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On the Net: Web Sites to Travel By

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

By JAKE COYLE, AP Entertainment Writer

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Now that Memorial Day has passed and summer has unofficially begun, it's worth looking at how helpful the Internet can be in planning your summer vacation.

First, if you're going somewhere exotic (Thailand, Kenya, Pittsburgh) you may want to check http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm. Presented by the Department of Health and Human Services, the site features health and safety tips for nearly every destination. (If you are indeed headed to Pittsburgh, rest assured, the ketchup is to be trusted.)

Online travel agencies like Expedia.com and Orbitz.com are well known, but a useful site to finding the cheapest route is http://www.farereport.com. It provides airfare averages on over 6,000 routes with data from the Department of Transportation.

If you're concerned about delays or cancellations, the Department of Transportation's own Web site (http://www.bts.gov) gives detailed statistics on different carriers. It also links to air travel consumer reports at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/reports/.

FlightAware.com is a fascinating site that offers live flight tracking. Plug in any flight number and watch its progress across a map. You can also simply enter an airport (like New York's JFK) to see its current activity. This is a good way to persuade yourself never to be an air traffic controller.

For tips from fellow travelers, there are multiple community forums like Flyertalk.com, FlightStats.com and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree at http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com. A number of travel-centric social networking sites have sprung up too, including WYAN.com ("Where are you now?"), Gusto.com and VirtualTourist.com. TripAdvisor.com also compiles over 5 million traveler reviews.

WikiTravel.org, a wiki dedicated to travel, won the 2007 Webby Award for best travel site. Like Wikipedia.com, it is susceptible to false information contributed from users.

This brings up the question: Would you trust your hard-earned vacation to information from an open-sourced site, or to a stranger's advice on a social networking site? It's best to find a few reliable sources and double-check any advice.

And if you can't afford a vacation, there is always Synthravels.com, which claims to be the first online virtual travel agency. It offers guided tours to digital, video-game realms.

But if you do manage a summer trip, http://www.cheeseontour.com hopes you will take a moment to photograph a good chunk of cheese along your way. After all, even brie deserves a break.

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VIDEO OF THE WEEK: "Clark and Michael"

Michael Cera costarred in the acclaimed but canceled TV series "Arrested Development" and stars in the upcoming comedy "Superbad." He's also shown interest in producing video for the Web, including a memorable spoof of Aleksey Vayner's infamous "Impossible is Nothing" video resume. The new site http://www.ClarkAndMichael.com is a mockumentary-style webisode series starring Cera and Clark Duke as two aspiring Hollywood screenwriters. Failure breeds mounting anxiety until Cera "pounces" on a delivery guy.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "The Heinrich Maneuver," Interpol

Morose rockers Interpol recently released the first single "The Heinrich Maneuver" from their forthcoming album "Our Love to Admire," due out July 10. The New York-based band has always been described in relation to Joy Division because Paul Banks' monotone singing is clearly reminiscent to Ian Curtis' voice. This has made Interpol consistently underrated, and their new single is yet another example of the band's extraordinarily tight sound. Remember: "The Heinrich Maneuver" sounds best when the speakers are firmly placed just above the navel and below the lungs.

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EDITOR'S NOTE _ What's your favorite Web site? E-mail AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle at fcoyle(at)ap.org

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