New look and new features on

If you’ve visited this site before you may recognize that things look quite a bit different around here recently. The new site design cleaned up the homepage and changed to a less-irritating color scheme, but there are also some new features that I’d like to make people aware of, as I think it makes the site even more valuable for RTW or other long-trip research.

One of the ideas behind all this data is to help people plan longer trips and help figure out a route, partly based on weather information, not to mention prices in general. Being able to maximize your time in the cheaper cities is key to long trips, and now figuring all of this out has gotten even easier.

Flight and hotel search

Yes, this new feature will look familiar to many, and importantly it’s something that will help me be able to keep this data current and keep adding new content and features, but this is also a very helpful tool. All smart travelers know that it’s foolish to check only one hotel or airfare booking site and just assume they are showing the best fares. Personally, I use as my main tool, but I’ve found better fares on priceline and even expedia countless times, so you want to check at least 2 or 3 before you buy.

The search box now on the top right of every page of this site allows you to enter your travel days and destination in only once, and after one click it will show you the logos of all the best providers to search for that city. Click on the kayak logo and that site will show results in a new window, and pick another couple of sites to compare to with only one click each. You’ll find the best prices with the least amount of work, and the same goes for hotels. If you are going to search for flights or hotels, you could help us out by using our tool to do it.

Backpacker Index now on every city page

Many visitors here know about the 2011 Backpacker Index, with the European Backpacker Index being the most popular. This compares cities all over the world using the same group of common backpacker expenses, so you can realistically compare how much you’d spend in, say, Beijing, to Venice.

As of now the raw Backpacker Index figure for each city is listed in the center column on its own page, and the currency conversion is done in real time, meaning that if the value has dropped or risen since the beginning of the year you’ll see the new value instantly. This should help make budgets when currencies fluctuate, as they always do. The European 3-star Traveler Index numbers are listed for European cities as well, which should help those of us who have grown out of the dorm-bed scene.

Nearby cities just a click away

In addition to the Backpacker Index number, just above you’ll find links to the city pages for all the nearby cities that travelers often visit just before or after this one. Not only does it help you compare the costs in one to the next, but it should also help you figure out a route by suggesting the next main city or two in each direction.

Currencies other than the US dollar will stay selected

One common complaint I’ve had is that the currency converter at the top right of every page automatically defaults back to US dollars every time you load a new page. While it’s true that the US is responsible for most of the visits to this site, there are plenty of Europeans and travelers from elsewhere that prefer to compare costs in their own currency. Now, you can do that easily.

When you check one city and change the currency, the site will stay in that currency for new cities for the length of your time on the site. It does this by dropping a cookie in your browser, but the cookie duration is just the length of the session, so it is harmless, though you’ll start at USDs again on your next visit. Still, this should make things easier on many people.

Popular cities are listed on every page

The dropdown menus at the top of every page can be difficult to use and maybe a bit confusing depending on your computer, so to make things a bit easier I’ve added the 30-or-so most popular cities to a new section on in the right column of every page. This means you won’t have to deal with lining your mouse up just the right way to reach the biggies, at least.

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