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Coming and Going: A Day's Outing, Bus Junction Web Sites

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

TECH TIME

New Web Sites: Worth a Click?

The online travel universe recently expanded with the addition of two Web sites. One generates destination ideas for Washington area folks seeking a regional getaway; the other compares discount bus fares in select North American cities. Both seem like bright ideas, so we took them out for a test surf.

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A Day's Outing (http://www.adaysouting.com): Started by two Virginia mothers, the free guide provides inspiration for a day or weekend trip in the Washington, Virginia and Maryland area (plus a sprinkling of national locales). The search is as easy as a Cosmo survey: Plug in your home address or Zip code, then select any of 11 categories: Parks & Gardens, Nature & Outdoor, Family & Children, Unique Sports & Hobbies, etc. Then, choose your mileage from home base (up to 120 miles) and pick your departure dates.

CoGo started with a softball: Farms, Food & Wine within 45 miles of the District next weekend. Results said: Temple Hall Farm Regional Park in Leesburg, Great Meadow Farm in Woodbine, Md., and Larriland Farm, also in Woodbine. For more information, we clicked on our interest and found a brief overview of the venue, plus address, phone number, Web link and Google map. On the right-hand side of the page is a hotel search tool that links to Orbitz. (One quirk: You will find different results on repeat searches, even with the same criteria. So be sure to jot down your findings, which can be pulled up via the "already know what you want to do" feature.)

For our second, more advanced search, we checked all of the boxes for options within 120 miles over a two-week range. The findings were a bit unexpected: Teen Expo of Maryland in Westminster, Md.; yoga in the William Paca Garden in Annapolis; a Baltimore lecture on the undoing of Jim Crow laws in South Florida. Not everything is as escapist and relaxing as we'd hoped.

We did find some ideas worth penciling in, such as Friday night social sailing in Baltimore and the Peep Show (squishy marshmallow treats, not those other kinds of chicks) in Westminster. However, A Day's Outing needs to dig deeper and think more creatively (and realistically) about viable getaways before we junk our guidebooks.

Bus Junction (http://www.busjunction.com): The site, which launched last week, gathers low-fare bus information from a dozen major companies (Peter Pan, Bolt, Vamoose, etc.) and posts the best times and prices for a select departure. Simply put, it's an aggregator for cheapo buses.

When we put in our departure and arrival cities (the District to New York) and date (next Friday), more than 60 results popped up. For a more refined search in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, we could have chosen a specific departure or arrival point, such as Dupont Circle, Chinatown or SoHo.

Sorting by price, we found a $17 one-way fare on Megabus; the highest fare was on DC2NY, $28. A green symbol indicated free WiFi; a yellow lightning bolt signified onboard power outlets. The findings also included departure and arrival addresses and links to the bus companies' Web sites for booking. Finally, one-stop bus shopping.

TRAVEL TICKER

Until now, $49 would buy you a train ticket to New York (at least for those lucky enough to snag one of Amtrak's Weekend Getaway fares; see http://www.amtrak.com). But starting June 28, $49 will also buy you a plane ticket to New York, providing of course that you can leave from Baltimore and don't mind flying into New York's LaGuardia Airport. Last week, Southwest Airlines announced service from the Washington area to one of the big three New York airports for the first time, a move that's sure to shake up fares throughout the Northeast corridor. Info: http://www.southwest.com. . . . Begone, booking fees: Orbitz (http://www.orbitz.com/nofees) and CheapTickets (http://www.cheaptickets.com/nofees) have eliminated booking fees on flights booked by May 31. . . . Sneak a peek inside more than 30 embassies with Passport DC, held April 30-May 9. Info: http://www.passportdc.org.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Virgin America has sale fares of $109 each way from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Round-trip fare is $239, with taxes. Other airlines are matching. Travel Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday through June 10 or Aug. 25-Oct. 14. Three-day advance purchase required. Book by April 20 at http://www.virginamerica.com, or pay $15 more by calling 877-359-8474.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs, Scott Vogel

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.


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