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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

July 18, 2006:

Schmap IT

IT's always keeping an eye out for new guidebooks, so when Schmap sent us the beta (trial) version of their new product, we were excited and, equally, impressed. A digital collection of interactive guidebooks, Schmap mixes maps with content, virtually allowing users to read about places while simultaneously seeing their locations on a map. Because you download the Schmap Player as a desktop application, you can use the guidebooks without an Internet connection, i.e., putz around the sprawling metropolis of Houston while at cruising altitude. For each destination (by November, the company promises to have a total of 95 international and 82 domestic cities), Schmap includes a thorough introduction, history, and recommended attractions—plotted on the map, of course—like galleries, churches, restaurants, hotels, and parks. The content is somewhat dry and not Schmap's own: they pluck info and reviews from Wcities, maps from Tele Atlas, and photos from Flickr. But, by aggregating community content, Schmap becomes a very useful piece of freeware. For now, the software works only on PCs or Macs equipped with Boot Camp. Come November, Apple-users (like yours truly) will be able to join in the fun.


IT's Reader Roundup


As the most well traveled of any group of travel magazine subscribers, our readers have a fair amount of mileage under their collective belt. So it's only natural that they'd have fabulous and helpful recommendations to share with both us and you, their fellow travelers. This week, IT presents our first roundup of tips sent in by readers. Enjoy!

Subscriber Jill Colpak, of Concord, Massachusetts, tipped IT off on tasty Italian tours: "Bluone runs wonderful food and wine tours in Italy. They have scheduled trips, but they specialize in custom tours. The couple who own and run Bluone are caring and well-informed Bologna residents with long experience in travel and food. I have traveled with them twice, once to Emilia Romagna and once to Le Marche, and both were fantastic experiences of traveling with a small group that included cooking in a home kitchen, tasting wines at the vineyard, seeing how parmesan cheese is made, and learning how prosciutto is cured."

Barbara Nicholson from Atlanta, Georgia, was inspired by National Geographic Traveler's iPod story to drop us a quick line: "Check LibriVox for free books to download. They also want people to read more books for the site." IT was impressed with the site's selection of novels, poetry, and short stories from the public domain.

Gerald Manning of Port St. Lucie, Florida, alerted us to a change in the frequent flyer weather: "British Airways is no longer crediting frequent flyer miles from their partner American Airlines for travel to and from the U.S. On a recent trip from Miami to Amsterdam I was credited the miles to and from London but not the portions to and from the U. S. I called and was told that the fine print somewhere took this away."

And Dedee Bowers wrote us from Dedham, Massachusetts, with lessons learned from her family's recent trip to Spain: "None of us took much cash, as we anticipated using ATMs to withdraw money. Unfortunately, Spanish banks and ATMs can only recognize a PIN with a maximum of four digits. Not one of the six of us had a PIN with fewer than five digits. It got to be a real problem as none of the major tourist sites we visited (including the Alhambra) accept any credit cards.

"I had read in several places that you should plan on getting tickets to the Alhambra ahead of time, as they limit the number sold. I went online and found the website easily. However, one person can only order five tickets (we had a party of six). That was easy enough to solve as I could put three on my card and three on my husband's. I filled out all the required information and kept getting an error message that there was something wrong with my credit card. I tried four cards and repeated trying them for a couple of days before giving up. The good news is that 3,000 tickets go on sale every morning, for those who arrive early enough. Our son got in line at 8 a.m. and was able to get 10:30 entrance tickets. We loved our stay in Andalusia and hope this information will help makes others' stays enjoyable and easy."

Inspired? Send IT your tips and we'll publish them in the next round-up


E-mail your feedback and tips to InsideTraveler@ngs.org.

Bookmark IT!
www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/extras/blog/blog.html

Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, handles the D.C. heat well. She refuses to go outside and keeps her thermostat at 71. Researcher Jessie Johnston sniffs out local pools on the Internet and spends the oppressive summer days doing cannonballs off the high dive boards.



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