United Rolls Out Wi-Fi On Overseas Flights

It used to be that one of the few places you couldn’t get a Wi-Fi signal was at 30,000 feet, but soon there will be no excuse for being out of touch (or not getting work done) as airlines implement a dramatic expansion of onboard Wi-Fi services.

More than half of the planes flown by U.S. carriers currently offer Wi-Fi onboard, but United and other airlines are planning to up the ante by offering satellite-based Internet service en route. This not only means faster speeds, but the ability to get online during overseas flights – something not previously possible using ground-based technology.However, installing the satellite technology onto existing aircraft is no mean feat, with airlines forced to ground a plane for 15 days to get the system up and running. Engineers also have to run a series of tests to make sure passengers can get the signal strength they’re paying for. Since the shape and composition of a plane can cause Wi-Fi signals to bounce all over the place, experts have had their hands full making sure you can get can online no matter where on the plane you’re sitting.

And then there’s the cost. Installing Wi-Fi on a single aircraft sets the airline back more than $200,000 – and that’s not counting the revenue lost from taking the aircraft out of service for so long. Of course, airlines will more than make the money back in the long run thanks to the charges for using the Wi-Fi, which will range from around $4 to $23 depending on the flight.

Twenty of United’s planes are already equipped with the new Wi-Fi technology, with plans to bring that number up to 300 by the end of the year.

Check out the video below to learn more about United’s Wi-Fi expansion plans.




[Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Raines]

GetGoing Promises Deep Discounts For Flexible Travelers

Sometimes, you just need to get out of town. It doesn’t matter where, so long as it’s far away.

For these kinds of trips, flexible travelers can now avail themselves of a new booking platform: GetGoing.com.

The site, which celebrated its public launch yesterday, features an innovative Pick Two Get One platform, which provides airfare discounts of up to 40% if travelers can prove that they are flying for leisure by being flexible about their destination.

Here’s how it works:

- Search for the type of trip you want to go on. It can be a geographic region, like Europe or Asia, or a more general theme, like “History and Culture” or “Beaches and Sun.”

- Select two destinations from the options provided to you, then select two potential itineraries. At this point, you can see the discounted fare you will receive, but not the airline.

- Fill in your traveler details and credit information, then hit “complete this purchase” and let GetGoing decide where you’ll go.

I recently test-run the platform for an upcoming trip to Europe in May. Some of the discounts were significant, like $854 to Tel Aviv ($211 discount) and $631 to Moscow ($146 discount). But most fares were about on par with what I found by searching discount engines like Skyscanner and Kayak. And since the engine is airline-blind until the deal is done, you can’t factor frequent flier mileage programs into your deal search equation.For me, what’s most exciting about GetGoing’s platform is the ability to search for trips based on an idea, rather than a specific destination. For example, you can search for discounted fares to destinations on the New York Times list of Places to Go in 2013, like Managua or Istanbul. Or, search “Adventures and Outdoors” for destinations like Billings, Montana, and Los Angeles, California (we suppose there are all sorts of adventures to be had there).

According to GetGoing, “a little flexibility can save a lot of money.” Your experience on the site will depend on just how flexible you’re willing to be.

[Photo Credit: GetGoing]

Globalgig Brings Affordable Mobile Internet For World Travelers

Globalgig provides mobile Internet for international travelersSmartphones, tablets and laptops have all made travel easier and more enjoyable. Those devices help keep us connected to friends and family, allow us to more easily share our experiences and provide the ability to stay productive while on the road. But of course, all of those gadgets depend upon an Internet connection to be useful and at times it can be a real challenge to find such a connection. Mobile Internet services help alleviate many of those challenges, but finding a reliable and affordable service that works internationally can turn into an exercise in frustration.

Enter Globalgig, a mobile Internet provider that is working to take the complexity and high costs out of the equation. The service launched last fall, giving users flat pricing – without monthly contracts – for mobile Internet that works in three countries – the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. By mixing reliable 3G cellular service with affordable data tiers, Globalgig has quickly become a solid choice for the connected international traveler.

Today, Globalgig is announcing expanded service in more countries and aggressive new price points that will make it an even more attractive option for globetrotters. By partnering with wireless carriers in Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Hong Kong, customers can now stay connected while traveling to each of those destinations in addition to the original three countries. Monthly fees now start at just $17 for 1GB of data, while other options include 2GB for $25, 5GB for $45 and 10GB for $80. Additionally, users can now choose to either buy the mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for $119 or get it free by signing an 18-month contract.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been putting the Globalgig service through its paces and I’ve found it to be surprisingly solid – especially for the price. Because it uses a 3G connection you’re not going to get the blazingly fast speeds that you’ll find from newer LTE technology, but more locations are covered in 3G service, which makes it a better option for world travelers. Speeds were still more than acceptable while surfing the web on my laptop and iPad, however, and it worked wonderfully for sending emails, instant messaging and tweeting. Streaming video or uploading photos required a bit more patience but those aren’t necessarily the activities you want to do with a limited bucket of data.Globalgig WiFi hotspotGlobalgig’s mobile hotspot is small and very lightweight, which makes it easy to carry with you anywhere you go. Its 5-hour battery life comes in handy when away from a power outlet for extended periods of time too. The device comes with several travel adapters for painless recharging around the globe and the hotspot has the ability to support up to five connected devices at any given time. That means, if you’re feeling generous, you can share your Internet connection with travel companions.

Set-up of the hotspot is a breeze, even for non-techies. Prior to using it for the first time, simply head over to Globalgig.com to create a user account and register the device. After a couple of hours the service will be up and running and you can begin using your mobile Internet service while on the go. The device appears like any other Wi-Fi router and serves up data to any device capable of connecting to it. You can even login to an on-board configuration screen that allows you to change the name of the hotspot, add a personal password and configure some of its settings.

In terms of price, it really is tough to beat Globalgig’s data plans, particularly if you travel regularly in the countries that the service covers. If you find yourself routinely in any of those places, and often in need of Internet access, carrying one of these hotspots is a bit of a no brainer. On the other hand, coverage is still limited to those destinations, which may be Globalgig’s biggest drawback at the moment. As the company fills in more of its coverage map, however, the service will only become more useful.

As it stands right now, it is a real challenge to find mobile Internet that reliably works on an international level. But Globalgig is delivering on that promise and they’re doing so without draining your bank account. If you find yourself in need of just such a service and regularly visit the countries that currently have coverage, this is definitely a great option. If you’re patient, you’ll probably see Globalgig expanding even further in the months ahead, bringing mobile data to even more countries. Hopefully, they’ll also eventually upgrade to 4G LTE services. But those minor quibbles aside, this is a service that will likely make many world travelers very happy.

[Photos: Globalgig]

Go #OnTheRoad With @GadlingTravel On Instagram

The Gadling crew is one of the most diverse groups of travelers on the web. But different as we are, we’re united in our thirst for adventure and our hunger for the open road. You read about our adventures here. Now, we’d like to invite you to travel with us in real-time – on Instagram at @GadlingTravel.

Each month, a member of our team will take over the @GadlingTravel Instagram feed for one week and post images from his or her travels with the hashtag #ontheroad. This week, I’m posting photos from my current trip to sunny Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s one of the most artistic and culturally vibrant places on the planet; I’m excited to be your eyes and ears while here.

We’re also excited to open up Instagram as a platform for submitting original mobile photos into the running for Gadling’s Photo of the Day. Just mention @GadlingTravel AND use hashtag #gadling in your image post, and we’ll consider it along with photos submitted in our Gadling Pool on Flickr.

Questions? Comments? We’re also hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and now even Google+. See you there![Photo Credit: Jessica Marati on @GadlingTravel]

Teaching Geography With Google Maps

Google Maps
Travelers aren’t born, they’re raised.

Last week we talked about how to connect with your kids while you’re away traveling. There are plenty of ways to get them interested in this great big world of ours while you’re both at home too. One of the best and easiest ways to fire their imagination is with Google Maps.

Like many good ideas in our family, my seven-year-old son thought of it first. He’s recently gotten into Internet Radio, especially Tonik Radio out of Dublin. Tonik and most other stations show a Google map with pointers to where their listeners are. I find it kind of freaky that our house is clearly indicated on a map for all the other listeners to see. The kid just thinks it’s cool. He’s of a generation that has always known the Information Age and thus has a whole different attitude towards privacy.

So as he listens to House and Trance he surfs the globe, looking up where the other Tonik Radio listeners are–the cluster of fans in Dublin, the farmer in Israel, and the guy in the apartment block in Sterlitimak, Russia. Zooming in with the power of satellite photography, he can see what far-off countries look like from above. In some places he can even use Google Street View.

Once he gets bored hunting down his fellow radio fans, he starts exploring the Terra Incognita of the spaces between the points. This week he conducted a close-up survey across the Pacific and happened upon the Johnston Atoll, a lonely little former U.S. military base that I had never heard of.

I also show him places where I’ve been. He got an aerial view of the amusement park in Baghdad where I ate mazgouf. When the satellite took its photo, a small plane was flying over the riverside park and left its shadow on the water of the Tigris. A week later I came into my office and he’d found it again. He’s learning to navigate.

I can even show him my past, hovering with him above the Danish farm where I was an exchange student back in my teens. I brought him up the country lane to the nearest highway and its bus stop, the same route I rode with my bike when I wanted to go to Slagelse, the nearest town. The hedge and ditch where I hid my bike before I caught the bus are still there.

Strangely, this obsession with the computer hasn’t killed his interest in regular maps or his light-up globe. So if you have a young kid who’s curious about the world, try surfing Google Maps. It’s more than a bit Orwellian, but it’s a lot of fun.

Image courtesy Google Maps, copyright 2011.