New ways to make friends while traveling

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="&lt;a href="></a><a href="">moriza/Flickr</a>

We hear a lot about companies trying to help you get vacation tips from friends. But a few companies are going a step further. They're trying to help you travel with acquaintances and like-minded strangers. Here are some new ones of note:

Globetrooper Helps you connect with like-minded people (usually complete strangers) to plan experiences abroad. About 1,400 people, mostly Aussies, have "liked" the year-old service on Facebook so far.

Vacation Relation This is for Spring Breakers only. Teaming up with StudentCity shortly, this site will let young people find out if their far-flung friends are going to be at a warm-weather destination at the same time as they are.

Travel with Spirit Want to do some faith-based traveling with a fellow Christian? Post an ad in the forums of this site, which also spotlights nifty package trips and suggests destination ideas.

Rent a Friend Yes, it's come to this. People in cities around the world offer their time on an hourly basis to accompany you to attractions, etc. A $20 an hour rate is common.


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5 great spots to ride the Polar Express and see Santa

All aboard! Wear your PJs! No matter if you're staying home or hitting the road this holiday season, chances are you'll be pretty close to a festive rail ride with a special theme based on the popular book (and movie) The Polar Express. While you may not get anywhere near the actual North Pole, passengers can expect caroling, hot chocolate, and just maybe gifts for the kids handed out by you know who. Many regional rail lines host special Polar Express departures this time of year. While several Santa trains are already sold out for the season, here are five of our favorite lines that say they still have tickets available: Grand Canyon Railway: Tickets for kids ages 2 to 15 are $19, while adults pay $29, on trains that depart Williams, Ariz., at 6:30 p.m. bound for a rendezvous with Santa and his reindeer near the Canyon's South Rim. Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad: First class seats are sold out on nearly all dates, but coach tickets are available on many Polar Express departures, which leave from Portland several times a day before and after Christmas. Infants are free, while all coach passengers ages 2 and up ride for $25. Oregon's Mount Hood Railroad: The rides out of Hood River (one of the Coolest Small Towns in the U.S.A.) include 4:30 departures most days through December 24, along with periodic mid-day rides (some leaving at 11:30 a.m.) that should be perfect for younger ones -- so long as that's not nap time. Tickets start at $18 for kids 2 to 12 and $26 for adults. Texas State Railroad: There are four departures daily on most days up until right before Christmas, and then there are couple more chances to see Santa right after he's deposited toys under trees around the world -- but apparently before he heads off on a well-needed vacation. Tickets start at $19 for kids (3 to 11) and $36.50 for adults on this ride, which takes place roughly right in between Dallas and Houston. Utah's Heber Valley Railroad: Through December 24, the North Pole Express departs Monday through Saturday daily, with tickets generally running $21 for kids (ages 3 to 12) and $32 for adults, and with elves serving hot chocolate to all in souvenir ceramic mugs. Santa awaits at the "North Pole," which is actually somewhere south of Park City -- but hey, the mountain scenery should suffice as a snowy winter wonderland. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL America's Most Scenic Train Rides 15 Places Every Kid Should See The Fastest Trains on the Track: Speeding Tickets You'll Beg For Traveling with Thomas the Tank Engine


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