in colour-coded tissue and fitted like a three-D jigsaw into a tiny piece of carry-on luggage two weeks before departure. And then there are those (I hope itís not just me) who stuff loads of random items into an enormous bag just as the taxi arrives and hope for the best. Help is at hand for random clothes stuffers. A visit to OneBag.com is guaranteed to turn the most arbitrary packer into a pristine traveller.
Destination reached? The ultimate must-have is a GPS-enabled phone on roam. I love the Apple iPhone because of the many travel-friendly applications (downloadable at iTunes.com). You can convert money at the current exchange rate, as well as dress and shoe sizes (important). The Air New Zealand mPass application has my boarding pass barcodes and FlightTrack tells me if there are any delays. Metro Paris works out where I am and gives me directions to the nearest station. Thereís a Rome restaurant guide, a Mandarin translator and, best of all, SitOrSquat, which tells me where the nearest clean toilet is! Donít despair if youíre travelling phoneless Ė if you have time before you go (no pun intended), you can find the details at SitOrSquat.com.
Illustration: Daron Parton