Monday, 19 May 2008 - watch the runway from the web

Where to start writing a review of Initially, I imagined this site's prime target user would be plane spotters, scanning the site rather than loitering on the viewing deck watching the comings and goings of planes all day long.

The traditional plane spotter would be impressed, I'm sure. The Flight Status search option alone aroused levels of excitement in me (non-spotter) not seen since I was introduced to Netvibes (see post). With the Flight Status search you can view flights by airline name and flight code; route or destination or arrival airport.

Flight Status search is also perfect for anxious mums waiting for teenage travellers to touch down on the other side of the globe, or be picked up by Dad at the Arrivals gate, tanned, skint and having found themselves. And super savvy loved ones - have strayed from their laptop - can set up a Flight Alert text or email, letting send reassurance the second Daniel's plane - plus tail lights - have landed in Spain.

So out of interest, I searched the status of all Departures from London Heathrow between 18.00 - 21.00 today: five pages of scrolling later, I'd viewed airport gateway codes (with link to airport details), flight codes (in multiple if a code-sharing flight),carrier names and equipment (model of plane), terminals, scheduled against actual departure times (in real-time) and status (landed, en route, on time or running late)for flights departing to destinations worldwide - everywhere from Amsterdam to Zurich. Yes, a cyber plane-spotter was born!

There's more. The Flight Tracker application - using Googlemaps - lets you see the latest position of each flight along its course: which city, town, village or ocean the plane is flying over in real time. As the map refreshes, Positional Information shares details of the flight's exact Latitude; Longitude; Speed; Altitude; Bearing; miles (KM) from destination and from origin. Click here to see a random flight in action

Flights Status and Tracker are just two options in just one drop down menu (Flights)

There's even more. Check the following tabs for these travel resources...

tab includes Flight Availability search engine (powered by Kayak), Frequent Flyer promotions drop downs
AIRLINES tab including Airline Scorecard and Airlines of the World drop downs
AIRPORTS tab including Airport Information, Delays by Airport, Airport Chatter, Security Wait Times (currently just US airports) and Airport Parking drop downs
COMMUNITY tab including Forums and Travel Directory drop downs

Visit , explore and be amazed by the depth of information available.

About (from the site)
Conducive Technology Corp. is a leading provider of worldwide flight performance information to the global travel and transportation industries. Our FlightStats platform delivers real-time and historical flight information that lowers travel-related costs and improves the travel experience. With unique products that can deliver value at each stage of a travel transaction, to both business and consumer audiences, FlightStats is poised to benefit as travel management evolves. Read more!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Indiana Jones inspires National Geographic Travel - Indy essay & photo contest

rope bridge ©

Guys of a certain age grew up - swinging from trees and dreaming of cursed artifacts - wanting to be him, while girlie girls wanted to be saved from the teeth of a salivating cannibal by him. The tomboys were off rope swinging too and wondered if they, in travelling escapades to come, would munch eyeball soup if an indigious people in a land far away expected it.

This summer, Indy's back and to get you in the mood comes a contest from National Geographic Travel blog.

Grab a dagger, jeep or flaming torch, evoke the spirit of Petra whilst mentally crossing a gorge pursued by arrows, or perhaps dive through the vaults of a Venetian chapel ... then, when things calm down just a little, start writing.

National Geographic's blog Intelligent Travel is awarding winners with Indiana Jones DVD box sets. Admit it. When real life travelling adventure is off the agenda, Indy on the sofa is the nest best thing.

Writers: Get creative, in 300 words or less, about your proudest Indiana Jones travelling moment. Think of a time when the adrenaline really kicked in ... the croc nearly took your arm off...or you fell out of the whitewater raft and no one noticed you'd gone ... or you were forced to drink the blood of 16 snakes to save yourself from much worse.

: In the spirit of their Global Eye series, Intelligent Travel wants the back story to your most adventurous travel images. Riding your horse backwards and bare back across Mongolia at sunset, at speed of course, to capture the moment you truly appreciated the word 'vast.' Send your photo along with the memories behind it.

Send entries to with "Contest" in the subject line. They'll feature the winners next week.

Can't wait for the film's release! Read more!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Interview with Robin Barton - author of 101 Weekends in Europe

Early this year I published a post (click here) singing the praises of New Holland's city break anthology 101 Weekends in Europe. Now the book's author, Robin Barton, shares his thoughts with us on travel writing, short breaks and Brussels.

Robin's biography:
Born in Hampshire, raised in New Zealand, living in London.
Age 32 (just)
Over the years (and to varying degrees) I've written for the Observer, the Independent on Sunday, the Guardian, the Independent, the Evening Standard, the Financial Times, Monocle, Intersection, Wanderlust. Plus various travel books. I've been writing pretty much since I left university in 1996.

Robin, how long have you been writing about travel? And do you write on any other subjects?

Almost ten years. I began with work experience at Conde Nast Traveller magazine then got my first job editing the children’s version of the Escape travel section for the Observer. But I’ve tried to avoid specialising in travel: I write on sport, food, green issues and current affairs. The key for me is that there has to be an interesting story somewhere along the line.

It will never make you a millionaire, but travel writing’s a dream job, right?

I’m not sure…. Imagine never having a holiday again: that’s the price of being a travel writer. Also, it can be lonely, tiring and uncertain. But, yes, it can be difficult convincing people that it’s hard work.

How does a typical week shape up for a travel writer?

That would depend on the writer. Personally, I have slow-burning projects, such as books, then magazine and newspaper articles I would like to sell, then simply maintaining contacts. Only a fraction of a week or year is spent writing. You spend as much time selling yourself and your skills as writing.

What‘s next for you on the writing front? Any commissions and trips planned?

I have a few book projects I would like to get off the ground – not all travel-related. I have a guidebook scheduled for May. There are still magazines and newspapers I would love to write for.

What do you think of blogs? Waste of time or ‘freedom-to-publish-is-mine’?

Scary and exciting. If I wasn’t a travel writer I’d love them – the possibility of (supposedly) unbiased, unfettered information is a good thing. As a travel writer it concerns me that there is so much content out there available free of charge… But as a photographer friend of mine said last week, there will always be a market for good quality content, whether that is words or pictures.

Roughly, how long does a book such as 101 Weekends take to research and write?

Depends on the writer. But I do know that being able to write a 1200-word newspaper feature in a couple of hours doesn’t mean that you can do 8,000 words a day. The key is knowing what you want to communicate and where you want to go with the piece otherwise you’ll sit staring at the screen for hours.

If you could spend next weekend in any one of the 101 Weekend destinations, which would it be?

Brussels, because my sister lives there and I haven’t seen her for months. And I love chocolate, beer and mussels – not together, obviously.

Is there any one place in the world that sticks out as your all time favourite?

Impossible to say, but, personally, Vancouver is a tough city to beat for quality of life. The one thing I have learned in ten years of travel is that it’s not where you are but who you are with that matters.

What are your top tips or predictions for the next big thing in short-break travel?

In the current economic climate, anywhere that isn’t in the eurozone.

When is 101 Weekends in Europe published? Why should Sandwagon readers buy the book?

It’s published in September 2008. I hope that readers find it inspiring, useful and entertaining. I tried to keep the writing informative but lively. Whether you’re into food, culture, history, adventure sports or shopping, there’ll be something of interest in the book.

The book:
101 Weekends in Europe published by New Holland (Sep 08)
Paperback: 160 pages ISBN: 978-1847730817 Read more!