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Travel sites for nerds: the tops
March 28, 2012 | By:
Call them enthusiasts, fans or even nerds: they’re the single-minded buffs bringing the microscope of obsession to the travel table. By Oliver Bennett  
Around the world in 80 days

Globe trotting geeks wouldn't need 80 days to get round the world

The Man in Seat 61

This heroic site was started on a shoestring by train buff Mark Smith, grew like Topsy, and is now the go-to site for anyone wanting to know, say, how to get by train from Bristol to Vladivostok. Smith worked on the railways prior to running his world-famous site full-time. An internet legend and that rare thing: useful. Visit The Man in Seat 61.

Airline Meals

This site has real internet heritage, having been launched in 2001 by a web designer from Rotterdam in Holland. Again – perhaps less accountably than Seat 61 – it grew. Now it carries ads, and even news about new catering contracts. There is something oddly fascinating about the pictures of airline meals and user-generated captions, which have a prosaic quality, noting the flight time, route, and Zen-nerd observations such as: “The food tastes fine but presentation is plain.” Visit Airline Meals.

Bathroom Diaries

This US site is run by Mary Ann Racin (she means bogs, not baths) who goes to the world’s toilets so you don’t have to. But of course, you do have to, so it is quite useful, provided you’re able to log on when you’re bursting. It logs more than 12,000 ‘restrooms’ across the world, with little pinned maps, star ratings and all, and travel essays with horror stories. A certain celebrity has been rightfully accorded to Racin, who has been called “the Rupert Murdoch of toilet reviews”. Visit The Bathroom Diaries.

Seat Guru

The ultimate site for airline seating is… just that. With detailed seat map graphics and “in-depth comments about seats”, the airline seat nerd can check such things as the seat pitch (the distance between his seat and the back of the one ahead), legroom and cleanliness, and purchase flights as a result. That it has resonance beyond fact-land is evidenced by the fact that it is partnered with Web 2.0 giant TripAdvisor. Visit Seat Guru.

Prominent Peaks

This is an exhaustive – not to say completist – view of the UK’s hills and mountains, set up by Jim Bloomer in order to promote hillwalking but also, one feels, to scratch an itch. Bloomer has an exacting definition of what constitutes ’prominence’: citing the Munroes of Scotland (climbs of over 3,000 ft), he says that in ‘bagging’ them, one “misses some of the most interesting hills”. The site has a Prominent Peaks database, a downloadable Excel worksheet and all sorts of other on-the-spectrum specials. Visit UK Prominent Peaks.

Further reading: Adventure travel: the best 50+ websites

Travel trends: the holiday hotspots for 2012, by boutique hotel experts Mr and Mrs Smith