Facebook, Instagram Release Top Checked-in Locations of 2013

Facebook Instagram website
Alamy

Photo-sharing app Instagram and Facebook, a website your parents visit, released lists of their users most checked-in locations for 2013 earlier this week.

Congratulations to Disneyland for being the top U.S. spot for Facebook check-ins and the third most photographed location on Instagram. And props to all of Canada: its most checked-in location was a hockey arena.

Here are both lists.The Most-Instagrammed Locations of 2013

  1. Siam Paragon (สยามพารากอน) shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand
  2. Times Square, New York
  3. Disneyland, California
  4. Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas
  5. Disney World Florida
  6. Staples Center, Los Angeles
  7. Central Park, New York
  8. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
  9. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) ท่าอากาศยานสุวรรณภูมิ, Bangkok, Thailand
  10. The High Line, New York

Top Facebook Check-Ins Around The World (excluding transportation hubs)

  • Argentina: Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
  • Australia: Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), East Melbourne, Victoria
  • Brazil: Parque Ibirapuera, São Paulo
  • Canada: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Egypt: Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt
  • France: Disneyland Paris, Marne La Vallée
  • Germany: Reeperbahn, Hamburg
  • Hong Kong: 香港迪士尼樂園 | Hong Kong Disneyland
  • Iceland: Blue Lagoon, Reykjavík, Iceland
  • India: Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple)
  • Italy: Piazza San Marco, Venice
  • Japan: 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland), Tokyo
  • Mexico: Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City
  • Nigeria: Ikeja City Mall, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
  • Poland: Temat Rzeka, Warsaw
  • Russia: Центральный парк культуры и отдыха им. Горького | Gorky Park of Culture and Leisure
  • Singapore: Marina Bay Sands
  • South Africa: Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
  • South Korea: Myungdong Street, Seoul
  • Spain: Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Catalonia
  • Sweden: Friends Arena, Solna
  • Taiwan: 花園夜市Tainan Flower Night Market, Tainan City
  • Turkey: Taksim Square, Istanbul
  • United Kingdom: The 02, London
  • United States: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

There’s a Japanese Travel Agency for Stuffed Animals (Because of Course There Is)

Unagi Travel, Facebook

You think you’re feeling cooped up and need to get out and explore? What about that teddy bear of yours that hasn’t emerged from your storage closet since 1985?

A Japanese travel agency, Unagi Travel, which calls itself a “travel agency for stuffed animals,” has been taking plush animals on trips for the last three years. Why? To allow their owners to live vicariously through them. In fact, many of Unagi Travel’s customers are physically impaired. Well, and photos of traveling stuffed animals are cute.​”I want to see and walk around the sights that I viewed through my stuffed animal’s journeys someday,” said a 51-year-old woman, impaired by an illness that makes it difficult for her to walk, to the Japan News.

Unagi Travel’s Sonoe Azuma has shepherded more than 200 stuffed animals on trips. Be it a bike tour of Tokyo or a cross-Pacific journey to the United States, Azuma posts many of the photos of the traveling stuffed animals on Unagi Travel’s Facebook page (which is about to become your time waster of the day).

Stuffed animal travel is decidedly more affordable than the human kind: tours are priced between $20 and $55, depending on what the stuffed animals are getting up to. And just in case your stuffed animal likes the element of surprise, there are mystery tours, where your stuffed friend takes off to an unknown location.

Sound weird? Azuma’s clients love it; according to her about 40 percent of her clientele are repeat customers.

“I’m happy if my activities encourage those who can’t be positive to take a step forward,” Azuma said.

Just like your garden gnome taking a trip around the world, but better.

Airlines Can’t Keep Up With Customers’ Social Media Complaints

Flickr user Patcard

Days after the son of an irate passenger bought a promoted tweet to shame British Airways, a second European airline is feeling the sting of a social media barrage aimed at its alleged ineptitude.

Air Berlin flight 8109 took off on August 9 without a single piece of checked baggage for the 200 passengers on board. Making matters even worse, it couldn’t locate any of the bags for weeks, causing a storm of Twitter complaints and a Facebook page devoted to the debacle.

That one incident would be bad enough, but according to Slate.com, Air Berlin also lost the musical instruments of two high-profile touring bands, one from Sweden and the other from Canada. The Toronto-based Metz vented their frustrations on Twitter, first to announce their gear was lost and again, two weeks later, to announce they’d finally recovered their instruments.

Scrolling down the airline’s Twitter page, visitors are met with apology after apology by the airline for missing baggage. Compliments on great service are hard to find.

How much of an impact are the angry Facebook posts and tweets really having? It’s obvious from the most recent complaints that Air Berlin hasn’t fixed the problems. Despite Hasan Syed’s tweet which received more than 25,000 impressions, British Airways has yet to respond publicly. Doctor Who and Torchwood fan favorite actor John Barrowman let his 217,000 followers know when he had an issue with a late departure and faulty seat on his Delta Airlines flight, but didn’t provide a promised update of a potential resolution.

From personal experience, I can say angry tweets aimed at Delta Airlines for a disastrous overseas flight in June never received a response. (Although to be fair, they did respond later after my wife logged an official complaint. More than 30 days after the initial complaint, but hey, Delta is rarely on time for anything.)

Have you used social media to lodge a complaint against an airline? What’s been the end result? Does social media shaming work or are old-fashioned complaint calls still the best way to vent your frustration?

Gummy Bear Art Car Takes Grand Tour

gummy bear car in New York
Courtesy of Alex Leuchte

Sometimes an “only in New York” moment has a more global story. On a rainy afternoon this week in Manhattan, my friend visiting from Germany was excited to spot a Mercedes with Munich plates. The car had a distinctive pattern covering its exterior, we debated whether it was metal, fabric or beads, but the actual decoration is much sweeter: gummy bears.

The back window detailed the “grand tour” of this visionary art, starting in Munich, traveling to Paris and London, and finally New York. The project is the third installment of artist Guenther Siraky‘s Mercedes Trilogy, which also took him and the car through Europe in 2007. The plan was to take the gummy bear car to each of the city’s major art museums, including the Louvre, Tate and Guggenheim, exhibiting the work of art in front of each museum. Over a million people have seen the car, and reactions range from disbelief and amazement to tears of joy. NYPD officers have even allowed him to park in forbidden places to display his work. While the car should be covered in rain and extreme heat, the slightly melted gummy bears just add to the vehicle’s charm. Siraky intended to sell the vehicle once he completed his tour last month, but he has extended his time in New York, and can be found driving it all over the five boroughs through the end of September.

See a slideshow of the gummy bear car in NYC below, and check in with the art car’s adventures through the artist’s Facebook page.

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3 Tools For Finding Friends On the Road

Facebook.com

In the age of smartphones and social networks, it seems rare that anyone would ever be lonely. But technology doesn’t always fill the void for some good old fashioned personal contact. When you’re on the road, these tools and social sites can help you find a friend in a city full of strangers — and in some cases, you might end up saving money, too.

Graph Search
Good For:
Anyone on Facebook
In case you haven’t noticed, the search bar in Facebook now allows users to search and sort through information within your friend network. Sure, you can use it to check out which of your friends are single, but it’s also a tool that can help you find out which friends now live in certain cities or countries. Maybe one of your college buddies got a job in Washington, DC and you didn’t realize it. Or, perhaps someone you know recently visited the city. “People who uploaded photos taken in Washington” and start your detective work.

Friends of Friends Travel
Good For:
Solo female travelers
Whether you’re looking to find a place to stay or just share a cup of coffee, you no longer have to do it with random strangers. This website intentionally limits users to friends and “friends of friends,” making it easy to find trustworthy travel partners. It’s an especially good tool for solo travelers who might be a little apprehensive about using services like couchsurfing.com, which can sometimes be a mixed bag. At least now you’ll have a friend to vouch for their buddy — and you won’t have to browse thousands of couches to find them.

Grubwithus
Good For:
Hungry business travelers
For those who just want to meet up for a meal, Gubwithus can connect you with strangers who have similar interests (and I’m not just talking about a shared love of pizza). The website allows you to join different groups — options include tech junkees, book enthusiasts and ladies only — and then meetup at pre-arranged dinners. It’s a great way to not only meet new people, but also try new restaurants. Right now, Grubwithus is only available in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.