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The Best Internet Travel Sites

CITY GUIDES
You'll find up-to-the-minute listings and reviews on Citysearch.com, which provides hotel, restaurant, nightlife, shopping, and entertainment information for more than 77 cities (mostly in America but a handful abroad). Through its partnership with Ticketmaster, Citysearch also provides a convenient way to purchase tickets to events.

If you've got a personal digital assistant, you can log on to Vindigo.com and sync your PDA to get free information on what's happening in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco.

SPECIAL EVENTS
Looking for something different to do on your next trip?Whatsonwhen.com tells you where to find the aurora borealis, that traveling DalÌ exhibition, or just about anything else that's going on in 21 cities on six continents. For U.S. events, also try Culturefinder.com—its 350,000 listings contain detailed arts and ticketing info.

RESTAURANTS
Zagat has been pointing travelers in the right direction for years with its series of handy, pocket-sized guides. Zagat.com gives you access to more than 20,000 restaurant reviews with comments from local diners in all major U.S. and international cities.

Although some online food sites (such as Opentable.com) focus solely on restaurant reservations, Foodline.com goes one step further by providing original content from food critics, recommendations based on your mood, menus and recipes from restaurants in 25 cities—and a booking engine for real-time reservations. If you want a second opinion, click on the links to Zagat.com or Citysearch.com and you'll go directly to their reviews of your selected spot.

MAPS
Never be lost again with Mapblast.com and Mapquest.com. Both provide everything from door-to-door driving instructions to local Yellow Pages. For city guides to go along with your maps, head to Mapquest; Mapblast has more-detailed live traffic reports and maps that are a bit easier to read. Looking for satellite and searchable atlas maps?Log on to plasma.nationalgeographic.com.

WEATHER
Worldclimate.com is the farmers' almanac of the Web; its historical rainfall and temperature data can help you plan your trip at the best time. When you're interested in up-to-date information for specific places, skip Weather.com (three-day forecasts) in favor of Accuweather.com, where you'll find 10-day forecasts for 55,000 cities worldwide.

TRAVEL AGENTS ONLINE
The Internet was supposed to be the undoing of travel agents, but when it comes to planning a trip from start to finish, it's clear that for many consumers an agent's expertise still has value. In a classic case of fighting fire with fire, agents are now using the Web to sell vacation packages and attract new customers. Our picks for the best travel-agent sites:

Vacation.com A nationwide network of more than 24,000 agents, it lists hundreds of vacations, searchable by region, price range, and type. When you find one you want, the site hooks you up with a travel agent near you.

Byebyenow.com The most visually appealing site, it has interactive videos and 360-degree virtual tours of featured destinations, properties, and cruises, so you can see what you'll get before you book.

Virtuoso.com Your link to 5,000-plus travel specialists who arrange everything from diving expeditions in Fiji to luxury cruises of the Falklands. Fill out a member profile and you can view what's on offer. For full-scale vacation planning, however, you'll need to communicate directly with one of the agents via e-mail or over the phone.

BEST BET
If you're looking to buy a full-scale vacation package, your best bet is still a travel agent. few travel web sites we found do an adequate job of providing information and recommendations.

EXCEPTIONS:
euro-vacations.com, which sells good customizable trips (only in europe), and travelocity.com, whose thorough descriptions of trips let you compare offerings—when you've found a trip you like, you book from the tour operator

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