Weekly travel rail, with a tip on budget travel, a look at a giant Jesus statue in Ohio and more.


Travel Tip

Online travel planning is growing rapidly, largely due to the fast -- and often exclusive -- access to discounts and deals that hotels, airlines, rental car companies and other tourism groups offer through their Web sites. Online travel planning expert Tom Parsons, founder of Bestfares.com, offers a few simple tips on how families can make the most of their travel budget this year.

- Airfare: To find the best possible airfare online, don't limit yourself to just one travel Web site. Compare fares on several sites, including the home pages of major carriers. Traveling during slower seasons and being flexible about your departure and return dates can help trim costs. Direct flights will likely continue to be more expensive during 2009, so consider flights with one or more stops, which are often cheaper than flying direct.

- Rental cars: The Internet is a great resource for comparison shopping for rental car rates. It can also be a tool to ease the rental process. Look for rental companies that offer services to help you avoid long wait times at rental counters, like the newly expanded Simply Wheelz program from Hertz.

- Hotels: Online resources are a great way to compare hotel deals and find out about availability. But once you find a good rate, go the extra step and call the hotel directly to find out if they can do better. Often, they can.

-- ARA

Roadside Attractions

What: Giant Jesus statue

Where: Monroe, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati

What’s there: A 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus outside the Solid Rock megachurch. The statue’s official name is “King of Kings,” but it’s also known as “Touchdown Jesus” (because of the raised arms) and “Giant Jesus.”

More info: www.solidrockchurch.org; www.monroeohio.org

Site to See

It’s never fun to miss a flight, but some people go way overboard in reacting to it. A recent hit on YouTube shows just how bad it can be: A woman screaming for several minutes and in the process throwing herself on the ground and refusing to get up. The incident happened at the Hong Kong airport. Check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbVw7entkxg.

Good to Know

If you were planning to travel to Tibet in February or March, you’d better call ahead and make sure you can still go – China is banning foreigners from some parts of Tibet because of the March 10 anniversary of the Tibetan uprising. China says foreigners will be allowed back in the off-limit areas at the end of March.

Nora Roberts back in business

Author Nora Roberts’ bed-and-breakfast in Boonsboro, Md., recently reopened after being closed last year after a fire destroyed the historic hotel. The remodeled retreat boasts literary-themed rooms (e.g. the Elizabeth and Darcy room, based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” and the Titania and Oberon room, based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and, perhaps most importantly, is connected to romance queen Roberts. For more information, go to www.InnBoonsboro.com.

GateHouse News Service