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12 websites that'll make you a smarter traveler

Story highlights

  • Intervac members get access to unlimited home swaps
  • Iceberg Alley in Canada can be navigated with a tracking map at Iceberg Finder
  • Meal Sharing connects world travelers and locals who want company for dinner
  • Jet Lag Rooster computes personalized plans for combating jet lag

Want a real home-cooked meal in a foreign country?

Got a burning desire to track icebergs in Canada?

Need to know how to build a proper sandcastle?

The best new travel sites offer these and other unique experiences.

Triptuner.com

TripTuner tries to find your ideal destination by matching travel to your tastes and preferences.

    A panel of scales lets you choose the degree of experience you want: relaxing or active, bikini or parka, adult or kid-friendly, beach or mountain, urban or remote, high-end or thrifty, and everything in between.

    High preference for "active" and "mountain" gets you to Mount Kilimanjaro, Torres del Paine in Chile or Innsbruck, Austria.

    Maxing out "relaxing" and "bikini" matches you with Mykonos, Greece, and the Seychelles.

    You can limit recommendations to a region closer to you, for your wallet's sake.

    The site's soundboard tuner is fun to play with, but goes no further than booking hotel rooms.

    Triptuner.com

    Mealsharing.com

    What better way to experience local cuisine than to eat with locals in their homes?

    Meal Sharing brokers invitations to home cooked meals around the world.

    It's not only easy on the wallet, it's a great way to meet fellow travelers and locals, rather than relying on restaurants or room service for every meal.

    Mealsharing.com

    Campinmygarden.com

    Love the idea of camping, but can't give up a clean toilet?

    Grassy stays, in towns.

    Travelers can set up tents in the backyards of houses around the world from $5 per person a night.

    The site's "glamping" options include swimming pools, barbecues, Wi-Fi and babysitting services.

    "Bamping" (basic camping) options provide little more than a corner of turf with bathroom facilities.

    Campinmygarden.com

    Anyfriendofours.com

    This home rental site takes "exclusive" seriously.

    Applicants (both hosts and renters) must be second homeowners and approved by a membership board.

    It helps to be recommended by an existing member.

    Members have access to well-maintained homes in reliable locations.

    Owners rest easy knowing their homes won't be trashed by rowdies.

    Members can rent apartments in Florida for $75 a night or private villas in Mykonos for $1,600 a night.

    Anyfriendofours.com

    Alltherooms.com

    The days of having Expedia, Kayak, Hotwire and Groupon opened on multiple tabs may be over.

    All The Rooms is a search engine that trawls hotel sites, as well as alternative-stay sites such as Hostelworld, Airbnb and housetrip, combining research on hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, houses and apartments onto one page.

    Alltherooms.com

    MORE: Best home-exchange websites

    Canaryhop.com

    U.S. comedian Andy Samberg found himself wondering what to do while on a trip in France and shortly after co-founded CanaryHop.

    What to do and where.

    With more than 800 activities offered by "canaries" (local guides) for "hoppers" (travelers), the site aims to keep travelers from twiddling their thumbs on vacation.

    Popular trips include a Harry Potter overnight tour and a terracotta warriors tour.

    Travelers can book quirky activities, like learning to build sandcastles, make bows and arrows or become gladiators.

    Canaryhop.com

    MORE: 20 funniest travel quotes you've never heard

    Icebergfinder.com

    The Titanic tragedy inspired the formation of the International Ice Patrol, an aerial surveillance of icebergs.

    Visitors to Canada's east coast can use Iceberg Finder's interactive map to track -- or avoid -- the glacial giants.

    Iceberg sightings are usually between April and June.

    Icebergfinder.com

    Intervac-homeexchange.com

    Accommodations can take up a large chunk of a travel budget, money better spent on shopping, eating, drinking or upgrading your souvenir purchases.

    MORE: 15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

    For an annual fee of €70 ($95), travelers get access to unlimited home exchanges.

    Swappers can choose stays by location, such as "in the city," "by the sea" or "in the mountains."

    Intervac-homeexchange.com

    Jetlagrooster.com

    Even the nicest hotel room can become stale when you're suffering jet lag.

    This website helps you sleep.

    Launched last year by Jay Olson of Canada's Simon Fraser University, Jet Lag Rooster helps travelers shift body clocks by adjusting their exposure to light.

    The site uses trip details and usual sleep patterns to calculate a battle plan against jet lag.

    Jetlagrooster.com

    MORE: Exercise, alcohol, Viagra -- the new "best cures" for jet lag

    Roomertravel.com

    Canceled travel plans waste money.

    Paying for the hotel room you can't use adds to the misery.

    Roomer helps you sell off un-used hotel reservations.

    You can set your own prices to earn back some of the room rate or cancellation fee.

    Deal seekers can often pick up unwanted rooms at a fraction of the listed price.

    Roomertravel.com

    MORE: 15 bizarre, unique hotels

    Seatguru.com

    For many of us, being cramped on a plane is as close as this world gets to Hell.

    A little extra leg room and space by a window can make a flight almost tolerable.

    SeatGuru points out preferred spots on all models of planes, as well as seats of misery, like those too close to the bathroom, those with limited leg room and recline, those often bumped by aisle walkers and even those that have an uneven alignment of TV and window.

    There are also seat tips for first- and business-class fliers.

    Seatguru.com

    MORE: World's best economy class is ...

    Wwoof.com

    Volunteers are given food and accommodation in exchange for helping out with day-to-day chores for four to six hours on a farm or vineyard.

    Plonk yourself down at these places.

    Some hosts have multiple volunteers you can connect with.

    This is a cheap idea for wine lovers who might pay thousands of dollars for a high-end vineyard stay.

    Depending on the WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) organization, membership fees vary.

    Wwoof.net