A few of my favorite travel apps

 

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In no particular order and for no particular reason, I thought I’d share some of my favorite travel mobile apps. Having an iPhone 4S, I rely on some of these apps when planning my vacations, after I reach my destination or merely dreaming about my next travel adventure.

1. Glympse

Several months ago, a friend sent me an email with an unknown link. We were awaiting her arrival to our home for a dinner gathering. When I opened the link, up came a Glympse. It was much more than an itinerary. With the wonder of GPS, I could follow her car in real-time as it entered on the freeway, stopped at the traffic lights and turned onto our street. With Glympse, I could see her speed, estimated time of arrival as well as starting point and destination. It’s also possible to send messages with your trip. (For example: “We stopped to pick up something for dessert.”) “Glympses” can be shared with friends through email or social media.

2. FlightTrack

I know I’ll get some flack from die-hard TripIt users, but I’m not a frequent flyer or business traveler so much of the TripIt functionality is a bit too much for me. FlightTrack has many of the same tools as TripIt. I like FlightTrack Pro for its built-in SeatGuru airline-seating layout. The detailed terminal map and legend make it easy to find connection gates, restrooms, ATM, taxi stands, etc. You can see airport flight boards, earth-view flight routes, historical on-time data and so much more.

3. Hotel Tonight

Relatively new but continually expanding and updating its city database is Hotel Tonight, an app that helps travelers find last minute hotel rooms. Its virtual front desk opens up at noon local time. If you’re searching for local rooms or planning a last minute getaway, this app is for you. For example, I’ll be in London next month and I may want to find a last minute lodging deal  the night before I depart. Those $300 rooms in London’s preferred hotel districts often are available for about $200 or less on Hotel Tonight. (For London lodging options, that’s a great deal.)

4. Kayak

Kayak is my ‘go-to’ app for general travel pricing guidelines — for hotels, airfares, car rentals, etc. When one of my friends or clients asks, “What’s a flight to Hawaii cost these days?” I can usually provide a fairly accurate answer based on my Kayak search. Not all airlines are available through Kayak, though, so I just use as more of a jumping off point, and then I start my search for deeper discounts. Kayak also has discount alert and flight tracker tools.

5. Hawaii Beaches

Okay, I know Hawaii Beaches isn’t really a ‘travel app’ but more of a compilation of beach videos. Actually, I think most of these videos probably have ‘dubbed-in’ wave sounds. But hey, when you can’t get away to the beach, you can make the beach come to you — at least through your mobile device. Click on one of the islands to view a teaser clip of various beaches around one of the Hawaiian islands. Grab an icy Mai Tai, relax in your Arizona backyard lawn chair and experience the beaches of Maui… or Kauai…  or…

6. Surf Report

I’m sure similar apps exist with more features and less bugs but the Oakley Surf Report gives me the info I need in one place. What? Who me? Of course, I’m no surfer. I’m just a beach bunny. Every chance I get, I run to the place where water meets sand. Surf Report provides me with wave size, water temperature, and weather conditions for thousands of beaches around the world. I’m usually on the look-out for warm waters with some ‘mahina’ (low and flat) waves for snorkeling, kayaking and — who knows — possibly trying my skills at stand-up paddleboarding. And if I DO get in the mood to surf, I always can watch the videos — right in the shade of my palapa.

What are some of your favorite travel apps? I’m always looking for new ones…

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Exploring a library website’s travel resources

iStockphoto of Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico

Planning a trip? Gathering information for travel – either business or pleasure — can be overwhelming and exhausting. Before you leave on your next trip, plan a stop at your public library’s reference website.

Online library databases are tremendous resources for travel information. It’s free — all you need is a library card and pin number to log on to a world of information. Find out what you need to know about your destination before you depart: Learn about a country’s currency, languages, customs, food and lodging accommodations and current events by using your library’s geographical or news databases.

I discovered that an immense amount of travel resources are available through Chandler Public Library’s website at a recent library volunteer appreciation event. One of the library staff members gave an informative and entertaining presentation about the library’s online systems and travel resources. She demonstrated several travel research tools and I’ve highlighted them here:

Global Road Warrior provides users with basics about a particular country. A “country snapshot” will allow you to take a quick glimpse of a particular country’s geography, climate, languages, religions, history and current political and economic conditions. Using tools on the home page, one can search by keywords. For example, a search using the words, “travel warnings” will produce 121 different countries where advisories are in effect. Use discretion, however, some of this information appears to be dated. You may need to crosscheck this data with another website such as the State Department travel advisory page.

With Masterfile Premier, you may need to experiment with a search. It’s a little trickier, but a basic knowledge of Boolean methods should allow you searching success. There are several periodical databases worth a deep search. Help tools are there to guide you. For example, I typed in, “Mexico volcanoes” and found an April 2012 New York Times article about Popocatepetl, an active volcano in central Mexico. After I found what I needed, I had several options: save, print, email or listen. That’s right, I could listen to the article being read aloud. Granted, It sounded like a choppy Siri reading on an iPhone, but at least I could hear how to pronounce Popocatepetl. (By the way, it’s poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til)

But you may not need pronunciation tools if you sign up to learn a foreign language with links to Mango or Rocket Language learning tools on the Library’s travel resource page. With these resources, you can be ready to speak the language before your upcoming travels abroad.

A click on Gale Travel Research collection button will bring you to a database of DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. Refine your search by keywords. I typed in Popocatepetl and up popped a couple of article listings. I clicked on an article called, “Around Mexico City” from the DK Mexico Travel Guide, then I simply word-searched on the page in text format to find a reference about the volcano. That provided the page number, so I just went back to the pdf format of the article and entered the exact page number. That forwarded me right to that page from the DK guidebook! I could print out a pdf of the page or return to the text version and save the article to my eReader or email it to myself. Now I will have the information stored about Popocatepetl on my device for my next visit to Mexico City. It’s good to have a backup in case I’m away from an Internet connection.

Chandler Public Library’s travel resource page also makes available shortcuts to sites about passport services, currency converters, distance calculators, worldwide weather, as well as international ATM locations for Visa and MasterCard. You also can find links to all the popular guidebook and travel magazine sites: Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves’ Europe and Insiders’ Guides. Everything you need to plan a statewide trip is here: Arizona tourism information links: ArizonaGuide.com, azstateparks.com, and transportation (airlines, highways, train travel) links.

Many public libraries provide access to this information; I’m just really pleased that Chandler Public Library has made it so concise and easy to use.

Readers: How do you research your international travels? Anyone still using an agent for anything other than cruising?

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