The airline missed all your connections, your luggage went to Botswana, the hotel has no reservation for you and your rental car is a relic from a demolition derby.
In such times the Internet is a dandy tool for connecting, via your laptop computer, to your travel agent.
But if you use that computer before you embark, parts of the Internet, such as the Usenet news groups, will connect you with unbiased advice about your future trip. A beach resort's Web site, for example, might tell you rates and amenities available, but it probably won't report which months the shoreline is infested by spawning jellyfish. Fellow tourists can do that if you post a question.
Some of the groups are rec.travel.air, rec.travel.asia, rec.travel.cruises, rec.travel .europe, rec.travel.australia+nz, rec.travel.usa-canada.
For example, rec.travel.air and rec.travel.cruises are chockablock with first-person reports, usually complaints, about specific travel providers. A few rec.travel.cruises contributors write detailed reviews of cruises and cruise ships.
This is where travelers learn about hidden charges, rude cabin attendants and which ships are overrun with screaming children who hog the whirlpools.
A few recent postings in other groups:
* From rec.travel.australia+nz -- Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, are better for tourism than isolated Perth, which is a good place to live, but the tourist spots around it involve too much traveling. Brisbane, say other contributors, is fine for visiting but hot and humid in summer.
"Adelaide is too small and too boring," advised another frank user. "Hobart is the same as Adelaide, plus it is freezing. Darwin is a great city, except for the fear of cyclones, plus the weather can get a little too humid throughout summer. You can't go swimming without keeping a lookout for crocodiles."
* From rec.scuba.locations -- The box jellyfish swarm off Cairns, Australia, from October to May, but divers can protect themselves with bodysuits. Jellies don't usually reach the reef, many miles out, but divers advise wearing gloves and wet suits against stinging coral and other nasties.
* From rec.outdoors.rv-travel -- Test-drive that pop-up camper at home to avoid problems out in the woods. Put it up and down a few times to become familiar with the workings and discover which parts are missing while the local dealer is still easy to reach.
"One thing that my wife and I have learned," a recreational-vehicle owner advised, "is always to pack the kids' toys and bikes so that they are the first things unloaded." That gets the little passengers off somewhere having fun, and out of range of the work and language of the campsite erectors.
Pub Date: 9/14/97