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Tripping up

Looking out over that summer lawn, and the mid-year chores list, tends to make people think of one thing: vacation. To get away properly, here are some online destinations to check out first.

Remember the good old days, when vacation planning meant schlepping down to the travel agency to pick up brochures, or scouring the library for travel guides? Well, we’re in better days now, thanks to software developers who realize that when it comes to plotting a sojourn, nothing beats clicking and pointing.

Even if you’re the beatnik type who likes to wander at will, at some point, you’re going to have to reset that body clock and figure out which time zone you’ve hit. Time Palette 5.4 displays the local time for any city worldwide and includes real-time, photorealistic maps of the world that have geographic, astronomical and weather data. It also calculates frequent flier mileage, sets travel alarms, and plans conference calls. This update improves the night-rendering quality of the maps, and includes support for new date formats in the weather reports. Available from the company’s site, the program works on OS 8.6 and higher, and is priced at $29.95 for a single license.

Perhaps you’ve heard glowing reports about famous locales like the Taj Mahal or St. Paul’s Cathedral, but you’re still not convinced. The Armchair Traveler is here to help. The company provides virtual tours on CD-ROM of celebrated locales, and will soon include London, Berlin, and the Valley of the Kings in its collection. It’s compatible with OS 9 and higher, and you can contact the company for a list of available titles.

Sure, you could follow in the footsteps of travel writers or your more worldly friends, but it might be more fun to trace the paths of the famous. Even better, you can plan it for free. Twistory, a freeware application from independent developer John de Boer, displays the life and travels of historical figures, and pinpoints the location of historical events. Over 2,900 people, events, and places are included. Works on OS X, and can be downloaded from the VersionTracker site.

Before embarking on a world tour, why not brush up on a few foreign languages? Fairfield Language Technologies can help a traveler learn handy new phrases through its Rosetta Stone series. After all, anyone can ask where the bathroom is, but it’s only the dedicated wanderers who care to learn enough of the language to discuss the nuances of a country’s sanitation system. Okay, even if you don’t want to be this dedicated, think of it as a way to talk to the police if you have to. The series includes a multitude of languages, including Spanish, German, Hindi, Japanese, Dutch, Korean, and even Swahili. They run on OS X or higher, and are priced from $19.99 up to $390, depending on how much you want to parlez.

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