You ask for an aisle seat and get it, too. It’s only when you board the aircraft that the trouble starts. Your seat is right next to the washroom! Or, worse, you get a seat that doesn’t recline properly. SeatGuru is an excellent information resource that prepares you on what to expect vis-a-vis aircraft seating plans, in-flight amenities and other information about an aeroplane—for almost all major airlines. The site features detailed seating map graphics along with comments denoting seats with limited recline, reduced legroom, misaligned windows, etc. Colour-coding helps distinguish superior and substandard seats, as well as facilities such as in-seat power ports. And, of course, it’s complete with galley, exit, closet and the all-important lavatory locations. So, the next time you are flying the Thai Airways Boeing 777-300 or a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800, you can be specific and ask for seat 44A without any fear.
World Wi-Fi guides
TravelPost’s definitive Wi-Fi guide will help you home-in on 80 major international and 219 US airports that offer wireless Internet access. From major hubs such as JFK in New York to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, or the busy Denpasar-Ngurah Rai in Bali to Chhattrapati Shivaji in Mumbai, you’ll get to know about the available service providers, access options, pricing (or free Wi-Fi), exact hot spots and coverage areas at a glance.
To locate public Wi-Fi hot spots in various cities across the globe, log on to the popular Jiwire (‘www.jiwire.com’) or the lesser-known and more US-centric AnchorFree (‘www.anchorfree.com/hotspot/finder’) (for details on Jiwire, see Mint, 13 June 2007).
World electricity guide
On the face of it, why would you need to know about the electric power situation in a country you are packing your bags for. But, if you are one of those who believe in complete planning, this one is for you. This website is all about details of power in various countries—from varying voltage and fluctuating frequencies to disparate plug prongs. It has everything.
Another invaluable Web resource for globetrotters is the “Stay Plugged in While Traveling” guide (‘http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Stay_Plugged_In_While_Traveling ’). It has all the information you need to know about adapters, voltage converters, surge protectors and the like to keep your gear, gizmos and gadgets beeping, blinking and beaming when you’re in a foreign land.
Have you planned an elaborate travel itinerary and are now finding it difficult to manage? Even if it is not complicated, you may have too much on your mind to keep track of your travel diary and end up with dates in disarray.
Try TripIt. A free Web-based travel organizer, TripIt promises to sort out and maintain all your travel schedules if you merely forward reservation confirmation emails for your flights, cruises, hotel, car and train bookings to firstname.lastname@example.org. What is generated is one single master itinerary that contains everything arranged chronologically. Automatically available alongside are weather information, locations maps, information on restaurants, travel guides, etc.
You can print this master itinerary out and keep it with you, or get it on email, or to a compatible mobile phone, and sync it with your calendar. And yes, if required, you can even share these nitty-gritties with colleagues, family and friends quite effortlessly. You can also go in and append frequent flyer numbers, add plans, and edit details of anything anytime. You can see flight seating plans through “seating advice” from SeatGuru.
One problem, though. Compatibility issues with your forwarded reservation mails can arise, but you will be suitably cautioned by mail within hours.
Whenever your PC is hooked into a wireless network, the danger to your personal data is clear and present. Anything that is transmitted over such a network can be read and copied. No harm being a bit paranoid and deploying some sort of safety shield to protect your data and also encrypt everything you send out. Several security mechanisms are available. Best-known among these are methods such as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (encryption based), Media Access Control Filtering (unknown MAC address rejection based), RADIUS Authentication and Authorization (login and password based) or Kerberos (key distribution based). And you can even combine these techniques to enhance your data safety.
So, before using public networks, it is always best to have a program such as KeyScrambler (‘www.qfxsoftware.com/products.htm# personal’) installed on your laptop. Available for free as a plug-in for Internet Explorer and Firefox, this program encrypts whatever you type in your browser.
On insecure public computer terminals, tiny USB carry-able tools such as Neo’s SafeKeys (‘www.aplin.com.au/?page_id=246’) protect you from prying eyes and snooping spies by allowing you to mouse-click your password on an on-screen keyboard. This also defeats any pre-installed keyloggers.
Wikimapia and Google Maps
Other than the newbie euphoria and initial virtual travel kicks you get with Google Earth/Maps, have you ever thought of putting these applications to use for your actual travel plans? With time always at a premium, and with little patience, you can really exploit Google Earth/Maps and put them to tangible use, especially while charting out a holiday.
Zip down to Wikimapia (yeah, don’t bother with the 29.6MB Google Earth download if you think installing it is a pain). And get an insta-flyby and bird’s eye view of the place you’re going to. Hover around and examine the location of the hotel where you’re planning to stay... You’ll be able to get an excellent idea of the general surroundings, rough estimates of distances to and fro from points of business and non-business interest. If the establishment is reasonably decent and well known, chances are you will find it marked in Wikimapia (even if it’s not, there are ways of finding it with a dollop of ingenious navigation).
Other useful resources
Tata Indicom global Internet roaming kit
IPASS Global Roaming dialer
World ATM locator
How to travel light
How to prevent lost luggage
All-in-one frequent flyer miles tracker
18,864 destination guides
Weather mashup map
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