Subject: Introduction and Web travel booking
To introduce myself, I'm 41 and live in St. Joseph, Missouri, near Kansas City. I've been on Travel-l longer than just about anyone, and I'm glad there's this other forum to use while Travel-l has server problems. I spent my teenage years in the Umbria region of Italy, to which I feel very attached. My family still owns a house there, to which I return every two years.

That's one type of trip; the Internet has transformed the other kinds of travel I do. I can use the Web to research possible trips where I can make the best use of a long weekend, usually within the U.S. but a couple of times also to Europe. I receive airline alerts for specials for the coming weekend, and I use the various airfare search engines to see when a trip to a given place is feasible.

I've learned the features of the various search engines well enough to feel I could write an article on when each of them is preferable, but the features are regularly changing. One new feature has just come along that I thought I'd mention. It's generally been possible to see the fares available for the dates of your choosing, or the lowest fares on the books. If you were flexible in your travel dates, it could be hard to find when the lowest fares were actually available. Now http://travel.yahoo.com, which is a simpler (no login) gateway to the services of http://www.travelocity.com, allows you to enter your destination, and then it shows the low fares on the books and a calendar showing the dates that the fare is available. Then you can choose which dates look best and either call a travel agent to book a trip for those dates or book on Travelocity or the airline's Web site. There are many cases when a travel agent is indispensable, but there are usually frequent flyer benefits for booking on the Web, making that appealing for booking a simple trip. For now this feature is just available for travel within the U.S. and Canada.

I have no affiliation with any of these services; I thought this might be of interest to some travelers.

Andrew McGarrell