Interactive Traveler: New Search Sites
click on the wild side
Choosing your own adventure from the thousands of providers out there can be daunting. Now several new Web sites are making it easier. Amisto.com allows you to search for trips by location, activities, and interest (currently covering Latin America only, but worldwide by year's end). Gorp.com focuses on crunchy, outdoorsy trips, though be prepared to wade through long lists, since search results can't be indexed. Away.com ranks trips by how many of your specified criteria they meet. And Adventureseek.com distinguishes itself with a function that lets you refine your searches. None of these sites offers much advice, however, so you're still on your own when it comes to deciding. Fortunately, there's iExplore.com. Through partnerships with operators such as Backroads, Mountain Travel-Sobek, and Abercrombie & Kent, iExplore offers 5,000 trips in 152 countries, all searchable by duration, price, and degree of difficulty (physical, mental, and technical). The site also posts customer feedback--and even has in-house experts who give guidance over the phone.
--Dara Y. Herman
What Is It?IntelliMouse Optical, a roller ball-free mouse from Microsoft that works on just about any surface--from the back of an airline seat to your leg--by using digital optical technology. Compatible with PC's and newer Macs.
SETUP: Easy. Just plug the mouse into your computer's PS/2 or USB port and install the software. Try it before you travel, though: I needed to consult the instruction booklet to figure out how to work the five--yes, five--control buttons.
PACKABILITY: It's not tiny, so finding space in my overstuffed laptop bag was tough.
VISIBILITY: The digital camera that tracks the mouse's movement requires a bright red light to shoot out from its underside. Potential to irritate dozing neighbors: High.
VERICT: Extremely precise, really does work anywhere, and comfortable for long bouts of scrolling. Worth making room for.
COST: $54.95. Available at shop.microsoft.com.
it's a wap
Thanks to a new software standard called the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), many travel Web sites can now be viewed on your cell phone (if it has a browser) or wireless personal digital assistant. Here are three different ways to access them:
• By signing up with an online portal such as OracleMobile.com or MSN Mobile Service 2.0 (mobile.msn.com). These provide a free gateway to sites and let you create a profile for easier surfing. OracleMobile.com's partners include Travelocity.com and SmarTraveler.com, which gives traffic updates; MSN's service connects users to Expedia.com.
• By using your phone's mini-browser to dial directly into WAP-compatible sites, such as Wcities.com, which lists travel information for 99 cities, and Hilton.com.
• Through Motorola's new Mobile Internet Exchange (MIX; motorola.com/mix), currently available abroad and set to launch here soon. MIX's unique voice-command functions and interactive data transmission will link users to the Worldspan reservations system.
which search engines are the best for travel topics?
According to Internet ranking service Top9.com, when given general queries such as "airlines" or "hotels," MSN and Snap returned the most useful results. The least helpful: Excite and Netscape. See the full results at www.top9.com/sereport.