Web sites help you manage frequent-flier miles
Confused about the smartest way to earn and use airline miles? Real Simple magazine recently published a great article with helpful tips.
It suggests that you look into alliances with airlines you fly frequently, and gives a Web site that can help you find alliances: www.airlinetechnology.net/airlines/alliances.
Another tip is to consolidate your flights with one airline or within one alliance of airlines. In each alliance, you only need an account with one airline. If you have small numbers of miles in several loyalty programs you can exchange miles by going to a conversion Web site, www.points.com. It is important not to let your frequent-flier account lapse, since many programs require you to fly every 18 months or so to remain active.
Several sites can help you get maps and directions, but they all have their own peculiarities and strengths.
If you want directions from A to C, but want to stop at location B along the way, go to MapsOnUs, www.mapsonus.com. It is easy to put in your beginning and ending locations, and also simple to add a stop or two along the way. I found it worked better for intermediate stops than any other map site, but it has the problem many others do: Its database often includes private roads that the public cannot access. When I requested directions from home to a nearby town with a stop at another town, it directed me to take a quarry road that is on private property and has a locked gate. Check its directions on a printed map.
For extra sources of help in addition to directions, go to www.Mapblast.com, which has now been taken over by MSN Maps. You have the option of typing in the addresses or you can paste them in more easily on this site than any other. This site also has an unusual map option called LineDrive. Picture a map with no other streets except those you will travel. It's easy for the eye to read. This site also has extra sources of help under a Quick Links section. It includes Traffic Tips, City Guides, Yellow Pages, White Pages and Weather.
Lonely Planet's "Mediterranean Europe Travel Guide" Eighth Edition, was put together by 16 of LP's guidebook authors, each a specialist in a country or area. It is priced at $28.99. This multi-country guide to southern Europe includes France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Morocco. It helps you plan your route, whether driving, flying or taking the trains, and includes suggested itineraries in case you need ideas. It also offers 120 maps to orient you.
The book also includes where to eat, from seafood along the Amalfi coast to tapas in Madrid, where to sample night life, including tango or flamenco bars, and where to find dramas, operas and festivals. The language chapter does a good job of giving you the basics in all the necessary languages so you can break the ice and meet locals.