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May 06 2012

21:30

O2 To Offer Free Wi-Fi In All Costa Coffee Shops Across The UK [Updates]

The UK is gearing up for the 2012 summer Olympics, and as an added bonus, everyone in the UK will enjoy free Wi-Fi in all Costa coffee shops in the country. This comes from a deal between O2 and Costa, which will provide 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi connection on any device, no matter what the customer’s mobile or broadband provider is.

The deployment of the free Wi-Fi service will start in London this month, and will spread across the country throughout 2012. In order to enjoy the free Wi-Fi, all you have to do is enter one of the Costa coffee chain shops or find another O2 Wi-Fi hotspot, sign-up to the service once and use the connection. According to O2, there are many O2 hotspots in numerous public locations, and these too will offer free Wi-Fi across the country.

costa-wifi

But it’s not over with just 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi time. If you’re a Costa Coffee Club member, you can enjoy unlimited free Wi-Fi with no restrictions. While drinking a cup of coffee usually doesn’t take more than 30 minutes, unlimited minutes can sure come in handy. Joining the Costa Coffee Club is also free, so if you’re planning on spending long hours working or resting in UK coffee shops, this could be an excellent deal.

Source: O2 News Centre


May 02 2012

16:31

8 Best Websites To Find Summer Retreats You’ll Never Forget

summer retreats“Retreat” sounds more in tune with Presidents and the more spiritually inclined. But thanks to the scorcher that is the summer, we all hightail it and quite literally head for the hills when it comes around. Thanks to easy rentals, trip planning websites, and our own wandering spirits, going on a summer retreat is an annual ritual for most. You can use it for some quiet time and to rejuvenate your family or your organization.

We might not have our own Camp David, but the world’s the oyster. You can literally take your pick of summer retreats as global travel goes on the upswing. Finding the best places to search for summer retreats is also easy as there are a host of travel websites vying for your bucks. But here is a mix-n-match of eight websites you can consider for finding unforgettable summer retreats around the world.

Lonely Planet

summer retreats

Lonely Planet is more than a backpacker’s favorite guide. It is one of the more comprehensive and definitive travel guides on the web. The BBC owned company has travel blogs, Facebook group, rating and recommendations, a trip planner tool, and the very informative Thorn Tree forum for travellers. Why would you go anywhere else? Read their ‘Best in Travel’ series for the first idea of where to go for a summer retreat. Each place covered on Lonely Planet has a ‘When to go & Weather’ information. Alternatively, you can do a search with “summer retreat” and browse through the results. Go to the left and filter it by Type. You will get a host of suggestions from the website and the forum.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

retreats for summer

One of the lesser known sites, but it could very easily become your favorite destination for planning getaways during the summer. The site’s inspiration is on great escapes with your other half. The site features boutique hotels from Amsterdam to Zambia, all with anonymous reviews. You can use the Hotel Search or browse through the Collections (screen above). The mix is quite tempting, from spas to wildlife lodges.

National Geographic

retreats for summer

If you have ever read the magazine, travelling to spots that the iconic magazine covers should be on your wish list. Be a National Geographic traveller and go to some of the most exotic locales around the world. Each year, National Geographic and its Traveller section covers top 10 destinations for the year. You can read last year’s 10 Best Trips of Summer 2011, Top 10 Classic Summer Lodges, Best Spring Trips 2012, and more.

New York Times Travel

best summer retreats

Very few not in the know would land on New York Times website to search for tips on summer trips and retreats. I would because NYT has bytes on 1000+ destinations plus tips and tricks for the practical traveller. Use the search engine on the Travel page and check out the results. Some articles are bound to be dated, but the good thing about travel information is that unless it’s about deals and rentals, it’s not a big deal. We are after great summer locations for a retreat and that’s what we can get with a bit of search. So, is it going to be the Hamptons this year or a New Zealand farm?

The Guardian

best summer retreats

Another newspaper and another good source of quality articles on travel. The Guardian is one of U.K’s prominent newspapers and has a well-reported travel section. Do a search with keywords like ‘summer’ or ‘summer retreat’ and you are bound to hit some Alpine destinations or a Buddhist monastery. For example this article from the Guardian archives should still hold good for cool retreat ideas.

Unusual Hotels Of The World

best summer retreats

Fancy a summer getaway in a wigwam or a treehouse? This site has it all. You book an experience via this site whether it is a wild one or a romantic one for the missus and you. The very attractive site definitely can give you some different ideas for a summer retreat.

Seek Answers On Travel Q&A Websites

retreats for summer

Finally, you can tap into the wisdom of the crowds to find the best summer retreats. Apart from the forums on some of the travel sites, there are dedicated question-answer related travel sites (apart from the general ones like Quora and Yahoo Answers). A few come to mind:

YouTube

summer retreats

YouTube isn’t the first thing that would strike you when you are searching for summer retreats. Land on YouTube and search for summer retreats. The results are all online videos, but you can pick up lots of hints to construct your perfect summer escape plan.

Summer retreats are opportunities to break free from the strain of our everyday existence and just reboot ourselves with rest and relaxation. Everybody’s idea for a perfect summer retreat differs. For instance, a geek can pick up any from the ones mentioned here. What about you? Try out these eight websites to find summer retreats that suit you, or jump into our huge archive of travel related posts for some more cues. Here, I have tried not to duplicate the sites covered earlier. Either way, tell us about the best summer retreat you have been to, in the comments.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


February 20 2012

23:31

The 5 Coolest Websites To Go On A Virtual Adventure

virtual adventureIt’s a big world out there, full of natural wonders, incredible monuments and fascinating culture. Much as we’d like to be out exploring it every day, very few of us can. It’s a good thing we have the Internet. Do you want to explore the world’s most famous locations, take a virtual safari, visit the zoo, tour a famous museum or travel almost anywhere? You can do it right from your web browser.

Whether you’re on your lunch break or relaxing at home, you can be out taking a virtual adventure around the world without ever standing up. Sure, seeing the sights in person would be a much more rewarding experience, but better a virtual adventure than no adventure at all.

Explore Famous Locations

The Google Maps Gallery site provides an overview of the most amazing locations you can visit using Street View on Google Maps. You’ll find a huge variety of locations on offer, everything from the snows of Antarctica to Times Square in New York City. Each location allows you to take a virtual walk around.

virtual adventure

You could go full-screen and take a virtual ski down the slopes of Whistler, British Columbia,

walk down tropical beaches in Hawaii,

visit SeaWorld and be part of the crowd,

or take a moment alone to explore some of the world’s most beautiful parks.

This is just a small sampling of the many locations on offer. You’ll also find everything from world heritage sites, landmarks and university campuses.

Visit The Zoo

The San Diego Zoo’s website offers a variety of live cameras pointed at the animals in its enclosures. Pick your favorite camera and watch the pandas, elephants, polar bears, apes or condors.

There’s no sound, but maybe that’s for the best. Zoos can be quite crowded and noisy. This won’t be too interesting when it’s night time in San Diego, though.

Tour A Museum

With the Google Art Project website, which we’ve mentioned before, you can explore 17 different museums from all around the world. Whether you’re interested in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Palace of Versailles in France or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, you’ll find it here.

This isn’t your typical museum website containing a collection of images — far from it. Using the same technology that powers Google Street View, you can take a virtual walk through the museum of your choice and zoom in on anything that interests you.

Want to examine a piece of art? You’re not looking at a low-quality image. You can zoom in and scroll around to view the art in minute detail.

Go On A Virtual Safari

Africam offers live webcams from Africa, 24/7. You’ll have to watch an advertisement, but once you have, you’ll get a high-quality video with sound.

Stumbling onto a quiet, nighttime scene isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I first visited, it was night time in Africa. The sound of the crickets and the wind blowing was the most relaxing thing I’ve heard in a long time. The live, streaming audio here is just amazing.

Sure, you could watch animal videos on YouTube, but that’s not much of a virtual adventure.

Travel Almost Anywhere

Street View isn’t just for famous locations. Google’s Street View cars have driven through many of the world’s cities and towns, photographing everything they’ve seen along the way. Perhaps the biggest adventure you could have is going off the beaten path. On the Google Maps website, search for a city or a place you want to visit, then drag and drop the little orange man onto the map to get started. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, pick him up and drop him anywhere.

Why not walk the streets of Tokyo?

Or stroll through Paris? You can be there in seconds.

virtual adventure

Go off the beaten path and explore the little-known side streets and nooks and crannies you’ll find along the way. It’s not a slideshow – it’s your adventure.

Adventure Together

You don’t even have to go alone. Whether you’re in a long-distance relationship or just apart for the night, why not invite your partner along with you and have a virtual adventure date? Screen-sharing software can help with this; you’ll both be seeing the same sights and going on the same adventure together. While you’re at it, be sure to check out our lists of unique live webcam feeds and StreetView sightseeing websites.

What did you think of these virtual adventure websites? Do you know any other amazing websites we should have included? Leave a comment and let us know.


February 11 2012

20:30

Find Every Public Radio Station During Long Journeys With NPR Road Trip

Driving across America soon? Know what station carries public radio programs for every mile of your journey, thanks to NPR’s Road Trip tool. You’ll get turn-by-turn directions from Bing along with the name and frequency of all the NPR stations you’ll be able to listen to every mile of your trip.

Stop “scanning” and go straight to the station you’re looking for.

If you’re a fan of public radio you know it’s the perfect companion for long road trips across the USA. Not only does a day of public radio teach you more than an average day in university, it also makes any trip go quickly by being consistently interesting.

Long trips involving many state borders mean constantly leaving radio stations behind you, though. You’ll start hearing faint static until you hear nothing else; then the frustrating search for your next station begins. You could loop around the stations 8 times before you find public radio back, and sometimes it simply doesn’t exist.

Stop the madness. Print a map for your trip with NPR Roadtrip: you’ll not only get turn-by-turn directions but also an indication of which NPR stations you can get when, and where to find them on your dial.

Using NPR Roadtrip

Head to the NPR Roadtrip page and you’ll see a basic map interface. You can simply find out what stations are near you, if you want, by entering your current address:

This is great if you’re going to be in the same place for a while, but is hardly perfect when you’re on the go.

That’s when the road trip feature comes in handy. You know the drill: type where you’ll start and where you want to be. You’ll get directions, but they’ll be spliced with station names and frequencies.

The directions will let you know the turn or mile marker you can find certain stations at. You can click on any station to find out more about it, which is nice. Some NPR affiliates focus on music, while others focus on news, so details are good to know.

 

You can explore the map yourself to see the full range of any given station. This taught me that there really are no NPR stations for most of eastern Colorado and much of Nebraska, so I suppose I’ll be sticking with podcasts next time I drive through there.

Conclusion

NPR isn’t a centralized network of stations; it’s a service. Public radio stations across the country can offer NPR content if they pay for, but can also buy content from PRI (which offers This American Life among other shows) and other not-for-profit companies that create shows. Because of this, NPR road trip won’t necessarily point to every public radio station you can find on your trip.

And by no means are public radio stations the only ones that offer great content. Sometimes you’re going to want to hear rock music or something else, so this tool isn’t quite perfect.

Still, it’s nice to know where the NPR stations are on the dial for the entirety of your trip. Stop randomly scanning and get the information you need up front. Will you be using this? Let me know in the comments below, along with any similar tools. Also check out these other NPR web offerings:

NPR Web App is Perfect For Listening To Or Reading News

NPR’s Infinity Player Is Pandora For News


February 01 2012

19:01

10 Best Hotel Search Engines To Get The Best Deals When You Travel

hotel search enginesAre you a last minute hotel booker or one who plans out trips months in advance? If you are a business traveller, chances are that you are the former. If you aren’t, then you are just the guy who could do with this article. Come to think of it, even if you are a business traveller who lives out of a suitcase, it would pay to keep these hotel search engines bookmarked because it could give you some room near your bottom-line.

Searching for the best hotel deals in town is one topic we have discussed at length on MUO. We still like to put out the information now and again because hotel search engines are essential traveller tools to be used before you pack your suitcase.

Here are ten of the best hotel search engines that fetch you the best deals when you travel.

Google Hotel Finder

hotel search engines

We start with the usual suspects and Google with its experimental Google Hotel Finder is one for the top billing. Head over to our directory mention for a brief introduction. Google Hotel Finder could go from an experiment to a full-scale assault on the other hotel and travel websites out there because it brings in a few conveniences. For instance, you can compare hotel prices (the price slider is a big help) and put them in a shortlist and track them over time. Tracking is a big help when you want to grab the best deal in town. You can use filters and the Google map to search out hotels in a selected area; select them by travel time; and pick the ones which are near the urban hot spots.

Bing Travel – Rate Indicator

best hotel search engines

Bing Travel goes head to head (or is it the other way around) with Google Hotel Finder. The Rate Indicator here is a great help when you are trying to find whether the hotel tariff is a good deal or not. You can also do a historic search for specific dates. It is only available for 30 U.S. cities at present. The Rate Indicator shows yellow, green, and red legends on a Bing Map to indicate the ‘hotness’ of a deal.  The usual Bing Travel search engine though gives you a comparative search with Hotwire, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline. These are few of the top notch travel and hotel websites.

Hotels.com

best hotel search engines

Hotels.com is one of the most comprehensive hotel booking websites around which covers 140,000 hotels worldwide. It is a one-window solution to all your search and booking needs. It gives you localized information plus great deals and rewards programs. Hotels.com claims that it gives you the cheapest rates and if you find anything cheaper they will match it. Hotels.com also does not charge cancellation fees. Download their free iPad, iPhone, Android app.

Laterooms

best hotel search engines

This is a Europe and U.K centric site which covers properties worldwide too. Laterooms lists a total of 33,000 properties. Sign-up to receive best deals by email or periodically visit the Special Offers section on the site. The hotel search engine uncovers deals like – Extra special discounts; Added value extras; Free hotel nights; and package deals when you stay for more than one night.

Tripadvisor

hotel search

Tripadvisor is one of the most well-known search engines for travel and hotel deals. We mentioned it when we saw 5 Review Sites To Help You Find The Perfect Hotel and it certainly deserves another mention here. The site suggests reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, flights, vacation rentals, vacation packages, travel guides, and lots more. One of the features you might use most often is the filter that lets you sort the hotels by the amenities on offer.

Booking.com

hotel search

Hotel search and booking websites are usually choc-a-bloc with information. I like the relatively uncluttered layout of this hotel search engine which is also aided by the large and clear fonts that are used. You can use the search engine to locate and hotel reservations.  Their tag line says – 187,784 hotels in 163 countries worldwide. So, that’s quite a sweep. Subscribe to the email newsletter for flash deals.

Hotels Combined

Hotels Combined and its hotel search engine too covers the world. The site says that its Verified Reviews (a trademarked service) accepts and quantifies reviews from verified, paying customers only. The hotel search engine compares prices across a bunch of hotel pricing sites. You can view the list when you search for the best hotel by destination.

Hotwire

The discount travel site negotiates the best hotel deals (along with other travel related ones) and presents them to you as Hotwire Hot Rates. You can also use the site’s Tripwatcher tool to watch out for price drops. The results are compared with other sites like Expedia, Kayak, Tripadvisor, and Orbitz. Check out the site’s Planning Tools section for a few more travel aids which help you plan your trip.

Venere

hotel search

104.000 hotels and listing of other accommodation types in more than 130 countries makes this best hotel search engine holds its own against the best of its ilk. Also includes Bed and Breakfasts and vacation rentals. The site gives you a colorful map-based search tool for finding out the best hotel deal in town.

Roomkey

hotel search engines

Six of the largest hotel companies in the world (Choice Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotel Group) collaborated to start up Roomkey.  The hotel search engine is specifically tailored for their clientele and aims to – offer travelers direct access to a broad network of hotels around the globe, provide accurate and comprehensive information, make it easy for travelers to discover what’s right for them. And in one word, the interface is superb.

These ten hotel search engines are at the forefront of the pack, and there are more of them. Most of the websites in the hotel search category are quite similar…offering a mix of hotel reservations, reviews, and great deals. Here are a few more you can throw into the mix:

Having a few of these hotel search engines bookmarked helps you to cross-check the best deals and plan your trip with low overheads. Where are you planning to travel to next? Do you use any of these hotel search engines, or do you depend on your travel agent?

Image Credit: Shutterstock


17:01

Discover Where You Can Walk To From Any Potential Home With WalkScore.com

walk from your houseAre you looking for a new place to live? Are you concerned about the cost of living? Consider this – you can save a lot of money simply by walking instead of driving to run errands or to get to work. From getting groceries to shopping for gadgets, walking is good for you and the absolute cheapest way to get around.

So a cheap apartment in the suburbs might end up costing you more money than one in the city, if you end up needing to burn expensive fuel anytime you leave the house. Combine that cost with the hidden expenses of driving, from wear and tear on your car to the risk of an accident, and the advantages of walking become clear pretty quickly.

WalkScore helps you figure out how walkable any address is, helping you determine an important part of a given home’s value. It is a perfect tool to supplement any housing search. To quote their website:

Our vision is for every property listing to read: Beds: 3 Baths: 2 Walk Score: 84. We want to make it easy for people to evaluate walkability and transportation when choosing where to live.

This is an admirable goal. Walking increases quality of life, so why shouldn’t it be a key part of any housing search? We’ve shown you the top 5 apartment search sites already. WalkScore makes all of them better by focusing on one important factor. It officially works in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand; other countries might work as well but not fully.

Checking Any Address

Head to WalkScore and enter an address. You’ll then see a map and a collection of results:

walk from your house

This is the main way you’ll use the site: doing research on any potential apartment or house you’re thinking about living in. You’ll see a run-down of nearby essentials, ranging from groceries to entertainment to schools. You’ll also see an overall score for the address, giving you a way to compare its walk-ability with other addresses.

Don’t have a particular address in mind? You can bring up a list of neighborhoods in just about any city.

walk from your home

This will give you an idea of areas you might want to check out during your housing search.

Another factor to consider: how will you be getting to work? Walk Score lets you calculate your commute time and how much it will cost. Whether you plan on driving, walking, biking or taking the bus, this tool covers it all.

walk from your home

Once you figure out your commute costs, you can calculate the overall costs of living in a particular place. There’s a built-in tool for doing this:

walk from your house

You can combine your rent and your commuting costs with this, giving you an idea of the hidden costs of a cheap, car-dependent home. Remember, living in the suburbs may seem cheaper, but the total cost of commuting and rent might add up to more. Using this tool lets you determine whether that’s true or not in your situation.

How Does It Work?

So how does this site calculate Walk Scores? Good question. The site’s creators explain:

The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on the distance to the closest amenity in each category. If the closest amenity in a category is within .25 miles (or .4 km), we assign the maximum number of points. The number of points declines as the distance approaches 1 mile (or 1.6 km) – no points are awarded for amenities further than 1 mile. Each category is weighted equally and the points are summed and normalized to yield a score from 0–100. The number of nearby amenities is the leading predictor of whether people walk.

This seems reasonable to me, and I’m finding the tool very useful. I want to hear from you guys, though. How walkable is the place where you live? Share scores below, along with any other sustainability tools I might not know about.


January 18 2012

18:00

Create A Cool Travel Slideshow In iPhoto ’11 [Mac]

create a travel slideshowFor iPhoto users who have travel photos taken in different places throughout the country or world, iPhoto offers a pretty cool slideshow theme that is relatively easy to put together, depending on how well you have managed your iPhoto library. It even includes a great piece of stock background music if you don’t have anything better to use.

The Places theme for slideshows works best if you have traveled several different places and if your travel photos have been labeled by location. The latest versions of the iPhone and some other contemporary cameras now include a geotagging feature that embeds location coordinates for each of the photos you take.

Pro image applications like Aperture will show you the geotag info, which consists latitude, longitude, etc.

create a travel slideshow

But luckily iPhoto will translate that info into a recognizable name like Coney Island, London, or Islands of Adventure. But even if your travel photos are not tagged, you can manually label them using iPhoto’s Places feature.

Labeling Photos

When you select a photo and then click on the Info button in the iPhoto menu bar, the Places tool will show geotag info for that photo. If your photos are not geotagged, you can simply select a collection of travel photos and add the information yourself, similar to how you add keywords to your images.

make a travel slideshow

As you type the location name, iPhoto will list possible locations to choose from. It may even list popular resorts or tourist spots. After all your travel photos are labeled, you can click on Places in the Albums panel, and you will get a map with red pens dropped on places you have taken photos.

make a travel slideshow

Organizing Travel Photos

If you have organized your travel photos into regular or smart albums, all need to do is create a new album, name it the title you want your slideshow to be (such as “Where We’ve Been”) and add to it selections from your travel photos. Sort the collected photos by date so that they are kept together in the album.

make a travel slideshow

Create Slideshow

Now with your travel album selected, click the Create button in the toolbar and select Slideshow. iPhoto will set up a separate folder of your selected photos. Next, click the Themes button and select the Places theme.

travel slideshow maker

iPhoto will process your photos and create location titles for each set of your travel photos. A titles effect will appear on a moving map, with the first photo of each section representing the location.

travel slideshow maker

If the titles are not to your liking, no problem, you can actually edit them, and be specific as you like about the location. As with other slideshow themes, you can also move photos around and delete the ones that don’t fit. You can also go back to your travel photo albums and add more images to the slideshow folder. If your images are dated correctly, iPhoto should place added photos in the appropriate section. If not, simply move them to where they’re supposed to be.

travel slideshow maker

If you don’t like the default theme music for your slideshow, simply change it. You can adjust other settings for your slideshow. However, the Places theme does not show all your photos one at a time. This theme will present 1-4 photos at time. You don’t have much control over this, except for the order they appear.

The Presentation

When you click the Play button, iPhoto presents graphic travel effect that moves across the map to the places where you took photos. As with other slideshows, you can export your project to show it off on a website, your mobile device, or big screen TV.

create a travel slideshow

Let us know what you think of this slideshow project, and similar ones you’ve used. For other ideas about iPhoto, check out our articles here.


September 13 2011

19:01

How To Find Cheap Airfare Tickets & Save On Your Travel Costs With Bing Price Predictor

cheap airfare ticketsWhen it comes to travel, Microsoft Bing gives us a better deal than Google. Google has a cool tool in the experimental Google Hotel Finder. Google has some travel plans with its purchase of ITA Software. You can also use Google to do a quick flight search by typing in something like flight New York to London and get a scheduled flight list. But this article is not about Google…it’s about Bing Travel and how it has taken off while its chief rival revs up its engines.

Bing Travel is a more packaged offering. While Google’s travel features still don’t look like a one-window solution, Bing’s travel page resembles what you will normally find in any well designed travel website. One of the key features on Bing Travel is the Flight Predictor tool. The flight prediction helps you guess the best time to buy cheap airfare tickets for flights from most major U.S. and Canadian cities to destinations worldwide.

Let’s Take a Flight

Searching for a flight starts off in the usual way. You type in your origin and destination, and the date. You need to specify if it’s a one-way, round-trip, or a multi-city flight for the flight engine to work out your schedule and deals if any.

cheap airfare tickets

Note: You can also search for flights from the Bing homepage.

With one click you get multiple points to compare and reckon if it’s the right (and cheapest) flight for you. Bing lists all airfares for the mentioned route. You can use the filters on the left side to further refine your results.

dirt cheap airfare

You can also open up other travel and booking sites in separate tabs to go through their airfares. Sites which help you to compare airfares include: Expedia, Hotwire, Cheaptickets, Priceline, American Airlines, and Cheapoair.

Bing Travel itself tries to find you the lowest airfare available between two cities. But Bing Travel takes this base figure and also gives you a few more multi-dimensional tools to make the right ticketing decision and save money.

Wait For the Cheapest Airfare with the Price Predictor

The Price Predictor tells you if the airfare is going to rise or fall within the next few days. It helps you to take a wait and watch policy for buying cheaper plane tickets. Bing Travel says that their predictive technology is about 75% accurate and on average, customers will save over $50 on a typical round-trip transaction. With each search Bing mentions the confidence percentage.

dirt cheap airfare

Travel tips on the price fluctuations are marked out with colored arrows. You can click on the arrow or on the Details and Fare History link to read about the price prediction in more detail (as in the above screenshot). Your decision boils down to your urgency and your risk tolerance.

You can check the daily low fare history graph to get an idea on the seasonal price drops.

Read more: How Bing Travel’s predictive technology works?

Grab The Deals For More Cheaper Airfares

Travel Bing keeps track of the price drops on a particular route. These are highlighted as deals for some of the major destinations on the Deals tab. Bing Travel uses historical data to compare fares and find the variation with the average fare. It’s is the same price predictor technology at work but with some extra tips (for instance: as highlighted in yellow) that explain why this airfare could be a deal maker or a deal breaker for you.

dirt cheap airfare

A calendar which pops up when you click on the ‘View Dates’ link gives you an idea of the days and dates when the deal is available. The onward and return journeys are both shown separately with their deals.

cheap airfare tickets

Read more: How deals work?

With a Windows Live ID and a Bing Travel account, you can track your airfares. You can also befriend Bing Travel on Facebook and get updates on cheap airfare tickets. With the cheapest airfare decided, you can jump directly to the ticketing website from Bing Travel with a click on the link for the booking site.

Bing Travel is a neat web application to rack up airfare savings while you accumulate all those frequent flyer miles. If you are a busy traveler, the dollars in savings can really add up.

Also read:

Tell us if you seriously use web tools to keep track of your airfares when you travel. Where can Bing Travel fit in your itinerary?


August 03 2011

22:31

5 Ways To Save Money When You Are Travelling On Vacation

save money travelingTravel broadens the mind and therefore everyone should be required to travel at least once a year. Not only do you learn about different cities, countries, or even cultures, you also learn about yourself. Moreover, when you return home, you suddenly value things you never paid attention to before. The problem with traveling though is the price tag.

Without a doubt, traveling can be pricey. However, if you know a few tricks and are not afraid to wait, bargain, network, and socialize, you could save a lot of money. It’s never too late to plan the greatest vacation of your life, even if you’re forced to travel on a shoestring.

Getting to the desired travel destination and getting around tends to be the most expensive item in the budget, unless you’re happy to travel in your home state or country. If you do want to get far away, you might have to do some research for the cheapest place to go or be patient and catch a great offer for your dream destination.

1. Track Fares On Yapta

Yapta allows you to track flight prices and receive alerts when the price drops. If you buy too soon and find that the the price dropped below what you ended up paying, Yapta will even help you get a refund for the difference, if possible.

save money traveling

We have previously profiled Yapta in the MakeUseOf Directory.

2. Follow Companies On Twitter

Every airline and rental car company out there has a Twitter page. If you want to get a great deal, find your target companies and follow them to catch their best offers. In case you’re still not sure where to go, you should check out these Twitter travel tips - How To Find Travel Inspiration With Various Twitter Accounts.

save money on trips

For more tips on how to find cheap flights or good deals, check out these articles:

The second biggest dent in your travel budget will be accommodation and all the amenities this includes. My advice is to not travel alone and share a room with up to four people. If you can imagine going camping, you can save even more money. Or if you are a social traveler, you could stay at someone’s house.

3. Compare Ho(s)tel Prices

Whether you’re going to stay at a hostel or a hotel, the price differences can be huge, so you must compare. Fortunately, there are several websites out there, that will do the math for you and you will merely be spoilt for choice.

save money on trips

Check out these posts for the best resources to find affordable and suitable accommodation:

4. Socialize Using Travel Networks

Socializing can enrich your travels in more ways than just saving money. Meeting people, sharing some time with them, and learning their story can change your life and in the best of cases make you a better person.

save money on trips

To be honest, I hesitate to recommend sites like Hospitality Club or CouchSurfing because I don’t want to create a misunderstanding. To be very clear – these sites are not about finding free accommodation! Rather they are social networks for travelers who wish to help each other. This means you are supposed to pay it forward or return the favors you receive. That said, they are a great way to meet people, find a place to sleep, get good advice, or a city tour from a local, and admittedly it’s all free.

Learn more from this article: Couchsurfing Lets You Find a Place to Stay Over When Travelling.

5. Share Rides

In some parts of the world, public transport is abundant and you will get mostly everywhere on a bus or train. There are places, however, you can only see if you have a car (I’m looking at you, North America). Whether you’re planning to rent a car or grab a cab, share your ride and the costs. An added bonus is that you will be able to use the carpool lane!

save money traveling

Depending on where and how you’re planning to travel, there will be various ways to find people to share the ride with. One way would be to post your plans in a travel network like the ones mentioned above. You could also try your luck in the CraigsList travel discussion forum or the kijiji ride share category for the respective area. Or you could look up local ride share networks on Google. If all planning attempts fail, stay at a hostel close to where you want to go, chat up people, and you will almost certainly find a ride – although it might not be where you wanted to go originally.

We have profiled ZimRide in the MakeUseOf Directory. You can also try eRideShare for destinations in North America and some other countries worldwide.

Take Home Message

To have a great vacation it helps to be flexible, open-minded, and inventive! It’s quite simple to travel on a budget, but you may have to step out of your comfort zone and make some compromises. The right mindset helps tremendously. Just be courageous!

We have published many more awesome articles for travelers on MakeUseOf:

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5 Ways To Save Money When You Are Travelling On Vacation is a post from: MakeUseOf


July 14 2011

16:31

Plan Your Next Vacation Itinerary To One Of 20 World Famous Destinations With Plnnr

Having a vacation is one of the best ways to escape from daily routines, reduce stress levels, and recharge your batteries. Unfortunately, planning a perfect vacation is a potential stress generator in itself, as a vacation without a plan could easily turn into a disaster. Some people turn to travel agents, but they are costly and finding the ones that really know your preferences is not easy.

If you want to plan a great vacation without all the complications, you could try Plnnr – your online personal tour guide. Plnnr will automatically generate your free personalized ready-to-use itinerary in split seconds, including scheduled daily routes, navigating directions, hotel price comparisons, and attractions information.

Plan Your Vacation

Plnnr really makes planning your vacation as simple as clicking a few buttons. Start by clicking the “Get Started Now” button.

01b get started

The first step you need to do is to choose where you want to go. There are twenty world famous destinations that you can choose from the list. I know that the options look small to the real adventurers, but they are more than enough for those who ‘just want to go out there’.

01a click destination

After deciding on the place to go, set the date when you want to start your vacation.

01b arrival date

Continue by choosing how long you will stay there.

02c how long

The theme decides what kind of vacation you want to have. You can make it to be more outdoor-ish or culture-ish. For first time visits, Plnnr suggests “The best of“, where you will visit all of the best places in the vicinity.

02z theme

Next, choose the intensity of your vacation. Basically, this step determines the pace of your days. Do you prefer to take them slowly, or do you want to cramp everything into your itinerary? Plnnr will decide how many places it will put into your schedule based on the theme that you chose.

02e intensity

The last step in the planning stage is deciding on the luxury level. This element will be tightly related to your budget. If you have unlimited funds, go for the five stars; while the tight-budget people would prefer lower stars.

02e luxury level

The Menu, The Itinerary & The Map

After going through the planning stages, Plnnr will build you a complete itinerary. It consists of point of interest and daily routes.

03a start

You can view your daily schedule by choosing the “Schedule” menu from the side bar.

03b daily itinerary

If you don’t like one or more items from your schedule, you can easily delete them by clicking the small arrow next to the question mark and choose “No way!“. Plnnr will then replace it with something else.

03b2 options

You can get more information about a place by clicking on it. A new window will slide out, and you can view pictures and articles about the place.

03b3 more info

On the far right of the page, there’s a map with routes that Plnnr suggests you take. The bold lines indicate the route for the day, while the thin lines are your routes for other days.

03d travel map

The side bar menu allows you to view things like Trip dates, Hotels, Attractions and Trip Profile.

04b trip profile

Other Options

You don’t need to register to use Plnnr, but if you want to save your trip, you need to sign up.

05a save signup

There are also options to share your trip via Facebook. You need to allow Plnnr to access your Facebook account to do so.

03c book share print

If you want to have your itinerary handy on your trip, you can print it as a booklet. Click the “Print” button and your travel schedule will be opened in a printer-friendly page. Just hit the “Print” menu from your browser’s menu to produce the hard copy.

05b printable

If you have been postponing your holiday, I think it’s a good idea to pay Plnnr a visit and start planning your next vacation. I personally find Plnnr very useful, but I wish it had more choices of places to visit. Maybe it can let users add more places and rate the existing places to grow its database.

Will you use Plnnr or similar services to plan your holiday? Share your thoughts using the comments below.

Don’t forget to check out some of our other vacation articles such as Wanderfly: Get Vacation Suggestions Based on Your Preferences, Cool Online Resources to Plan Your Next Vacation, and The Best Travel Deals Sites To Save Cash On Your Next Vacation.

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June 26 2011

01:31

June 12 2011

01:31

Access All Your Travel Guides & Maps Offline With Stay [iPhone]

offline maps iphoneTraveling is a hot summer topic for most countries around the world. Since most of us are going on vacation and planning a nice trip, we tend to review and share more traveling tools during the high traveling season.

We have had a bunch of useful travel planning tips already. Here’s a fun Facebook tool to make your travel plans social, here’s how you can plan a road trip with Virtual Tourist and don’t forget to check out Gowaza to make an informative travel plan map. This time we are sharing a brand new travel planning iPhone app from Stay.

Stay is a free fun web-based tool we have reviewed previously. Basically, it offers a great feature set for planning and mapping your traveling and then saving and sharing your plans with friends, relatives or random people. Just a few days ago, the site launched their official free app for the iPhone which makes downloading and accessing your travel guides much easier.

Creating Your Guides

To create a travel guide, you will still have to use the web-based application. This is the first thing to do because you won’t be able to do anything with the app unless you have an account with Stay.com with travel guides already created.

Creating a guide is addictive though. The web interface is clean and very easy to use: you just browse the places and add them to your guide. There is no clutter or extra details interrupting the process. You browse the categories (like “Attractions”, “Restaurants”, “Art Galleries”, ” Hotels”, etc) and add anything that looks worth visiting to your guide. Search results are sorted by popularity among the site users – which makes picking fun places even easier.

offline maps iphone

Once your guide is ready, you can download it to your iPhone.

Using The iPhone Application

To upload your saved guides to your iPhone you will need Stay’s official application which is free. When you have it installed, log into your Stay.com account (it supports Facebook login which makes things even faster). Immediately after you log in, you can download your guides.

The best thing about having this app is that all your city guides will have a complete offline map, so when you are away traveling, you don’t need to worry about finding an Internet connection:

offline maps

To edit, improve or complete any of your existing guides, you will need to use the web-based interface again. But the good thing is, your iPhone guide will be updated automatically:

offline maps

Travel Guides Inside Your iPhone

You will most likely love having your travel guides inside your iPhone because:

  • Your guides are well structured (all your favorite destinations are broken into categories, so you can easily plan each day of your vacation),
  • You can view your guide on the map with all your chosen destinations pinned;
  • Each place you have added to your guide has a “more info” section with photos, description and location details.

offline maps iphone

What do you think of the tool? It looks like a high-quality free app that is worth a check. I am not sure how the app works for less popular locations though. I have checked a few and it seemed to be rather detailed. What’s your experience?


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June 03 2011

19:31

Make Social Travel Plans With Gtrot Via Facebook

Have you been longing for an easy way to tell your friends where you’re heading for your holidays and perhaps catch up with friends who are heading in the same direction? Or do you one day wish you could go travelling to a certain city but don’t know which friends might be interested in taking the trip with you? Well, Gtrot will surely help. That’s precisely what it aims to do.

Gtrot lets you tell your friends about your travel plans and previous trips, then connects you with friends who want to go to these places too. Let’s say you’d like to go to Berlin. Once that’s entered, Gtrot will show you which of your friends have lived in Berlin, travelled to Berlin or are planning a trip to Berlin, meaning you can quickly ask for travel advice and potentially meet up with some of your friends while you’re there.

Getting Started With Gtrot

Signing up with Gtrot is a cinch as you just use Facebook authorisation to log in. Gtrot will grab your photo, current city and hometown from your Facebook information. If you don’t want to share your current city, you can change this preference in Gtrot’s privacy settings.

Next, you can link your Gtrot account to Foursquare in order to make your check-ins appear in Gtrot. Gtrot will try to add cities you’ve visited from information found in Facebook and Foursquare.

You’ll notice that Gtrot will also find any data available to it from your friends in relation to hometown and current city. You may see some friends in your current city who don’t yet use Gtrot. This makes the Gtrot system useful to you even if your friends haven’t joined the social network yet.

Add Trips & Cities You’ve Visited

The easiest way to do this is to add past trips, as Gtrot will then automatically add to the list of cities you’ve visited.

When you enter your past trips you can also tag your Facebook friends as being with you on the trip, which automatically improves Gtrot’s information. This means that when your friends’ friends join Gtrot they will see useful data about trips your friends have taken. Plus, if your friend joins, most of the data will already be there ready for them.

All your trip information can be published to Facebook if you like. Plus, you can notify your friends that they’ve been tagged.

Adding Future Trips

Future trips can be added just as simply as past trips. But you can also email your travel itinerary to trips@gtrot.com from a registered email address in order to automatically add the trip. They make it so easy!

Also, within your account preferences you can see notifications. If you like, you can ask to be notified whenever a friend adds a particular city to their details. So, if you’re planning a trip somewhere special or you’re looking for a travel buddy, this is ideal.

Should I Use Gtrot Or Something Else?

Gtrot has a lot of competition in services like Dopplr, TripIt, TripAdvisor, older services like Wayn, other travel services and travel websites and online travel guides. Personally, I think Dopplr is the only contender for real competition here and it seems that Gtrot have already thought of ways to get ahead of the pack. In the end, these travel services are only of any use if people update their information and if their friends use the service. Gtrot has found ways to automate this somewhat.

There was also a potential for services like Foursquare to become competition, but with the linked service Foursquare ultimately become another tool to get information into Gtrot. This makes it much more likely that Gtrot’s information will be relevant and useful when people go to use it, even if their friends have never heard about Gtrot. Being able to give locations for yourself and tag friends for locations in Facebook, Gtrot and Foursquare will make Gtrot’s data collection increase at a steady rate.

It would be great to see Gtrot taking in information from Flickr as well, showing pictures from trips and automatically adding trips and cities to a user’s history according to photo metadata.

Do you use Gtrot or another travel planner? What are the most important features to you? Let us know in the comments!


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May 11 2011

21:31

Log & Document Your Travels With Compass & Catch Notes [Android]

document your travelsOne of the coolest things about my Android phone that I have never tired of is its ability to serve as an all-in-one navigational tool. It can download Google maps from anywhere in the world, so long as you have a cellular data connection. Enable your GPS and it can pinpoint your location on that Google map.  You can also download and install a whole family of GPS apps that show you your exact GPS coordinates and help you do cool activities like geo-caching and sharing your location with friends with apps like Google Latitude.

So then, what’s left? Actually a whole lot.

One of the navigational apps that I’ve been avoiding for quite a while are compass apps. I have never really had much of a need for it, because most of the time I use the phone only for driving navigation – after all, once you unplug that phone from the outlet, GPS will drain the battery down pretty fast. However, with spring approaching and our family looking to take some of our annual spring and summertime hikes, I went out in search of the best compass program that wouldn’t drain my battery in five minutes flat. I’m happy to report that I discovered just the right compass app called, quite simply, Compass.

A Variety Of Compass Styles

Okay, so the name isn’t all that creative, but this is easily the best Compass program on the market in my opinion. It’s offered by the makers of the Catch app, which Jessica recently reviewed. In fact, one thing that amplifies the coolness factor of this compass is the fact that the Catch note-taking app is integrated with Compass. Yes, this means that you can geo-tag notes as you’re traveling, virtually tagging locations with pictures and notes – documenting your travels along the way.

When you first install Compass, you’ll have to quickly calibrate your phones compass by waving it in a figure eight.

document your travels

Once that’s done, the app will either pinpoint your location using GPS (if enabled), or through your network location if GPS is turned off. The compass itself doesn’t use much battery power, because it’s just using your phone’s magnetometer to show you true North.

document your trip

The standard compass looks like one of those Boy Scout style map compasses that you use to lay down on top of a map to plan out your hiking route. But, if you want to add a bit more style to the app, you can go into options and change the compass style to “Antique”. This mode doesn’t have a moving compass needle, instead it shows you your directional heading in digital format below. This mode is really more decorational than anything else.

document your trip

Probably the most useful Compass style is the “GPS” format. It may not be the prettiest compass, but it will sure give you more information than any of the others will. In this mode you can see actual magnetic field strength and declination, your directional position, your altitude and your speed. It’ll also show you how many satellites you’re fixed on and the last time you received a position from them.

document your trip

If you’re especially concerned about conserving battery power, then your best bet is to switch to “Night” style. This turns the entire screen black, and all text and graphics are drawn from a simple, soft red color. This mode, especially if GPS is turned off, will provide you with compass directions for many hours without pulling much draw from your battery at all.

travel journal

I should also note that there are a lot of customizations available for this app, not the least of which is to have the application use GPS exclusively for your location, or to fail-safe to your cellular network location if GPS is turned off.  If you’ve using the app for hiking and need to conserve power, I suggest leaving this enabled and disabling your phone’s GPS.

travel journal

However, if you’re traveling in a car or some place else where you have access to quickly recharge your phone, you can enable GPS and make use of the Catch integration. Catch lets you take notes, photos and even capture 3D barcode scans tied to specific locations.

travel journal

This lets you quickly note cool spots that you want to come back and check out later. If you’re on a trip, this means making note of great shops, restaurants or scenic spots that you discover. If you’re hiking, this means noting the GPS coordinates of a particularly beautiful waterfall or secret hideaway that you’ve discovered somewhere deep in the forest. You’ll only need to find these places once, because with Catch you’ll always have a record of where it was located.

Write notes and take a snapshot, and you’re done. All of your logged notes are stored on your phone, so you can retrieve them any time you need to remember where the location was.

Best of all, you can sync up your Compass app with your online Catch account, so that you document your travels as you visit different places. If you ever want to review them all, just log into your Catch account and review all of your geo-tagged notes!

document your travels

Now, this is a Compass that definitely surpasses the features of most of the standard Compass apps out there for the Android. I see myself making use of this Compass to keep a regular log of my travels and note those places that I want to visit again some day.

Give Compass with Catch a try, and let us know what you think. Did you find it useful to remember cool things about places that you’ve traveled to? Are there any features you’d add? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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May 09 2011

17:30

7 Travel Quizzes To Take & Improve Your Travel IQ

travel quizWhere in the world is Timbuktu? Anyone who knows English knows of the term, “From here to Timbuktu”. Very few know that we can actually travel there and it’s not a fictitious name at all. This is more often than not a very common question in travel quizzes. The answer you should give before the gong is Mali.

You may or may not travel to this not-so-outlandish place but a travel quiz can throw up interesting tidbits like these. Surprisingly, travel quizzes aren’t that many on the web or it could be that Google Search failed me when I went ‘travelling’ for travel quizzes. Though the ones I found made me realize that there’s a big leap between one’s geographical IQ and travel IQ. Is that your story too?

Take these seven travel quizzes and find out if you know your Timbuktu from Shangri-La.

The Traveler IQ Challenge

travel quiz

The travel blog has a neat Flash travel quiz which tests how well you know your world. We had seen this game in action in our post on 10 Online Geography Games That Help Kids Know More About The World. You can choose from the different game plays available based on region, flags, and photos. It is the Photos of the World I find most fun. You will be surprised that it’s quite difficult to land them on the map.

Discover Your Visual DNA

travel quizzes

This is a short and easy quiz which surprisingly gave me a close to accurate result. Perhaps, it was because I was pretty sure of the kind of travel holidays I enjoy. A series of thumbnails helps to determine your choice of location, food, company etc and arrive at your ‘travel personality’. A proprietary VisualDNA Technology is used to understand your travel type. Partners can use this travel quiz to pinpoint their likely travel destination.

National Geographic

travel quizzes

One of the world’s best magazine’s on natural sciences is also about travel by default. One look at their illustrations and you just might fall in love with the places shown. So, if you love the exotic and wondrous, check out the series of quizzes. There are Featured Travel Quiz, Country and Continent Quizzes, City Quizzes, National Park Quizzes, and Road Trip Quizzes. Check out some of the featured quizzes like Unfinished Landmarks or Mysterious Places. Most of the quizzes come from National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine.

Are You a Savvy Traveler?

travel quizzes

Find your travel IQ at Infohub.com. The specialty travel guide features information on many destinations around the world. One way of piquing interest is through travel quizzes. You can register for free or play as an anonymous user. Registered members can start their own tournaments. The selection of travel quizzes quite diverse, with most based on locations. There is a travel quiz especially for women travelers. Registration is free and members can quickly set up their own private quiz tournaments to find out the travel IQ of their friends or family before starting a trip. Quizzes have author recommendations as answers and explanations give an insight into the culture of the place.

How Green a Traveler Are You?

travel iq test

Guardian UK has a long standing 12 question quiz which can help you decide if you are an eco-conscious traveler or not. The multiple choice travel quiz is hardly a boring round of obvious answers, but with ones that could just befuddle and bemuse you, and hopefully make you think twice when you pack your bags next.

What Kind Of A Traveler Are You?

travel iq test

The travel site Best Trip Choices gives you another chance to find out what kind of a traveler are you with its 5-minute travel quiz. Take the scientifically validated Plog Travel Personality Quiz to learn about yourself and what kinds of destinations you will probably like the most. When you’ve completed it, you get a list of destinations that others with your personality recommend. The quiz asks for a US Zip code at the end before giving you the analysis which is quite detailed.

MSN Australia – Travel

travel quiz

The Australian MSN portal has a nice lineup of offbeat travel quizzes. If you are a monarchist you just might like the timely How well do you know Wills and Kate quiz. My personal choice goes to the Guess the movie location round of questions.

Playing a few rounds of travel quizzes is undoubtedly fun. But not more than travel itself. Go to these websites for some free travel tips

The 10 Best Free International Travel Guide Websites

10 Websites For Virtual Sightseeing With Travel Videos

The Best Travel Deals Sites To Save Cash On Your Next Vacation

Drop us a hint if you know of any cool travel quiz out there.

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January 18 2011

19:31

The 10 Best Free International Travel Guide Websites

free international travel guideIt’s said that there are no great adventures anymore. The spotlight of information and far reaching connectivity has left us with no strange places to discover. Or so the popular opinion goes. Travel guides and travel websites have brought some wondrous places close to us; either with their enticing photographs or with first hand traveler accounts. Today’s online international travel guides are also proving handy for the budget traveler who can plan for each dollar.

In the years before the web spun the world around, travel tips came through word of mouth. Now, you can just log on and be a voyeur as travelers carry you along each step of their journey. Which are these websites that allow you to be your own traveling guide?


Let’s pack our bags and take a free trip with the ten free international travel guides mentioned below.

Frommer’s Travel Guide

free international travel guide

The word this top travel website throws about is ‘candid’. That describes the travel tips they have collected over the years. If you can’t buy one of their travel guides, then this website is just as good a resource for getting to know any destination on the map. By the way, there is a large red map that you can navigate on the site. The articles on each location cover everything that you would care to know, from nightlife information to side trips. You can jump to the Frommer’s forums too and engage in a discussion with travelers. Short of travel ideas? Explore their inviting slideshows. Also look into the Trip Ideas section.

Trip Advisor

free travel guide

Trip Advisor is all about reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, flights, vacation rentals, vacation packages, travel guides etc. On each destination’s page you can check out information like top rated hotels, things to do, vacation rentals, restaurants etc along with videos and images. As it is a popular website, expect to read a lot of reviews on each aspect of your planned travel. Subscribe to the free newsletter which sends you the latest information on your chosen location. Traipse over to Advice from real travelers section for valuable tips. You can also download a free PDF city guide for the destinations.

Virtual Tourist

free travel guide

We covered this cool travel guide website which covers nearly 60,000 worldwide destinations just at the turn of last year, so I won’t go into too much detail here as Bakari has shown How To Use Virtual Tourist For Planning Your Next Trip.

Let’s Go

If there’s a domain name which eggs you on to catch the next flight out, this is it. The tips on the site are about traveling on a budget. The company has been known for its budget travel guides over the last 50 years. If you are searching for bargains on your sojourns, this site is worth a visit. The stories on destinations around the world make interesting reading and just might make you change a plan or two for the better.

BootsnAll

The ‘indie’ in their catchphrase is meant for the independent traveler. The site has a complete guide listing where you can browse to the destination of your choice. Also check out the Adventure Destination guides featured on the site. The site also has a pretty active forum for travel chit-chat.

World Travel Guide

online travel guides

Gets lots of free international travel guides to destinations around the world. The guide is available in English, German, French and Spanish. The site has a nice ‘Holiday Ideas’ section for some inspirational travel ideas. The homepage features a neat globe browser for pinpointing places worldwide. Catch the best deals and the latest events too on the dedicated pages for each location.

Rough Guides

online travel guides

The neatest feature on the site (apart from all the travel content) is the Rough Guide to The World picture mosaic map. There’s a movable ‘World Lens’ which you can hover on any location and check out the experiences as pictures. Also subscribe to the free Rough Guides Podcasts every month. Another useful audio download is the free phrasebook available for select languages. Or you can forget about all that and play the Rough Roads Game!

ViaMichelin

online travel guides

For international travelers coming to Europe, this site is a handy one-stop place for mapping, route plans, on-line hotel booking, Michelin Guide hotel, restaurant, tourist recommendations and weather and traffic reports. The site is brought to you by the renowned tire brand – Michelin. The route guides provided are the most informative you can find anywhere.

Concierge

free travel guide

If you frequent the web, then you will be familiar with the names of their network websites (Wired.com. Ars Technica, Epicurious, Reddit etc). The site has a large list of international travel guides covering all the hotspots around the world. You can browse them by name or click on the interactive map to start exploring with articles, pictures, and videos. Then there’s an established community too for sharing travel tips.

Atlas Obscura

free international travel guide

Sometimes places off the beaten track make for great adventures. You could discover one on this site which according to the site’s own words is a collaborative project with the goal of cataloging all of the singular, eccentric, bizarre, fantastical, and strange out-of-the-way places that get left out of traditional travel guidebooks and are ignored by the average tourist. Exploring places by category is the way to go here.

If you are wondering why we left out a site like Lonely Planet, then worry not. The so well known international backpackers’ site as well as a few others has been covered in a previous article on The Best Free Online International Travel Guides. Just goes to show that we have your back covered when it comes to travel, hotels, and flights.

Are you packed?

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December 30 2010

22:31

How To Use VirtualTourist For Planning Your Next Trip

planning a road tripMUO has published several articles about using Google Maps for planning a fun road trip. Anyone who has used the features of Google Maps knows that it provides a wealth of information for road travel, but if you’re seeking more personal guided advice for your next tourist destination, you might want to check out VirtualTourist, a worldwide travel community where real travels and locals share tips, reviews, and photos of destinations, ranging from Sydney to New York and everywhere else in between.

Started in 1999, VirtualTourist lists 1 million members in 220 countries, and it claims 7 million unique website visits per month. It is very well organized and easy to navigate, offering information on over 2 million destinations. Many of the members on the site seem to be frequent travelers who share reviews, photos, videos, and tips about the places they have visited.

Membership & Travel Guide

Signing up for the absolutely free membership on VirtualTourist enables you to create a Home Page where you can add travel maps, videos and photos, and a network of travelers. To explore a destination, simply type the location.

planning a road trip

Travel guide pages include 13 categories of information about hotels, popular spots to visits, transportation, nightlife, shopping, local customs, sports, tourist traps, etc.

planning fun road trips

Explore Reviews

Each broad destination guide includes several reviews written by VirtualTourist members about various tourist sites. So for example, if you’re planning a road trip to California, your search might begin with San Diego, CA as your destination, and then you might narrow your search to a particular tourist spot or simply explore what tourist sites have been written about.

road trip planning

VirtualTourist keeps member reviews separate from business sponsorship information. So reviews are personal, often providing a candid assessment of various destination spots, hotels, and travel conditions.

Hotels & Vacation Packages

As you might expect, VirtualTourist includes links to sponsored listings of hotel, travel, car rentals, and vacation packages. While this information can be accessed independently through any Google search, it’s useful to access it in a single place.

Packing Lists

One great category in the destination guides is the Packing Lists, which includes site member recommendations in the form of reviews and photos of things (e.g., clothing, technical equipment, food) you might consider bringing for your trip.

road trip planning

Warnings & Dangers

Similar to Packing Lists, there’s also an important category called Warnings and Dangers. It also includes tips and photos about driving and traffic, local laws and rules, weather, fires, etc.

road trip planning

Post Questions

If you’re not finding the information you need, you can also post a question to other members on the destination guide page.

planning a road trip

Meet Members

With such a large and growing membership, VirtualTourist provides what you can’t easily get using Google Maps – the ability to network with other people who have either visited your destination or who may actually live there.

planning a road trip

As a VirtualTourist member you’re not even required to pay a fee to contact members on the site.

As you might expect, VirtualTourist is supported by lots of advertising, but in visiting the site I don’t feel as though ads are obtrusive. As with nearly all social networking sites, VirtualTourist can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. However, as of yet, there is not a mobile app for VirtualTourist. Hopefully one is in the works. For possible travel apps, check Steve’s 10 of the Coolest Map Apps for Use on Bing Maps.

The mapping features of VirtualTourist are of course not as advanced as Google Maps, but nearly all its other offerings could possibly help you to get the most out of your next travel destination.

Let us know other sites and resources you use to plan your road trips.

Image Source: Shutterstock


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