Check your bags downtown before you fly
Each city offers train service between its international airport and one of its major downtown train stations, and each city offers check-in at its train station.
The best part of Vienna's City Airport Train is its check-in service at the Wein Mitte train station downtown. On the last night of a recent visit to Vienna, I went to the train station, checked-in for my flight, confirmed my seat assignment, and dropped off my luggage. For the rest of the night, I was carefree.
My morning trip to the airport was a breeze. I didn't need to worry about hauling my bag around a subway system during the rush hour. Once I arrived at the airport, I saw people standing in a line to check-in, and the line looked like it would take about 30 minutes to snake through. I smiled to myself that I had stood in line for less than five minutes the night before.
Here are the details:
Vienna's city airport train charges about $20 each for round-trip tickets purchased online at the website CityAirportTrain.com. There's a catch, of course: The service only works for passengers flying on a narrow list of airlines. Among the airlines included: Austrian, United, and US Airways.
To learn which airlines in Hong Kong offer city check-in, click here.
For Kuala Lumpur info, click here.
For Moscow's service, click here. In winter 2004, Vienna became the first city to offer airport check-in at a train station, according to the Austrian agency that operates the service. I'm glad to see the service is spreading elsewhere.
An easier way to read Web articles
If you haven't heard of RSS feeds, you're in for a treat. "RSS feeds" is a dumb name for a fabulous technology. It's free and a cinch to use. Best of all, you can take advantage of this technology without needing to download any software. An RSS feed lets you read in simple lists all of the headlines of the latest stories from your favorite websites and blogs. Most of the top news websites, such as Washingtonpost.com, offer these feeds, too. So do travel sites and online travel agencies, such as Priceline.com. Once you start using RSS feeds, you'll be hooked. By the way, "RSS" stands for: "I'm Ready for Some Stories!" (Okay, that's a fib. The acronym actually stands for "really simple syndication," and you can learn the nitty-gritty details by clicking here. But why bother?) Let's get hopping. It'll take you about 10 minutes to simplify your Web surfing... Create a free RSS feed at Yahoo (my.yahoo.com) or Bloglines.com. (To find other RSS feeds, click here.) Then dial up your favorite travel site--say, BudgetTravelOnline--and click the link that says "RSS." This link is almost always in an orange box. Sometimes, it says "XML" instead. ("XML" stands for "extensible mark-up language." No, we don't know what that means either. Who cares? It works!) Once you've clicked through, you'll find a list of story topics to choose from. For example, at BudgetTravelOnline, you'll find our list of RSS feeds by clicking here. In the case of BudgetTravelOnline, you can opt to "subscribe" to stories on specific regions of the world, blog entries, or Real Deals. The stories you want--and only those stories--will come at least once a day, as our website is updated. The headlines will be stored so you can view them at your convenience. Did our explanation leave you confused? Sorry! Try reading this explanation instead: "Finding Travel Deals Just Got Even Easier." Still confused? Post a comment and we'll help you out.
Today's travel intel
--Dickens World is set to open next month in Kent, England. This theme park features rides based on 13 of the novels written by you-know-who. The Guardian in London got a sneak peek, and has this gem of a quote from a park official: "Visitors are not going to come here to be depressed so our role is to entertain them. We're not going to have starving babies crawling around on the cobblestones." The park will instead feature a log flume ride that illustrates the happier side of Great Expectations. --See videos on Google maps when you use Venividiwiki (whose motto is "I went, I saw, I share"). This new website lets you pick on a spot on a Google Map and see videos of attractions located there. The selection of videos is strongest for Western European destinations, not surprisingly. You can search by activities, events, places, and other criteria. Try it here. And for Budget Travel's choices of the best tricks to do with Google maps, click here. --British Airways has been named the world's best airline in an annual, comprehensive survey of frequent fliers. Continental won for being the best carrier based in North America. --Treehouse inns allow you to wake up with birds on your windowsill. These cottages, you see, are perched among the branches of tall trees. HotelChatter is highlighting the latest such lodging, Free Spirit Spheres, in this post. You'll find Budget Travel's online video of similar inns with birds-eye views by clicking here. One example is the Out'n'About Treesort, in southwest Oregon, which is less Spartan than the Free Spirit in that it comes with electricity and heat, and usually a refrigerator and sink to boot.
The Lost Girls monkey around in Peru
The Lost Girls are accustomed to rubbing elbows with wild things in the concrete jungle they call home (a.k.a. New York City), but they weren't prepared to have monkeys on their back when they visited Monkey Island Preserve in the Peruvian rain forest. The hairy chimps dropped onto their heads from branches above until the women appeased them by forking over bananas as a peace offering. Despite the animals' mischievous ways, they contemplated adopting this little one but couldn't fit him in their backpacks. (Kidding!)--The Lost Girls See scenic photos taken by the Lost Girls by clicking on this webpage and clicking on the "Launch slide show" link. Read more about the Lost Girls' adventures by checking out their blog.
Renting a car in Las Vegas? Take your time
McCarran International Airport in "Sin City" has opened a new rental-car facility that puts all of its companies in one place. On the plus side, the airport is now running a single fleet of buses--which all look alike--to shuttle passengers who are renting from any of the companies. This bus fleet replaces the various vans run by the airport's 10 competing car-rental companies. On the down side, the new car-rental facility is about three miles from the airport. That puts most of the lots at a further distance. So, next time you fly into Las Vegas, plan to spend a few extra minutes picking up your rental car. And before you depart, consult this website.