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Before You Go: A Travel Toolbox

MAPS: www.mapquest.com. Plug in the address or city for locations around the globe and this site will plot it on a map. It also offers driving directions for spots in the United States and a dozen Western European countries. Info can be downloaded to a PDA. Another site, www.freetrip.com, allows users to ask for routes that avoid tolls or favor scenic roads. For 43 European countries, www.viamichelin.com is a good choice for directions.

SCAMS: www.bbb.org. The Better Business Bureau's site can be searched by company name, phone number or Web address to find out whether the travel operator has a satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating. Check for membership in the American Society of Travel Agents (www.travelsense.org) and the U.S. Tour Operators Association (www.ustoa.com), two trade groups that monitor its members for good behavior.

_____Way to Go Guide_____
Travel Agents, With Reservations
Booking a Flight: A Seven-Step Plan
Hotels, by the Booking
Catching the Bus
Taking the Train
How to Renew or Apply for a Passport
Specialty Travel
Before You Go: A Traveler's Toolbox
Travel Web Sites

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS: The State Department's site, www.travel.state.gov/passport/index.html, explains how to obtain, replace or change a passport. User can download applications and forms. It also details how much passports cost and how long they take to get. For visitors traveling abroad, the site contains foreign entry requirements, such as whether a visa is required.

TIME AND DATE: www.timeanddate.com/worldclock. Site contains a chart of the current time in hundreds of cities worldwide.

WEATHER: www.weather.com. You can search for the current weather by Zip code or city. Contains forecasts for NFL game days, interstate driving routes and vacation destinations. Also covers historical averages and records for both U.S. and international cities. Also try www.accuweather.com, www.worldclimate.com and www.wunderground.com.

-- Carol Sottili

Traveler's Aid at washingtonpost.com

At www.washingtonpost .com/travel, you'll find the complete contents of each Sunday's Travel section, as well as several online-only features geared to Washington area travelers.

Each Wednesday, the site lists Internet-only, last-minute airfares for the upcoming weekend and beyond. There's also a daily report on the lowest fares from Washington to 20 domestic destinations. The mid-Atlantic section has hundreds of articles indexed by state; beach and ski guides; and the complete contents of "Escape Plans," The Post's mid-Atlantic guidebook. Also available online:

• An archive of five years of Post Travel stories, organized by country, state and topic (e.g., hiking).

Live discussions with Post Travel section writers and editors, a k a the Flight Crew (most Mondays at 2 p.m.), and other travel experts.

• Travel videos, photo galleries and multimedia from the region and the world.

• Online maps and driving directions.

• Foreign- currency converter.

Weather info for thousands of cities worldwide.

• Web links and phone numbers for airlines, tourism offices, cruise lines and more.

• Detailed information on the three Washington area airports.


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